Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lobin Lowe has faulted President Peter Mutharika’s conduct to deliver his State of the Nation Address (Sona) through a video recording, his attacks on the Judiciary and uncompleted projects.
In his response to the Sona delivered in Parliament on Friday, Lowe yesterday said the President’s public attacks on the Judiciary for nullifying the May 21 2019 presidential election over irregularities were unfortunate and a threat to judicial independence.
He said: “Mutharika accepted that Constitutional Court ruling by going to MEC [Malawi Electoral Commission] and submitting his nomination papers to compete in the ordered fresh presidential election… He has also shown the acceptance of the court ruling by going around campaigning.
“Sadly, he has tried so much losing his precious energy and opportunity in speaking against it. His attacks on the Judiciary are unfortunate considering that the Judiciary has no political podium where it can respond to the allegations. He wants to take Parliament as a tool for turning Malawi into an experimental plot for legal theories.”
In his Sona, Mutharika proclaimed that Parliament is “supreme” and should overturn the court interpretation of “majority” to mean 50-percent-plus-one in the presidential election.
The President’s position was cemented on Wednesday this week when Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Bright Msaka tabled in Parliament a constitutional amendment Bill that, among others, asked legislators to decide whether the winner of the country’s presidential election should be determined through simple majority (first-past-the-post) or 50-percent-plus-one. However, the minister later deleted the clause condemned by legal scholars as an attempt to overturn a court judgement. The Bill was, nevertheless, defeated.
In his Sona, Mutharika touted his administration as having implemented programmes such as water projects aimed at improving access to potable water in both rural and urban areas. He also said his government is implementing several initiatives in the education sector to improve the provision of quality, accessible and relevant education to the people of Malawi.
But Lowe said most of the projects highlighted had stalled, saying: “DPP [Democratic Progressive Party] is haunted by unfinished projects in the country. The projects are just initiated for political purposes to give Malawians an impression that government is serious about the infrastructure development. Is that the Malawi we want?
“Malawi is in a governance crisis and I would appreciate if allowed to cut some of the unfinished projects.”
He also accused Mutharika of playing double standards, observing that while the President stayed away from Parliament ostensibly in compliance with coronavirus precautionary measure of social distancing, he was seen few days earlier interacting with thousands of party supporters in Thyolo.
Lowe Mombera University and Jenda-Edingeni Road in Mzimba, Nsanje World Inland Port and 10 000 houses for police officers as projects not making progress despite being allocated funds.
Representatives of People’s Party (PP) and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) also joined Lowe in faulting Mutharika for not completing the much touted projects despite Parliament allocating funds.
Speaking on behalf of PP, Nkhata Bay South East legislator Noah Chimpeni argued that development initiatives are poorly implemented in the country because of politics.
He said: “What I have in my hands makes a good reading of an epitaph than the Sona… Where the Sona ends is where it should have started… Bad politics leads to bad development.”
In his contribution, the sole Aford MP in the House Yeremiah Chihana (Mzimba North) said development in the country does not give any hope to meet the desired fifth industrial development because the National Planning Commission is “a white elephant”.
But Blantyre City South MP Noel Lipipa (DPP) defended Mutharika’s Sona, saying it was built on the reality on the ground as the country is in crisis and experiencing challenges.
Reacting to queries on the President’s absence in Parliament and accusations of double standards that he was addressing rallies in violation of Covid-19 measures, presidential spokesperson Mgeme Kalilani said Mutharika did not do anything wrong.
Parliament reconvenes today and Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamvekha is expected to table the 2020/21 National Budget.