President Lazarus Chakwera on Monday touted 35 things he has achieved during his 100 days in office, but most of them are more ceremonial than concrete outcomes of his campaign promises.
The President touted the rule of law, good governance, fighting corruption, entrenching a culture of servant leadership, improving accountability in government and gazetting of the Access to Information (ATI) Law as some of the achievements of his administration.
He also said his government is reforming the State broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Station (MBC) and instituting audits at the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM).
But the President was unable to explain why his government failed to balance gender in his Cabinet and parastatal boards.
He also struggled to explain why he has not yet reduced presidential powers.
But the President said he could have done more in the first 100 days if it were not for Covid-19, which has slowed down economic activities.
He also said looting of public resources, corruption and fraudulent practices by the previous government had profound effects on his government’s plans.
In his assessment of Chakwera’s 100 days, political commentator Humphrey Mvula argued that the new administration has delivered enough to instill confidence in Malawians.
He contended that the Tonse Alliance government needs more time to fulfill some of its key campaign promises.
Said Mvula: “For a person of my age, I can say I have seen considerable change during this time; we have run for years of uncertainty and unbearable political temperature. The presidency has been demystified and this is refreshing.
He added that economic realities in the Covid-19 pandemic period means major pledges have also faced setbacks, but said the President still set a marker.
“All the major promises require proper planning; you can’t pull off one million jobs in three months,” he said.
Yet, when Chakwera addressed journalists at Kamuzu Palace on Monday, fluffed his lines once – and prompted immediate backlash – following questions over the low numbers of women in parastatal boards.
Responding to a question from Nation Publications Limited (NPL) managing editor Ephraim Munthali on why he did not appoint more women in Cabinet and parastatal boards, the President said he welcomes dialogue on the matter, but said the country needs long-term solutions to gender issues.
He said there is need for public “conscientisation ” on women empowerment and long-term affirmative action to address challenges undermining women to rise in various sectors— including education, adding that women could not be appointed to certain boards as the boards require specialised education.
Chakwera challenged women groups to submit a list of educated women to be considered for various positions.
On his government transformation agenda, he said the country was on track, but said the Covid-19 pandemic and the years of State dysfunction means more progress will take time, comparing the country to a ship sailing in dire straits.
He said: “Admittedly, we will be sailing in unsafe waters and in a worn-out vessel for a while before we are able to feel the change.
“In fact, the cynics among us will be as eager to point these things out as the ancient children of Israel were to use their hardships in the desert as an excuse for disparaging their emancipation from slavery.”
On revamping the economy, the President said the administration has engaged over 500 new investors, developed legislation to support new economic zones and launched national development conference, among others.
Earlier, Vice-President Chilima also provided a list of public reforms that have so far been implemented and warned that the country should not stop reforming the public sector as “reforms are like breathing. When you stop breathing, you die”.
He said: “Your Excellency, these reforms are, therefore, an answer to the cries for change that the people of Malawi have for so long hoped for but never realised. The reforms are a first step towards permanently institutionalising the people’s choice of a responsive citizen-centric government that they voted into power on 23 June 2020.”
The Vice-President said the reforms were a culmination of tireless efforts of many Malawians of various walks of life, from women hawking peanuts to lawyers in wigs and gowns, from plumbers to big-hitting executives, from local community organisers to senior battle-hardened politicians who fought tirelessly and in great unity to bring about electoral victory on June 23 this year.
“The reforms will ensure an improved service delivery, decentralised and devolved functions of government, effectiveness, enhanced transparency and accountability with attendant value for money; professionalism by civil servants and public officers, improved revenue collection and improved citizen satisfaction and trust in public bodies,” said Chilima.
But away from the palace, much of the reaction focused on the gender equality questions as activists on social media took turns tearing apart the President’s reaction.
Speaking to The Nation, Women Legal Resource Centre executive director Maggie Kathewera Banda, who is also one of the coordinators for Women’s Manifesto and the 50-50 Campaign, said women activists were disappointed by the President’s speech.
Kathewera Banda said the President has failed to walk the talk on empowering women after previously committing that his administration would promote women to different positions.
She said the Chakwera administration failed to adhere to the Gender Equality Act that stipulates that 40 percent of public positions should go to women.
She said: “There are many capable leaders within the Tonse administration who can serve in various positions.
“He should go there and ask for their curriculum vitae [CVs] and the question really is that the President says he is not aware of many educated women out there and says we should give him their CVs.
“Did he ask for CVs from men as well before making the appointments?”
Mzuzu-based women’s rights commentator Wezi Moyo concurred with Kathewera Banda and described the President’s remarks as unfortunate.
“I am not convinced with the response of the President. How about men who were appointed in different positions? Where did the President get their names?” she quizzed.
Read a detailed assessment of Chakwera’s 100 days in tomorrow’s The Nation.