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LEADER OF OPPOSITION DR NANKHUMWA SPEAKS ON CURRENT AFFAIRS: ‘Leadership vacuum sliding Malawi towards failed state’

‘LEADERSHIP VACUUM SLIDING MALAWI TOWARDS FAILED STATE’

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN PARLIAMENT DR. KONDWANI NANKHUMWA, MP
PRESS STATEMENT ON CURRENT PRESSING NATIONAL CHALLENGES

LILONGWE

FRIDAY, 13TH JANUARY, 2023

PREAMBLE

Fellow Malawians,

NANKHUMWA: Malawi’s Leader of Opposition

I feel duty-bound to address you on some immediate pressing challenges that we face as a country. I am firmly convinced that we have a leadership vacuum in this country and that, as a result, Malawi is steadily sliding towards a ‘Failed State’, where government and the leadership are no longer in control of the social and economic systems.

Fellow Malawians,

If the ship that the Biblical Jonah boarded from Nineveh to Tarshish had a sleeping captain, it could have sunk because the captain could not have known the cause of their troubles. But bravo to the captain of that ship, he was awake and alert to recognize the problem in time and fixed it by throwing Jonah into the lake to save the ship and the people. Our circumstances as a country are very unfortunate because the captain of our ship is loudly sleeping on duty to the point of not being aware of circumstances around him.

A case in point is the arrest of Martha Chizuma, Head of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). We are all aware about what happened, which is laughable to say the least.

The President, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Police Service, claimed he was not informed in advance about the impending arrest of a high-profile government official. Instead of sacking the responsible officials, the President instituted a Commission of Inquiry “to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Ms. Martha Chizuma”.

Based on the varied opinions that have ensued since the Commission of Inquiry released its findings report, it is clear that many Malawians are not satisfied with the findings, and are asking why the Commission was even put in place. Malawians are reasonable enough to remember what President Chakwera said. He said he had put together a Commission to investigate circumstances around the arrest of Ms. Martha Chizuma, including finding out who ordered her arrest.

However, someone, whether the President himself or official, tweaked the terms of reference for the Commission to remove all relevant questions to the arrest of Ms. Chizuma for something else that did not even make sense. Malawians are not aware as to who ordered Ms. Chizuma’s arrest. Although the report said ‘key’ members of the executive knew of the arrest, it proceeded NOT to mention their names.

Instead, the Commission appeared to justify the 4 am arrest of Ms. Chizuma due to issues of a leaked audio, an issue, which happened almost a year ago, and which was already dealt with by the President himself.

If the DPP, Steven Kayuni, is personally aggrieved as they are trying to make Malawians believe, why did he wait almost a year to report the matter to the Police? Why arresting Ms. Chizuma at 4 in the morning like a dangerous drug lord? Is she a flight risk? And if the Commission was about investigating issues to do with the audio, has it done any justice even on that? Apart from just mentioning the person who recorded Ms. Chizuma, why did they not summon him to appear before the Commission? Is he innocent?

Did the Commission not want to find out who may have sent him to record Ms. Chizuma and the motive behind that? Is this not a missed opportunity? In fact, Ms. Chizuma herself complained that her story was not reflected in the report as should have been the case. Why?

Having digested these issues, it is my conclusion that President Chakwera and his key ministers, the Inspector General of Police, and most senior state security officers knew of Ms. Chizuma’s arrest beforehand.

Now, let me make other observations as follows:

  1. THE CHOLERA OUTBREAK

Malawi is currently going through a protracted cholera outbreak, the worst in 10 years. So far, the country has registered close to 20,000 active cases and over 700 deaths. The worst part of it is that more than 80 percent of all deaths are occurring in health facilities – meaning that the level of care in our facilities is grossly substandard. Cholera is mostly linked to poor hygiene, poor sanitation and lack of, or limited access to, safe drinking water. It often spreads faster during the rainy season and can be prevented by improving access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) as well as the selective use of oral cholera vaccine (OCV).

As Malawians may be aware, the first case of cholera was officially reported on 3rd March 2022, and since that time up to now, no single day has gone without recording a case of the disease. In fact, by mid-August last year, the country had 1,000 cholera cases with 10 districts affected. One can see that this was the dry season, which is traditionally a low transmission period because the rainy period occurs from November through March in Malawi.

The very fact that cholera cases were increasing during the dry season should have been warning enough for President Chakwera and his Tonse Alliance government to ensure that the health sector in the country has the capacity to deal with the outbreak before the rainy season.

My observation is that this did not happen.

Like it is happening in many sectors of the nation, the Tonse Alliance government continues to write all the wrong scripts in the health sector. The cholera outbreak was given cursory attention like a small ailment that would go away with regular Panado, and yet it was a time bomb waiting to explode.

Now here we are. The cholera outbreak has now clearly exploded, and surprisingly the government looks to have been caught off-guard. Stories of no medical supplies such as intravenous fluids, antibiotics, inadequate medical staff to take care of patients, have become the norm.

