With only a few days before the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) opens the official campaign period on March 21, MCP, UDF and DPP are not ready to tell anxious Malawians their central promises, through their manifestos, once voted into power.
Among the leading political parties, only the governing People’s Party (PP) has released its manifesto.
Opposition MCP, which has been out of government for the past 20 years, only has a draft manifesto, which Weekend Nation has seen, in which Cashgate is central, with the party stating that it would ensure that the plunder of public resources never happens on its watch.
But the party’s spokesperson, Jessie Kabwila, attributed the delay to release the manifesto to broadening consultations and added that the party is waiting for the official campaign launch.
Kabwila, in a response to a questionnaire, said MCP appreciates the need for a timely publication of the manifesto.
Said Kabwila: “Our manifesto is a concretisation of what we have already been talking about in the rallies, debates, question time, press releases…If people have been listening to MCP messages, this is the same information that people will find in the manifesto.”
Opposition DPP, which governed Malawi from 2004 to April 2012 when president Bingu wa Mutharika died at the climax of poor governance and economic woes, was equally non-committal on the date it would release its manifesto.
The party’s spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said: “We will announce when we are ready. We don’t want to pre-empt but expect us to tackle issues of hunger, development and financial and fiscal discipline.”
Asked how the party is going to deal with plunder of public resources bearing in mind reports that it was under the DPP government the Cashgate started and K92 billion reportedly stolen, Dausi said: “Then let’s just wait for the release of our manifesto, we don’t want to make empty promises.”
The opposition UDF, tainted by corruption during its rule from 1994 to 2004 under the leadership of Bakili Muluzi, was also elusive to respond to the questionnaire sent on Monday on what they have to offer and when its manifesto would be out despite acknowledgements of receipt by the party’s secretary general Kandi Padambo and spokesperson Ken Ndanga.
Reminders in the course of the week yielded nothing.
The MCP, in the draft manifesto the Weekend Nation sourced, promises zero-tolerance to corruption.
Reads the draft manifesto in part: “The MCP-led government will wage war against corruption in all its forms and will endeavour to eliminate corruption by…establishing clear ‘performance criteria’ and ‘benchmarks’ by which government spending will be regularly audited and validated by independent auditors.
“The MCP-led government will design and implement efficient systems of monitoring the allocation and utilisation of all resources so that possible irregularities can be detected at an early stage in the project or programme cycle. This will help government to reveal the existence of fraud and corruption.”
MCP says it will put mechanisms in place that will strengthen the financial management system for detection of corruption at all levels of government which will ensure swift investigation, prosecution and punishment of all public officers found guilty of corruption, theft, mismanagement and abuse of power in all its forms.
The draft manifesto reads: “The MCP-led government will empower the offices of the Accountant General, Auditor General, Public Accounts Committee and the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), to ensure that officials and politicians entrusted with public funds act responsibly and in a transparent manner, with regard to the utilisation, reporting and accountability of public funds.”
The party says it will remove the need to seek the consent of the Director of Public Prosecutions for the ACB to prosecute.
But the governing PP deputy spokesperson, Ken Msonda, in defence of the Joyce Banda administration which presided over a K13 billion plunder of public funds in less than two years, said in an interview PP is already fighting corruption.
Msonda said: “If voted into power this May 20, we will make sure government resources are protected. All previous political parties have been stealing; it is only the PP that came in to break that circle.
“The MCP must never play saint In their 30-year one-party regime, they had ‘Farmgate’. The party seized farms from Malawians and they never returned them even after the attainment of multiparty system of government.”
MCP in its manifesto also guarantees a Judiciary that is impartial, effective and truly independent and pledged to respect judgements and orders made by courts even where they have disagreed with the execution.
The PP administration and previous administrations of UDF and DPP are on record to have defied clear court orders.
The governing PP, despite its involvement in twin cash scandals of Cashgate and Jetgate, promises in its manifesto to promote expenditure within budgetary constraints to begin to move towards a balanced budget.
PP says it will build capacity for financial programming in the Ministry of Finance, and the Reserve Bank of Malawi as a strategy to develop a systematic, comprehensive and consistent programme to ensure efficient, effective and prudent use of public resources.
Associate professor of political science at Chancellor College Blessings Chinsinga said this week that political parties that have not released manifestos are taking Malawians for granted.
Chinsinga said Malawians need the manifestos before the launch of the campaign because they want to see politicians embark on issue-based campaign to which leaders can be held accountable.
Activist Billy Banda said political parties want to ambush Malawians by releasing manifestos last minute, arguing Malawians need enough time to scrutinise such documents which are usually huge.
Said Banda: “People make decisions on which party to vote for based on manifestos, and informative decision is only possible if potential voters have them in good time. The parties are simply playing a mind game with voters and they don’t seem ready to govern.”