January 14 2020
The exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, and deaths, shows us the gloomy situation we are in. We need action. In fact, we needed that action yesterday.
Just in a day, we are experiencing deaths of people in high and low places succumbing to Covid-19. Every life matters.
One can be tempted to think President Lazarus Chakwera was jolted to action on Tuesday when a dark cloud befell the nation. On that day, Malawi lost Minister of Transport and Public Works Sidik Mia, who was also Malawi Congress Party (MCP) vice president and Chakwera’s running mate at the 2019 Tripartite Elections. Even sad is that on the same day we also lost Local Government Minister Lingson Belekanyama.
It is really sad to note that in a space of five days we have lost high profile people like musician and broadcaster Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Information Ernest Kantchentche, Inkosi Njolomole of Ntcheu, among others. Covid-19 is no longer simply about figures. It has never been, actually. Many have lost their loved ones.
So, while some were calling on Chakwera to express the strategic direction his administration was taking to curb the spread of this pandemic within a pandemic, he simply called for prayers and fasting. While not undermining the power of prayer, the sad reality is that running a government needs more than prayers.
So, Chakwera went into hibernation when the figures were rising. The calls were loud: “Speak to us, Mr President.”
He only came out of the cocoon that Tuesday. His message was most important. Among other things, he declared a State of National Disaster and hinted at a possible State of Emergency after talks with the Defence and Security Committee of Parliament. He also declared a three-day mourning period and announced a new Cabinet committee chaired by his vice Saulos Chilima to work out new regulations in collaboration with the task force on Covid-19.
The declaration of a national disaster is important in pooling together resources from national and international partners. But then, sadly, barely a few days after Chakwera called for that assistance, we hear Treasury has paid a hefty K5 billion in legal fees to Chakwera and Chilima’s lawyers in the legal tussle that led to the Fresh Presidential Elections.
The move to institute a State of Emergency is most important. This is a public health problem in our midst. So it is clear that strict measures must be in place if we are to fight further spread of the virus.
Past efforts to impose strict measures have failed, since they have been challenged in the courts. The hope is that the state of emergency would limit certain of Malawians’ rights to curb the further spread of Covid-19. For instance, it would be easier to punish those who don’t adhere to preventive measures. In a country where a total lockdown seems impossible, imposing curfews would be most important.
While Chakwera is working to bring the terms of his Tuesday speech to reality, he must apologise to Malawians on his own behalf and on behalf of his Tonse Alliance because before Tuesday they played a double face in the fight against Covid-19. Not so long ago, photos of the President with no mask on went viral as he shook hands with the pop diva Madonna. And, previously, he appeared unmasked in Tanzania when he met his counterpart John Magufuli.
This showed he undermined the danger within.
For that matter, he must apologise on behalf of the alliance because his partners, notably Joyce Banda of People’s Party (PP) and Chilima of UTM Party during the campaign trail claimed Covid-19 is a myth, fake.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) may have tried to use Covid-19 to thwart the fresh presidential election process, but that was no reason for the Tonse Alliance leaders to go full throttle telling us Covid-19 was not real.