- I hate deadlines, says President
Two hours of deliberations between President Peter Mutharika and Public Affairs Committee (PAC) ended in a deadlock yesterday with the President categorically stating that his administration does not take deadlines from anyone.
During the meeting held at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe and beamed live on taxpayer funded Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), PAC—a civil society, inter-faith organisation made up of the main Protestant, Catholic and Muslim faith groups in the country—asked the President to start walking the talk on his campaign promises.
Through the long-awaited meeting initially scheduled for March 29, PAC sought to brief Mutharika on recommendations made by delegates to its Fifth All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference in Blantyre in February.
From the recommendations, PAC developed actionable resolutions on each thematic area, including governance, agriculture, economy and health. Delegates, notably opposition political parties—Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP)—called for Mutharika’s resignation.
However, when the PAC board analysed and consolidated the proposals, it left out the resignation calls in its final 21 resolutions.
Yesterday, sitting next to the President, PAC chairperson the Very Reverend Felix Chingota insisted that Mutharika should heed the resolutions.
Chingota, a cleric of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) Blantyre Synod, called for responsiveness on the part of government to fulfil the vision for a prosperous Malawi based on pillars of patriotism, integrity and hard work.
He said: “You [the President] certainly has a vision for a prosperous new Malawi. We find billboards on this vision. Patriotism can also be defined as responsiveness on part of government to Malawians’ views. These resolutions are the wishes of Malawians.
“Integrity can be defined as walking the talk in living up to the [political] party manifesto and past promises. Hard work can be the sacrifice and servant leadership that will be needed to get this through this.”
Further, Chingota said most of the issues raised were in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) manifesto; hence, not difficult to implement.
But Mutharika rejected timeframes to implement the resolutions, saying his government does not take deadlines from anyone, including donors and civil society organisations (CSOs).
Said Mutharika: “I really hate deadlines.”
While accepting that he agreed with PAC on some points, the President described several calls as “unreasonable” and that it was not clear whether his administration would implement the resolutions.
On issues relating to the economy and development in general, Mutharika said PAC recommendations lacked substance and clear specifics.
He said: “I don’t see anything actionable here. How do we go beyond this? The criticism against government is that we are doing nothing, but here says exactly what we have to do.”
Economic issues cited by PAC as requiring urgent government action included fiscal discipline, creation of a national planning commission, agricultural reforms in both irrigation and Farm Inpout Subsidy Programme (Fisp).
Mutharika, who is on record as having accepted to trim some of his appointing powers, dismissed suggestions to reduce presidential powers as well as changing the electoral system, saying they were driven by vendetta against his administration.
He insisted that his administration has transformed the country since coming to power through the May 20 2014 Tripartite Elections.
However, one positive from yesterday’s meeting was that both sides agreed to hold follow up meetings through technical committees.