September 24 2020
Parliamentary committees have been busy discussing Finance Minister Felix Mlusu’s maiden budget. The clusters, mostly chaired by opposition members of Parliament, have been looking at the merits and demerits of the Tonse Alliance first coming of a fiscal plan to run the national economy.
Environmentalists have raised issues why carbon tax emission levy funds collected in the 2019-2020 fiscal year are deposited in the Account Number One not directly into the vote dealing with environmental and climate change issues; Child rights experts have questioned why allocations to the sector are paltry, when our public debt at K4.1 billion will be serviced by the little ones, directly or indirectly.
The Public Accounts Committee chairman Shadreck Namalomba has questioned why there is minimal allocation to the irrigation vote when so much has gone into the Agriculture Inputs Programme (AIP). A valid argument, when no politician can control the rains whether people have fertiliser or not; cheaply or free.
Further, Admarc has been on the ground, lobbying the parliamentarians to approve a K300 billion loan to recapitalise the produce buyer and engage in real capital development.
With all the lobbying going about, nobody seems to raise the question how the proposed budget will be brought to reality. How, for instance, will the Tonse Alliance check the over-expenditure that has kept us back as a nation. How will it work to see to is that the budget works? A budget, like promises made on a political pedestal, remains a useless papers if controlling officers in government ministries, departments and agencies continue spending like there is no tomorrow, living beyond their means and keeping us in situations where developmental projects got allocations in the budget when nothing on the ground is happening and funds so allocated are diverted elsewhere? There is no need to mention all those roads, hospitals and projects that get allocations year in year out. One can’t mention the Mzuzu Youth Centre as a case in point on this matter.
At the moment, it appears members of Parliament may deliberate on the Termination of Pregnancy Bill. This has brought anxiety with some members of the clergy, who argue this is ‘unholy and immoral’ to allow women have more choices on when they can legally procure an abortion. They say they will go on the street if MPs debate on this thorny and emotive issue. Their argument, primarily borders on the morality and ethics of religion. For them, abortion is ‘killing’ against the sanctity of human life.
While they argue life begins at conception, they do not say why they do not preside over the ceremony of still-born babies. Neither do they say why traditionally there is no funeral ceremony for these.
Yet, on the other hand, religious leaders are saying this lot is double-faced as they do not say they were part of the Law Commission report that recommended for the Bill Chiradzulu legislator Matthews Ngwale is deemed to throw to the House.
The pro-life and pro-choice debate is thorny.
It is worth noting that the proposal to recommend an increase into the reasons women may seek to procure a termination of pregnancy emanates from a Law Commission report, which followed countrywide research from chiefs, religious leaders, health practitioners and academics is not a Ngwale affair. The signatures of all those involved in the matter, include the clergy, shows the consultations were wide.
While abortion is illegal, it is evident that women are able to get safe abortions in private clinics. The poor women are using wires, bicycle spokes, cassava stems and even labour-inducing pills inserted in the reproductive tract to terminate pregnancy. Health workers are burdened to save the lives of these women in post-abortion care. The faith leaders have not told us how much it would cost for a safe abortion and how much it takes for government to treat a woman who procures an unsafe abortion.
The ruptured wombs are there. The women are dying from unsafe abortions. How have the members of the clergy failed to show their members that recapturing the true values of life is important, including that they must not engage themselves in acts that will see them trying to end pregnancies?