In 20 months, President Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance have either fully or partially executed majority of key campaign promises on record.
But rising perceptions of corruption, lack of progress on creation of one million jobs, failure to cut presidential powers and rising cost of living are overshadowing the relative success.
Of the 21 promises tracked so far, six have been fully implemented, eight more have been partially executed while seven are yet to see the light of day in the less than two years of the alliance’s five-year mandate.
The nine-political party Tonse Alliance led by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Chakwera and UTM Party chief Saulos Chilima, dislodged the Democratic Progressive Party administration in the court-sanctioned elections on June 23 2020, riding on their promises to deliver Malawians from nepotism, poverty, organised corruption and to fix the sick economy.
Specifically, the alliance partners promised to create one million jobs in its first year in power, three meals a day for every Malawian household, fight corruption, increase the monthly inimum wage from K35 000 to K50 000, raise the Pay As You Earn (Paye) tax-free threshold from K45 000 to K100 000 per month and universal fertiliser subsidy.
Others include establishment of a duty-free week, reducing passport application fee to K14 000, removal of electricity and water connection fees, the President appearing before Parliament to answer questions and changing the start-point for the fiscal year from July 1 to April 1.
Other alliance campaign promises were operationalising the Access to Information (ATI) Act, reducing presidential powers, reforming the public service, uniting Malawians, filling parastatal boards with professionals, servant leadership, rule of law, making governance institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and National Audit Office independent, among others.
lFrom the above promises, the administration has fully executed the following: increased the minimum monthly wage from K35 000 to K50 000 and the Pay As You Earn (Paye) tax-free threshold from K45 000 to K100 000 per month, established a duty-free week, President appearing before Parliament to answer questions and changing the start-point for the fiscal year from July 1 to April 1. It has also operationalised ATI.
The administration has partially implemented the following:
lReforming the public service: reforms have been ongoing with President Chakwera on February 4 2021 assigning his Vice Chilima to lead a special task force on the overhaul of the civil service to improve efficiency and submit recommendations to him within three months, but since then, there has been no movement on the ground.
l Filling of parastatal boards with professionals: Human rights and governance analyst Undule Mwakasungula observed that the Tonse Alliance has tried to bring in professionalism in the parastatals by picking professionals to increase performance. “But we are coming from a background where everything was political in appointment of professionals. What is more important is to completely depoliticize the parastatals for the good of their performances,” he said.
lServant leadership –the President has availed himself to governance institutions such as Parliament and to the public to hear their views; but he is yet to start holding regular meetings with Leader of Opposition as he promised;
lMaking governance institutions independent –while ACB has been operating without interference from the Executive as shown by the arrest of some Cabinet ministers, there is still no Auditor General.
lUniversal fertiliser subsidy: Government introduced the Affordable Inputs Programme which targets about 3.7 million households instead of all the five million farming households.
lThree meals a day: Although some 1.7 million Malawians need food aid, at the national level, there is enough maize in the country following the 4.7 million metric tones maize harvest last year.
lGovernance and rule of law–Despite strides the administration has made in the area, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) urged President Chakwera to adhere to promises he made about reshuffling his Cabinet and to replace the Secretary to the President and Cabinet and Foreign Affairs minister citing reputational challenges.
lFighting corruption: the arrest of some members of Cabinet is an indication that Government is committed to fighting the vice. Both PAC and the Episcopal Conference of Malawi have called for a relentless fight against corruption and that no one is pressurized, intimidated or influenced in the pursuit of justice.
Promises with zero implementation
However, several other promises such as creation of one million jobs, reduction of passport application fee, removal of electricity and water connection fees, reduction of presidential powers, uniting Malawians, among others, remain broken.
On job creation, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national director Boniface Chibwana observed that government does not have a clear pathway to increase employment opportunities for the bulk of the population which comprises the youth.
“Similarly, the government is still groping in the dark on revamping the economy and the attainment of real economic recovery under the Covid-19 context. It is unfortunate that in designing the means for economic recovery the government has not been genuinely consultative,” he said.
On his part, an expert in peace and security studies at the University of Malawi (Unima) Master Dicks Mfune said President Chakwera promised Canaan.
“Tonse administration has failed to deliver on its main promises. There is nepotism, Malawi is only for a few Malawians, no one million jobs, no duty-free week, no reduction of passport fees, no free electricity and water connection, and no reduction of presidential powers.
“If they have failed to deliver because of the post-Covid pandemic crisis, then they could have gone for austerity measures. Unfortunately, they are running the government business as usual.”
Kazako defends government
But Minister of Information Gospel Kazako sounded optimistic, saying “we are moving progressively and sustainably. The Tonse administration was aware of the political cost that is involved which they will pay but our focus is building Malawi, a Malawi we will all cherish”.
Defending the slow pace in fulfilling the promises, he said this was because the administration is sealing the holes and curbing wastefulness in government systems to make Malawi a better country.