Most of the cholera treatment units are in deplorable state and not good for patient care. They have become death traps. In many districts, ambulances are not available to take patients to health facilities. The heath system is clearly reeling under the weight of this crisis. It is chaotic and a sad situation. We need help.

Last week, I asked President Lazarus Chakwera to declare a State of National Disaster in order to unlock more support towards the cholera outbreak, especially from Malawi’s foreign cooperating partners but it appears that the plea fell on deaf ears.

I wish to repeat the call for President Lazarus Chakwera to declare a State of National Disaster because Malawians continue to die in large numbers because our medical facilities lack the necessary capacity to contain the outbreak. We need political will at the highest level to beat this dangerous outbreak.

We do not treat cholera with window dressing press conferences by a group of cabinet ministers sitting in the comfort of government boardrooms at City Centre.

Such press conferences do not do the nation any good. We need serious measures to unlock more funds and medical supplies towards the outbreak.

Declaring this outbreak as a State of National Disaster would go a long way to enlist the help that is currently not available. What is President Chakwera waiting for? He wants more productive citizen to die first before moving into action?

The sad reality is that it is not only cholera that we are currently battling as a country. Covid-19 is back, and today, as so many Malawians across the country are also facing hunger. On top of that, cases of rabies and polio are also being reported across many parts of the country. This is an acute health situation and you wonder how this government is able to continue sleeping under such circumstances.

What is most shocking is the fact that the Chakwera government has reduced the budget for the Ministry responsible for Water and Sanitation during the just ended Mid-year budget review, despite the surge in cholera cases and deaths from last year. This is a total lack of prudent prioritization and political will to fight this outbreak.

Fellow Malawians,

In his New Year’s Address, President Chakwera demonstrated that his government is unconcerned about the cholera crisis. The President made only one sentence on the cholera crisis. He appeared to live in his own different world, completely detached from Malawians.

This casual approach to the cholera crisis by this government is breathtaking. It is clearly a consequence of sleepy leadership, which has characterized the Tonse/MCP government. In fact, the cholera crisis has exposed the leadership vacuum that this country continues to suffer under President Chakwera.

Fellow Malawians,

As Leader of Opposition in Parliament, I wish to call upon our traditional donors, cooperating partners, and all stakeholders to work together to support those that are already investing efforts to contain the outbreak. This is a public health crisis, and it can get worse if we, as a country, do not mobilize more support from stakeholders within and beyond the health, water and sanitation sectors to contribute to the cholera response.

At the same time, I wish to call upon President Chakwera to, at least for once, rise to the occasion to save Malawians from deaths that could have been avoided. The cholera crisis should jolt this President out of his slumber into reality, and realize that he was employed by Malawians and that his service and loyalty must be to Malawians.

  1. PROMISE OF NEW, LEAN CABINET

Fellow Malawians,

Towards the beginning of 2022, President Chakwera announced, without being prompted, that he would “soon” reconfigure his cabinet. He did not do that until the year came to an end. In his 2023 New Year Message, the President again said he is about to hire a new leaner cabinet in line with his newly discovered aspirations for the country. Now two weeks later, Malawians are still waiting for a leaner Cabinet to appear on the horizon.

Fellow Malawians,

My worry is that how many times will the President proclaim that he is in the process of hiring a Cabinet? And how long does it take just to hire a Cabinet? Why can’t he just announce the Cabinet for Malawians to judge whether it is lean or not?

The issue of the Cabinet has once again exposed President Chakwera’s lack of decisiveness on critical issues, which is one of the reasons why his government has simply imploded without making progress in almost all the sectors of the economy. It also feeds into rumors that President Chakwera is not his own man and that he answers to a very powerful clique of MCP ministers who call the shots and control him, and whom he fears to fire.

  1. THE BRIDGIN FOUNDATION

Fellow Malawians,

In November 2022, President Chakwera presided over a grant signing ceremony with an organization calling itself Bridgin Foundation. It was called the mother of all grants and unprecedented in the history of this nation. We were told that finally, favour has located Malawi due to the servant leadership of President Chakwera.

The President said those who doubted his ability to bring huge sums of money to Malawi must gather and watch him now. He said Capital Hill will now have the tallest twin-towers by any standards in Malawi. That the windfall would fund the construction of various infrastructure such as roads, universities and electricity generation plants; “development initiatives that the opposition said he cannot implement”.

His Minister of Information was all over town spreading the Bridgin Foundation gospel. He said President Chakwera has now started unpacking the “goods” he collected from his many trips abroad.

Fellow Malawians,

We were told that the windfall was not even a loan but a grant, and that Malawians will not have to pay anything from their taxes. It was a make-believe picture and a scenario to behold. Fast track to today, it looks like there has been a sudden turncoat. The subject that members of the Chakwera administration do not want to talk about now is the Bridgin Foundation. Words such as ‘nonsense’ have now started coming out in the high corridors in respect of Bridgin Foundation.

