Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president and leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera was at it again on Friday during his closing remarks at the end of the Mid-Term Budget Review meeting of Parliament, criticizing the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government of corruption and abuse of public resources, but the jury is out there to give thier verdict that Chakwera accepted a compromise of getting a slice of the K4 billion ‘funding by-pass.’
In what many have described as “hypocrisy”, Chakwera took a swipe at government, particularly Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and Local Government and Rural Development Minister and Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Kondwani Nankhumwa, for flouting procedure and violating the law by pushing through the House a K4 billion budgetary vote during the just-ended sitting, where each parliamentarian (constituency) would be allocated K20 million for development projects.
Critics have accused government of providing funds to MPs who voted against the electoral reform bills, as a token of appreciation. In the critics’ thinking, the DPP government has not been in favour of electoral reform bills, one of which proposed that the President of the Republic must be voted into office by 50 + 1 percent of the total votes cast at an election.
Indeed, the move raised many eyebrows, including those of the Leader of Opposition, because the vote in question was not initially provided for in the annual budget adopted and approved by Members of Parliament (MPs) last June, raising suspicions of corruption. The finance minister attempted to explain the criteria they used to bring the vote to the house and after a protracted debate, the vote was passed by MPs on both sides of the House.
The bone of contention now is the question about how double-faced the Leader of Opposition has been in this whole matter. There is apparent suspicion as regards Chakwera’s statement, which many think did not augur well with his oversight role as Leader of Opposition.
His demand that the two cabinet ministers resign when in fact he, himself, was part of the House that finally approved the vote to provide the K4 billion to all MPs or constituencies, is a loud demonstration of his high-level irresponsibility. In all fairness, Chakwera also ought to resign as Leader of Opposition for his apparent failure to stop what he later described as an illegal transaction but instead benefited from the same.
Newspaper columnist Golden Matonga weighed in on the matter, arguing that fir Chakwera to turn around to call for an investigation smacks of hypocricy when his party is busy legitimising this transaction.
“The moment Goodall whispered in Chakwera’s ear that he could extend the K4 billion thieving enterprise to Chakwera’s party, too, our good leader of opposition, turned into the proverbial ostrich and went for the sand. Chakwera and the whole Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have gone mute –just as when one raise the subject of the Lilongwe-Salima waterway project,” Matonga wrote on his column.
Indeed, whether or not the erstwhile President of the Assemblies of God Church in Malawi demand for the resignation of Gondwe and Nankhumwa and call for a probe should be taken seriously, his deliberate attempt to eject himself from that process, smacks of dishonesty and hypocrisy of the highest order.
He now has a mammoth task to unshackle himself from the growing perception that he abrogated his duty to serve the people of Malawi but instead played in the alleged illegal process only to turn around and demand other people’s resignation.
Matonga wrote on his column: “Lazarus, goodness me, what happened to you Mr Supposed Game- Changer? What happened to the man who was going to end the vicious cycle of corrupt politicians that prey on our taxes in a system of patronage? What happened to the evangelist-turned-politician who swore to uphold biblical morals when he finally landed in public office?
“We have a different Lazarus now; a compromised one. The thing is not that Chakwera has had a belated turn about to call for condemnation but in the business commitee where he can throw around his weight, his party instead of stopping this theft, accepted a compromise of getting a slice of the loot.”
In all his official statements in Parliament, Chakwera has not missed the opportunity to bash the DPP government and President Professor Arthur Mutharika in a scratching tone. It seems Chakwera may have realized he may not mount a credible democratic challenge against President Mutharika and DPP ahead of the 2019 tripartite elections and that ‘jungle politics’ must take the place of civilized politics.
As one political commentator said recently, Chakwera is under immense pressure to remain relevant to the country’s political context by being seen to be doing something. He wants to exude a politician who does not treat the President of the Republic and his ministers with kid gloves but one who is scathing.
Other analysts have accused Chakwera of being in the habit of “bashing” the DPP and P Mutharika without offering any alternatives or tangible solutions.
One of the Malawi’s famous women’s rights activists, social and political commentator, Faustace Chirwa has said Chakwera’s conduct in the K4 billion matter depicts him as a money-hungry individual who would temporarily abandon his moral and ethical responsibility to advance selfish interests.
Adding her voice to the issue, Chirwa said Chakwera lacks the moral ground to demand the resignation of the two cabinet ministers because as Leader of Opposition, he has the ability to mobilize a legal and credible challenge against any departure from procedure in the House rather than wait for a ‘closing statement’ to demand resignation of individuals over some process he himself sanctioned.
“As Leader of the largest opposition party in Malawi and one who is seriously gunning for the top job of President, Dr. Chakwera needs to demonstrate to Malawians that he is an ethical and moral leader. Ethical and moral conduct, in its simplest terms, is to know and do what is right. My personal opinion is that Dr. Chakwera did not do the right thing in this instance. He too has to take responsibility for his glaring lack of leadership judgement,” Chirwa told one of the local radio stations.
Commentators also argue that Parliament should have demanded for a disclosure of the 86 MPs who were earmarked the “ funding bypass from Capital Hill” and the criteria used to select them.