Malawi President Joyce Banda says there is no turning back on the flotation and devaluation of the kwacha despite calls from the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) who are planning January 17 demonstrations to protest the resultant high cost of living.
Answering questions on Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) on Monday, Banda expressed optimism that economic recovery is on track, but reiterated that Malawians will have to persevere for a while before a full recovery.
She asked those that are planning the demonstrations to reflect on how battered the economy was before she assumed office on April 5 following the death of Bingu wa Mutharika.
“If we fix the kwacha, then we will be back to square one,” said Banda.
In an interview later, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), an umbrella body for private sector organisations in the country, supported the President stand not to fix the kwacha.
MCCCI chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira observed that the currency is now stabilising following its flotation.
“If you fix the kwacha, it will create some problems. We totally agree with the right [flotation] policy,” said Kaferapanjira who had earlier issued a statement asking government not to backtrack on its reforms made in 2012.
Responding to concerns on frequent travel that Cama says is draining the country’s resources, the President said five out of the eight trips outside the country were fully sponsored by well-wishers/organisers of international conferences.
But Banda suggested that she would not reduce the size of her Cabinet. Trimming of the Executive team is one of Cama’s demands in their six-point petition.
But Chancellor College political analyst Joseph Chunga described the President’s stand as “strange”.
“It is a bad indication that there is no chance to reduce the Cabinet. It suggests that it is impossible to combine ministries. It is strange,” said Chunga.
On the planned demonstrations, Banda said she will not stop the action but said it is not possible to fix the issues raised in a short period of time.
The President also emphasised that gay rights—another contentious issue that arose in 2012—will not be influenced by her nor external forces, saying Parliament, the people’s representative, will decide on the issue.
On why she has not declared her assets again, the President said she felt not obliged because she already did that when she was vice-president.
But Chunga said the declaration of assets in Malawi is a waste of time because even when assets are declared, nobody except the Speaker of Parliament has knowledge.
On the Nsanje Port, which was launched by former president Mutharika in 2010, Banda said the port remains a priority but that concerns raised by Mozambique on a feasibility study have to be looked into first.
Civil rights activist Billy Mayaya on Monday said the President’s 2012 performance was “fair” except that she kept evading some questions, for example, on the declaration of assets.
“If she did declare her assets as VP, the public want her to declare them again as President. It is a constitutional obligation,” argued Mayaya.
Civil rights lawyer Chrispin Sibande observed that Malawians were not given enough time to ask the President questions.
The moderator only read one SMS and allowed four callers from NKhotakota, Dedza, Blantyre and Lilongwe to ask questions.
Said Sibande: “That was not enough. On a number of occasions, the President demonstrated that she is being misunderstood, for example, on the Electoral Commission and the assets declaration [issues]. What she could have done is to take opportunity and address people’s concerns.”