I am tempted to concede that Vice-President Saulos Klaus Chilima grabbed the opportunity on Saturday at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe. He diligently sold his presidential candidature to Malawians and stood tall like someone who has a vision for Malawi.
The United Transformation Movement (UTM) launch was his opportunity to tell Malawians his dream for a Malawi beyond May 2019.
But what is SKC saying? He is determined to transform Malawi as the next President. Simple!
He announced that UTM rests on two broad missions: saving Malawi from destruction exacerbated by corruption and building a Malawi good for everyone.
Throughout his speech, Chilima emphasised on his commitment to fight corruption and enhance equity for all.
Like fallen president Bingu wa Mutharika, he also emphasised that Malawi has resources to develop itself.
SKC seemed to offer Malawians hope that Malawi can develop with the locally available resources if not diverted by corrupt leaders—a paradigm shift that calls for development from within.
Tanzania’s founding president Julius Nyerere said: “People cannot be developed; they can only develop themselves.”
SKC, marketed as a youthful and homegrown presidential candidate by many speakers at the launch, knows Malawi inside out. Educated and successfully worked in the country, he is not foreign to the real issues affecting Malawians.
But how does SKC intend to do things differently from the other five leaders who have ruled Malawi since independence?
Albert Einstein once said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.
UTM calls for change. Thus, government reforms top UTM’s development priorities. Indeed reforms are a multisectoral strategy, foundational to any changes in how government transact business.
I feel SKC has won the hearts of many smallholder farmers with his indication that agriculture—income, value addition, nutrition and food security—is UTM’s second priority agenda.
The issue of structured markets has been the farmers’ outcry for ages. I wish some organisations in agriculture like Cadecom, CisaNet, Oxfam, Nasfam and FUM would let SKC commit this in writing. This is a serious issue. No more cosmetic and political rhetoric. Farmers have been cheated enough.
No leader can be faulted for committing to improve health service delivery. It is ironic that in the 21st century, Malawians continue to die of preventable and treatable diseases.
The role of education in the national development has not been well appreciated in the past regimes. The country’s education system experiences untold problems. Since SKC commented on higher education, I would like to bring to his attention that out of the 42 institutions of higher learning in Malawi, there are only four public universities.
Bingu dreamt of establishing five more universities, but only renamed Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) and established Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) in Thyolo.
SKC thinks in a country where three quarters of the people still live in grass-thatched houses, housing ought to be a top development agenda. Malawians anticipate clarity on this point as the Malata Subsidy and Mudzi Transformation programmes have not been effective. SKC needs to underscore how he endeavors to enhance rural housing and development, given that about 80 per cent of Malawians live in rural areas.
The promise to create one million jobs in one year sounds appealing, but begs more questions.
The vision on transport infrastructure development sounds sensational. Indeed we need electric locomotives. Much has to change with the road and railway networks in Malawi. It is good SKC includes energy development in his manifesto, it’s a key sector.
Like the past governments, we hope that gender and women empowerment, social protection, security and land reforms will not only be mere lip service to woo voters in 2019.
This is a social contract with Malawians.