Public Affairs Committee (PAC) and a political analyst have dismissed President Peter Mutharika’s claim that leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera pushed a regime-change agenda through the rejected Electoral Reforms Bills.
During the groundbreaking ceremony for a five-star hotel project and business centre in Blantyre yesterday, the President took a swipe at Chakwera, who is also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, accusing him of using the clergy to attack his administration.
But PAC chairperson the Reverend Dr Felix Chingota, whose multi-faith democracy, human rights and accountability watchdog pushed for the bills and planned nationwide demonstrations on December 13 if the pieces of legislation were not tabled, said the reforms issue has existed since 2014 and that Mutharika himself committed to support them during the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections campaign.
He also said the same government Mutharika is heading today established the Special Law Commission on Electoral Reforms which made recommendations and drafted the bills, including the 50+1 Bill.
Said Chingota: “PAC did not draft any bill to Parliament. If the President has issues, then he must settle those issues with his own Special Law Commission. I can see that there is confusion and division between the two.
“The same government establishes a Special Law Commission then it becomes fearful of proposals coming from its own arm of government. To me, that kind of reasoning is very strange.”
In a separate interview, political analyst Nandini Patel said it was not right for government to accuse the opposition of advancing a political agenda through electoral reforms.
Describing the reforms as a national issue, she said the matter went through a process and there were consultations and recommendations for the benefit of the nation.
Said Patel: “It is very unfortunate, very wrong, that should not be the statement. Electoral reforms are for the nation as a whole and not anybody’s personal agenda.”
Drifting away from his prepared speech, Mutharika described Chakwera as ‘a foul mouthed reverend’. He said Chakwera, who trailed him in the 2014 presidential race, was conniving with what he called misguided faith leaders to bring down his government.
Said the President: “I know it was not about electoral reforms, but to bring down by force the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] government by end December. Malawi is a peaceful country but there are people who are against this, there are people who are talking about revolting including the foul mouthed leader of opposition.
“I want to tell him that this government will continue. My government has excellent relationship with all members of the faith community. In fact, I have met more religious leaders than any President in this country. I don’t want a small group of misguided faith-based people who are the puppets of opposition parties to try to drive a wedge between me and the faith communities.”
Mutharika said the rejection of the bills in Parliament last week vindicated his government that it did not have any agenda to shot down the bills.
He also asked PAC that if it has issues it should take the issues to him for discussions and not take to the streets.
In his reaction, Chakwera described the President’s sentiments as unfortunate.
He said: “If that is how he interprets it, how the intelligence works and how he reasons, then no wonder this country is in trouble.”
However, Minister of Information and Communications Technology Nicholas Dausi, the official government spokesperson, defended the President, saying the fact that the opposition walked out of Parliament and called for transformative leadership meant they had a plan to bring down government.
He said: “They said they were going on the streets to reclaim their destiny, to call for a transformative leadership, what do you think that means. To us it was about regime change. And who do you expect they were campaigning for?
“If MCP in Parliament said yes in support of PAC, who else do you think could have taken over if their plan had worked out?”