Opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has come out of its shell to accuse government of using propaganda to attack the party leadership over the purchase of new vehicles for the Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya, his deputies, and leader of Opposition Lazarus Chakwera who is also MCP president.
The Speaker and Chakwera have come under fire over the purchase of top-of-the-range vehicles for their offices with the government spokesperson Jappie Mhango accusing them of double standards because MCP has been in the forefront preaching austerity.
Since news broke of the purchase of the vehicles, public broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) has been carrying news items featuring various commentators attacking Chakwera and Msowoya, who is MCP vice-president, accusing them of greed.
But new MCP spokesperson Alekeni Menyani told The Nation on Thursday that the party was shocked at the “wild and savage attacks of propaganda from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) led government”, which, he said, is using MBC to divert the attention of Malawians from other important issues.
“The MCP will not waiver at such propaganda but work to bring accountability in furtherance of development, democracy and its values in order to restore the dignity of Malawian people through acceptable channels. We, as MCP, will never sink so low to the levels of the recent propaganda and we will not be cowed into silence during the forthcoming meeting [of Parliament] but to press for transparency and accountability,” he said.
Menyani added that Mhango should instead explain to Malawians how his government is resolving the massive shortage of drugs, problems in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), produce a list for all Malawians to see of the 116 people who accompanied President Peter Mutharika to the United Nations General Assembly.
“We are doubtful that such a minister in the calibre of Mhango will enhance democracy and bring to Parliament the Access to Information Bill when his tactics are grounded in dirty politics and deliberate misrepresentation of public information. It is a shame that at the height of reforms the MBC is classically being abused, considering that it runs on a public purse to such an extent,” Menyani said.
MCP reiterated that procurement was not a political function of the office of the Speaker and Leader of Opposition, but a technical process guided by policy in terms of ranking in the public service.
“Such assets as referred to by him are institutional in nature. That is why Leader of Opposition vehicle is MG 393 AH belonging to the government of Malawi. If we have changed policy then it’s important to communicate to those with authority to discharge such a function,” he said.
However, Mhango said his reaction had nothing to do with MCP, but the purchase of the vehicles by Parliament at a time the economy is not doing too well.
“I have not spoken against the MCP. The timing is the issue here. Cabinet as well as judiciary officers are equally entitled, but decided to abide by the ban for the good of the economy. For your information, government had offered them vehicles that were servicing the previous Cabinet and they refused opting for brand new vehicles. Further, the Speaker has a new Mercedes Benz which was bought some three years ago. Wasn’t that enough for his use? Did he require a second vehicle really?” Mhango said.
Meanwhile, Parliament secretariat has said the vehicles for the Speaker, his deputies and the Leader of Opposition were procured in the last financial year, 2014/15, following approval from the Office of the President and Cabinet Ref. No. 16/06/4 dated 4th July, 2014.
Deputy Clerk of Parliament responsible for corporate services, Renard Mapemba, said in a press statement yesterday that Parliament sought approval to buying the vehicles because the Speaker of Parliament, Deputy Speakers and leader of Opposition were using hired vehicles which were costing a lot of money.