The Minister of Finance, the one who signed the agreement on behalf of Malawi, is now saying “it is okay even if they don’t give us the money as long as we did not spend anything on them”.

The Minister of Information, who is the official government’s spokesperson, has gone deathly quiet. Now, he cannot attend to any questions regarding the Bridgin Foundation. A black cat has completely eaten out his tongue.

Fellow Malawians,

The reason for the sudden turn of events is simple. President Chakwera and his lieutenants have realized that the whole Bridgin Foundation fiasco was just a load of hot air balloon, and that they were conned. They have realized that it was a scam and too good to be true.

This is a sad and embarrassing scenario for the government and President Chakwera. Once again, the government has been publicly embarrassed because of its penchant for ‘madobadoba’ or ‘middlemen’. How can the whole government engage a so-called international funding organization without conducting any due diligence on it?

As the opposition in Parliament, we have been warning President Chakwera about the caliber of his advisors; that they have their priorities completely upside down, and that they only fight for their own pockets. He has chosen not to listen. Now he has been turned into a laughing stock and a butt of jokes. Did the President really think 6.8 billion dollars come like that?

  1. THE AIP MESS

Fellow Malawians,

I am well aware that the new Minister of Agriculture, Sam Kawale and others, are trying their best to paint a rosy picture of the Agricultural Input Program (AIP); that things are working on the ground, and that there are only a few hitches. The reality, however, is that AIP has completely and comprehensively collapsed this season.

Today, old women are collapsing at SFFRFM AIP fertilizer selling points across the country due to fatigue and hunger after spending days on end with no bag of fertilizer in sight. Cases of rioting and youths abducting fertilizer trucks are rife across the country because the little available fertilizer is not nearly enough to meet the demand by farmers across the country.

Meanwhile, the rains are falling in earnest. They are not waiting for farmers to complete their futile search for fertilizer. The evidence for this is the yellow maize seen in the fields as you drive through the countryside.

Fellow Malawians,

In two weeks’, time the situation will be irredeemable. With that kind of situation, the country should as well brace itself for acute hunger next season. All this is happening because money for AIP, whose budget we passed in Parliament, was stolen by members of the Tonse Alliance administration, some of whom are close associates of the President, under the guise of purchasing AIP fertilizer.

They paid money to a butchery in the UK to purchase fertilizer. They squandered taxpayers’ money in allowances allegedly trying to recover the same money and yet they knew the money was already cashed by their conmen friends.

Fellow Malawians,

Today, I demand that President Chakwera should come out in the open and publicly apologize to Malawians, especially the rural smallholder farmers, for the AIP mess this year. Let him publicly admit that poor planning, corruption and theft by some members of his government have resulted in this year’s AIP mess. There is simply no Fertilizer in SFFRFM warehouses and the little fertilizer that may be available cannot get to the targeted farmers because of transport logistics problems.

  1. ADMARC ABUSE

Firstly, this government closed ADMARC for reasons that only them can understand, leaving so many Malawians without an institution that has helped them survive through times of hunger. The decision also rendered over 4,000 ADMARC employees jobless.

In fact, ADMARC also had over 1,000 depots where apart from maize and other produce, it also sold fertilizer to farmers. The AIP story could have been much different with ADMARC in place.

The government informed Parliament during the last sitting that ADMARC would resume operations on 1st December, 2022. This mid-January, 2023 and ADMARC remains closed.

Fellow Malawians,

After its closure, we heard they had started looting ADMARC. Among other things, they took all the maize from its warehouses and smuggled it to neighboring Tanzania for sale. One person – an alleged friend to President Chakwera, was caught, and revealed that he was not the only one stealing, and that there are other ‘big’ men who have completely ransacked ADMARC by stealing the maize meant for Malawians.

Fellow Malawians,

When a Committee of Parliament desired to know more from this person, MCP MPs blocked him from meeting MPs because they did not want him to reveal the other thieves in the Tonse Alliance. Again, President Chakwera has remained quiet all this time as though nothing has happened.

This is the reason why as Leader of Opposition in Parliament, I wish to inform all Malawians that President Chakwera and the Tonse Alliance government have completely failed Malawians. There is absolutely no promise that Chakwera has fulfilled to date. His has been a trial and error administration with disastrous consequences.

CONCLUSION

Fellow Malawians,

At this juncture, I wish to urge all Malawians never to trust people with sharp and twisted tongues again. They are full of promises but deliver nothing. Malawians are now suffering and dying.

In short, my plea is that come 2025, let us all vote President Lazarus Chakwera and the Tonse Alliance out of the government. They have miserably failed to deliver on their campaign promises. As a nation, we simply cannot proceed on this socio-economic path.

Right Honourable Dr. Kondwani Nankhumwa, MP

LEADER OF OPPOSITION IN PARLIAMENT

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