Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director John Kapito has urged Malawian leaders to add more value to the annual trips to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York by marketing the country instead of appeasing praise-singers.
Kapito said he wished he could stage a dramatic public protest whereby suitcases of the reported bloated Malawi delegation to the UN could be forced open, as the people fly back home, to prove that the shopping sprees were their trip’s main focus.
Kapito, not a stranger to advancing radical ideas in trying to prove advocacy points at all odds, was speaking during an exclusive weekly straight-talk Chichewa programme called Tiuzeni Zoona on award-winning Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) on Sunday and monitored by The Nation in Lilongwe.
He was lending his weight to widespread public anger and frustration expressed by people on what they describe as government’s insensitivity of sending perhaps the largest delegation to the UN, in New York, in the United States of America, for UN General Assembly and related meetings during the current trip.
Government denies sponsoring the alleged bloated delegation, claiming that it sponsored only 18 people for the trip, with the others having been sponsored by non-governmental stakeholders.
Describing the annual UN meeting as a club or a talk-shop for global leaders, Kapito suggested that Malawi could have saved money by sending only about a 10th of its delegation.
On the other hand, Kapito commended the government for pursuing public sector reforms which, he said, may appear costly and painful now, but stand to make major socio-economic advances in the long term with the support of all Malawians.
He said fees hikes in tertiary and secondary education, the abolition of the issuance of primary and junior secondary school certificates and the introduction of toll gates on major roads in Malawi—with effect from January 1 next year—were necessary for the government to expand its revenue base and offer quality services to its people.
“In the case of toll fees, for example, why should there be an outcry, for it will be rich people, including those running swanky cars like heavy-goods VXs, who will be required to pay the token fees. Most of Malawians in villages will not pay anything because they don’t own vehicles,” he pointed out.
Kapito said some criticism expressed by the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) recently against the hike in university and secondary school fees, as the reforms star in earnest may have been misplaced, for the nation can longer afford subsidising public services.
In response to Kapito’s remarks, MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila said the Cama chief needed to get his facts correct before criticising her party’s clear and consistent stand on the fees concerns.
She said MCP endorses fees hikes in universities because a technical opportunity has been created for poor students in the country to access bursaries. She pointed out that even very rich countries, like the USA, do not offer free university education for every citizen.
But Kabwila, who is member of Parliament (MP) for Salima North-West, said her party has expressed reservations with the abrupt fees hike at secondary school level, where poor students and vulnerable girl children will face uphill battles in continuing with their education because no bursary and other safety net provisions have been made for them in the current economic woes.
Asked to comment on the criticism against the government over the bloated UN delegation, Information and Civic Education Minister Jappie Mhango described the subject as having been over-played.
“I think let us put this issue to rest. The government has given its comprehensive explanation, over and over, and it has shown some of you (reporters) documents to back up the explanations. With due respect, let those who want to stretch the issue further do so, for argument’s sake… But we (in government) want to move on with the business of further developing this country,” he added.