By Iommie Chiwalo
The human rights organisation, Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiatives (CDEDI) has challenged President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance administration to immediately introduce measures to cushion the suffering of vulnerable and marginalised Malawians.
In a statement made available to this publication and signed by its Executive Director Sylvester Namiwa, CDEDI had noted with deep concern deepening plight of Malawians, especially the rural masses owing to increasing cost of living, aggravated by the recent increase in fuel prices.
The organisation has highlighted that the rising cost of living is being mirrored through skyrocketing prices of basic essential goods cooking oil, water and electricity, and cost of mobile phone airtime charges, transport and Internet bundles.
Namiwa is of the view that given the current situation, is time the President stopped the mockery on the suffering masses and started sharing the pain with the citizens as per his pledge of servant leadership.
“If the President is sincere, then he should stop being rhetoric and start being seen to care by embracing austerity measures such as cutting down on unnecessary local and international travels; scrapping off unjustifiable fuel levies; trimming his Cabinet and the crowd of personal advisers; cutting his salary and other benefits, and those of top government officials. Among others, the obscene 1 000 liters of fuel per month for Cabinet ministers, advisers and senior government officials disturbingly come to mind,” he says.
And,Namiwa says, while implementing the austerity measures, the President and his Tonse Alliance administration should walk the talk by fulfilling their sugar-coated campaign promises such as the one million jobs; MK15,000 allowances per month for those aged 65 and above; reducing passport fees from MK90,000 to MK14,000; the free water and electricity connection.
Namiwa has therefore reminded the President and his administration that any increase in fuel prices means more misery for the majority of Malawians who expect solutions, and not callous attempts to justify their suffering.
“Thus far, Malawi’s fuel prices are the highest in the region due to punitive and unjustifiable taxes and levies which government imposed on the commodity,” he says.
Namiwa further enlightened that, apart from tax, here in Malawi every litre of fuel includes the regulator levy, road levy, Malawi Bureau of Standards levy, rural Electrification levy, storage levy, distribution levy and the price stabilisation fund levy if not to mention of the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) office complex levy.
He has since pleaded with government to be considerate by scraping off some of the levies, such us the construction of the Mera office complex, which has now been completed.
The CDEDI Executive Director has also questioned the wisdom in paying the MBS levy when there is a Mera mobile van being used for the same purpose.
He further reveals that the recent fuel hike has eaten much into the much-touted increase in the tax-free band, and the15 percent salary increment for the public servants thereby making it worse for the unemployed and those whose businesses have been affected by the government-initiated Covid-19 preventive measures.
But on the general concerns, state President’s media team, only said that “the President appreciates the pain that has come with the recent fuel price hike, but he does not want to interfere with the independence of Mera,” the remarks which Namiwa says are unfortunate and highly insensitive to the suffering masses.
Information Minister Gospel Kazako was also in the press justifying the hike by saying that Malawi has no control over the product which it does not produce. He was however not ready to justify the wherein of price stabilisation fund and eventually creating speculations that the money has been abused.