In this interview with our Reporter JOHN CHIRWA, outspoken Rumphi East member of Parliament Kamlepo Kalua opened up about his appointment as Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development and his relationship with the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which he once criticised on a number of issues. Excerpts.
We saw you attend a political rally organised by the DPP in Mzuzu last weekend. Should we conclude that you have joined the party you once critiqued?
I was in Mzuzu on my way to my constituency in Rumphi. The DPP regional governor [Christopher Ngwira] told me about his rally and I decided to stop by. In fact, I am a Cabinet minister in the DPP-led government of President Peter Mutharika. This means I support what he does and the government’s policy. So, as a minister, I have to come and support them; hence, my presence. I should not lie here that I don’t eat meat but just its soup. Then I will not be telling the truth.
You were a staunch critic of the DPP government. And overnight, you have started singing praises of the same government. What changed?
What changed is the spirit of forgiveness. The spirit of reconciliation. The spirit of knowledge. The spirit of sharing. You cannot forever be a critic. You can always advise and be part of whatever is happening.
Some people you represented feel you have betrayed them for taking up the ministerial position in a government you once castigated. What do you say?
I cannot betray Malawians. Are MCP and UTM Malawians? In a multiparty democracy, do you deny me the right to associate and express my freedom of opinion? I am not MCP. I am not UTM. I should repeat this. Whoever disagrees with me let them disagree. But I am not MCP. And I will never be MCP. I am Kamlepo Kalua. [Saulos] Chilima was in government and is in government as Vice-President. But people don’t see that as betrayal. But when Kamlepo goes there to change things as a minister, you say betrayal. I don’t know how you understand the word betrayal. I cannot betray Malawians because Peter Mutharika is Malawian. In DPP, there are Malawians. So, this is the time I have to work with President Peter Mutharika to change things.
Are you not being driven by personal gains?
Not at all. We are changing things as government. Quota system is no longer there. Selection will be based on merit. And we are building more secondary schools. This is what we were looking for. This is what I was advocating for. And he [Mutharika] has done that. So, why not work with him? I am very happy that I am working with Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika. And we are going to win this election. You are just delaying. You are wasting your time. This is the time to join us. This is the time to be with us.
Are you insinuating that you are going to campaign for the DPP in the forthcoming presidential election?
I am in government. Do you think I can campaign for MCP or UTM? I am not with either of them. I am with DPP as a minister in the government. By the way, I am just watching from the distance what some people are saying about me and this government. But if I start responding, some people will run away. Those in opposition are very young in terms of politics. When I started politics, they were still young. So, let them respect adults because if I start the campaign, these young boys will run away. I am yet to unveil my strategy on how I will go about campaigning.
Did you expect to be appointed as a minister?
I did not expect it. I did not even dream about it. It came as a surprise. It pleased His Excellency President Peter Mutharika to appoint me as his Minister of Lands.
Ministry of Lands has been embroiled in corruption on so many occasions. What change are you bringing?
In fact, Ministry of Lands is the most corrupt ministry in the country. I want to get rid of corruption. I will smash corruption. What I have discovered is that there are parallel structures at Ministry of Lands. The President gave me the mandate to clean up the ministry and that is what I am doing. I cannot allow Malawians to suffer in their country. Land is going to be given to Malawians. I am not in favour of land being given to foreigners. Land should be given to Malawians. The President mandated me to speak on his behalf that it should be Malawians enjoying the fruit of their freedom. They can enjoy that fruit if they have a piece of land. I want to give Malawians land. Malawians should enjoy the fruit of freedom they fought for. Even biblically, you are freed from slavery when you are given a piece of land. Without land, you are nothing.
What strategies have you put in place to end this corruption?
I have put all application files for title deeds aside. I want them to explain to me how they acquired the land. I am changing the staff, transferring them because I want cleanliness. I want to restructure the Ministry of Lands to be your Ministry of Lands. Malawians were taken out of the system. Plots were being shared by foreigners. I want those plots to go back to Malawians. I came to Mzuzu and met the lands commissioner. I have given the people of Chiputula the land they were looking for to construct a secondary school. This was denied to them in the past. We will create so many plots for Malawians, not foreigners. Because of these changes, people are now jittery in my ministry.
What would you advise your fellow politicians?
My advice to my fellow countrymen in the North. We sometimes play dirty politics. We sometimes become so unruly. We take things to the extreme. We don’t need to do this. Let’s unite to develop this country. This is the reason I am working with President Peter Mutharika. We have abolished quota system. This is for the purpose of uniting Malawians. We have seen developments taking place in the North. In Mzuzu, for example, we had no tarred roads. But we have them now. I will support Mutharika with all my heart because of this and I will not fear anybody. I hope others will do the same.