CLOSING SPEECH BY THE LEADER OF OPPOSITION IN PARLIAMENT HON. DR. KONDWANI NANKHUMWA MP AT THE END OF THE 2ND MEETING IN THE 50TH SESSION OF PARLIAMENT
18TH AUGUST, 2023
Madam Speaker and Honourable Members,
I stand before you this afternoon to deliver my closing speech at the end of the Second Meeting in the 50th Session of Parliament. First of all, allow me to express my gratitude to all Honourable Members in this August House for their dedication and commitment to serving the people of Malawi; the people that we represent. It is only through our collective efforts that we can address the challenges facing our nation and work towards a better future for all.
During this meeting, we discussed a wide range of issues, including economic development and challenges, social welfare, education, agriculture, healthcare, and governance, among others.
Indeed, these were essential discussions aimed at positively shaping policies and legislation that guide our nation towards the future.
One of the concerns that we raised as the opposition during this meeting was the issue of transparency and accountability. I believe there is need for greater transparency and accountability in the management of public funds because the misuse and misappropriation of public resources not only undermine our economy but also erode public trust in our public institutions.
In this regard, let me welcome the appointment, finally, of a substantive Auditor General of National Audit Office, Mr. Thomas Makiwa, who has acted in that position from 2018 to 2021. As you are aware, Madam Speaker, the role of Auditor General entails providing independent assurance on the proper use of public resources and to promote transparency and accountability in the management of public funds.
The Auditor General is a watchdog who ensures that government entities adhere to financial regulations and procedures whilst ensuring that there is discipline all the time.
I wish to congratulate Mr. Thomas Makiwa on his deserved appointment. Let me assure him of my utmost support as Leader of Opposition in Parliament, as he goes about ensuring that there is transparency, accountability, and good governance in public offices in the country.
That there has been wanton abuse of public resources under this government is a running story and well documented. I am convinced that Mr. Thomas Makiwa is the right man for the Job based on his good track record.
My special advice to him is that this is the time to create his own legacy by exposing the culprits whilst preserving public resources. He should not be a man who wants to preside over a missed opportunity because posterity will hold him accountable.
MINISTERIAL STATEMENT ON MAIZE
I will be failing in my duty if I do not say anything about the statement presented yesterday in this august House by the Honourable Minister of Agriculture. The statement was about the measures that his ministry is taking to address the hunger crisis in the country.
I found the minister’s statement on the government’s plans to distribute maize to Admarc depots across the country for sale to vulnerable Malawians as lacking in clarity.
The minister failed to provide specific information about how the figures of 10,170 metric tonnes of maize earmarked for the Southern Region; 1,320 metric tonnes for Central region, and 1,150 metric tonnes for Northern Region for what he called “the first phase” were arrived at.
The minister failed to inform this august House where the said maize would specifically come from apart from saying “from across the region on a government to government arrangement”.
This is ambiguous, Madam Speaker, because one wonders, which governments is the minister referring to? Which region, and which countries, because the last time I checked, most of our neighbouring countries had banned exports of cereal from their countries.
I am also at pains, like most Malawians, to fully comprehend the effectiveness of government’s intended distribution of maize in the absence of the asking price of the same. Why should Malawians wait until next week to know how much they will be paying for a kilo of maize when the government has purportedly already set plans in motion? I suspect the said maize is non-existent, after all.
In the event that indeed the government distributes the said maize, the government should ensure that Admarc sells maize directly to the intended beneficiaries and not to unscrupulous vendors.
The minister should provide more specific and detailed information on this initiative. This should include a clearly defined criteria for determining the most and least affected areas and an outline of the whole distribution process in order to rebuild the lost confidence in this ministry among Malawians.
One of the areas that this meeting deliberated on was the issue of the economy. Many Malawians will agree with me that our economy is currently in ICU. Malawi is currently in a pigeonhole of significant economic challenges including high unemployment rates, high inflation, and a widening wealth gap. Malawians are struggling just to put food on their table.
A bag of maize is hovering at MK40, 000, and not affordable by a majority of families across the country. Prices of basic commodities such as soap, sugar, cooking oil and everything in between continue to rise. As I am talking, there are long queues at filling stations across the country due to the lack of fuel, as a result of forex scarcity. From the look of things, it appears the problem has come to stay.
For the past three years, the government has managed to come up with various excuses for our ailing economy. Yes, it is true Malawi just experienced one of the worst cyclones in its history, Cyclone Freddy, which affected many parts of the Southern Region and the worst drought in some areas in the Northern Region like in Karonga. The war in Ukraine has also taken its toll on us, and, not to mention the dangerous Covid 19 pandemic.
But as much as it may be true that some of these excuses are valid, we all are aware that the buck ultimately stops at the government, particularly at the leadership.
Global challenges have always been there. They will always be there. But as a country, we will not blame anyone for what we did or did not do. Every dark cloud, Madam Speaker, has a silver lining, and we will be overtaken if we do not take our opportunities.
Before I proceed, allow me to quote from a speech, which was delivered on 8th December, 2016 by the Leader of Opposition, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, under the previous DPP Government.
He said and I quote: “My Fellow Malawians. Our nation is in crisis, and in times of national crisis, leadership is critical. But unfortunately for us, the crisis we face is one of leadership itself.” He went on to say the presidency that time was in a state of emergency.
I am not sure if this is still the prevailing thinking in the former Leader of Opposition. I do not intend this to be a laughing matter but if all of us, Malawians, should rise to help, President Lazarus Chakwera and his government must take hard sacrifices to fix this crisis. At the moment, they are not.
This is not an afternoon of long speeches, but I wish to firmly ask the President to take decisive measures to stop the bleeding. I am sure he can see it. The least he can do is to walk his own talk.
President Chakwera must implement his own government’s austerity measures to prevent spending by reducing or even stopping local and international travelling. I do not know how he feels when he sees long fuel queues as he zooms by in his large convoy with his fuel guzzling vehicles.
REGISTRATION WITH NRB
This august House discussed the issue of mobile ID registration due to the fact that the ID has become the necessary document for one to be eligible for voting in the next election in 2025. The august House would be interested to know that the National Registration Bureau (NRB) has just missed its target under the first phase of national identify (ID) cards outreach registration exercise. The NRB has only managed to register 32 percent of new targeted registrants and only six percent of those seeking replacements.
Honourable Members may also wish to know that many of the districts in this phase were from the Southern Region. I am only hoping that I am wrong about this because if the trend continues like this it means the next election has started experiencing problems.
THE EAST BRIDGE ‘SCANDAL’
I have noted with a lot of concern that there are efforts by the government to not disclose the full details of the East Bridge fertilizer deal. As opposition, we remain committed to holding the government accountable on this one because Malawians cannot afford back to back fertilizer scandals in the same Ministry within two years, coming as a result of the government’s refusal to listen to advice and the voice of reason.
Although we have heard that the government is cancelling, or has cancelled this deal, Malawians are interested to know to what extent is the taxpayer going to suffer in monetary terms as a result of that cancellation. I am saying this because we hear East Bridge is about to claim hundreds of billions of Kwacha from the Malawi Government as a result of the said cancellation.
Malawians are also interested to know the extent of involvement of some local Malawians in the deal, especially in view of reports that some of them have vanished with tax payer’s money from this fertilizer procurement scandal.
SCHOOL FEES INCREASE & ANA AMASIKINI
I am a firm believer of the fact that public schools are supposed to be affordable, particularly to those that are not well off in our society. Although I am well aware that there are deliberate policies targeting needy students to be in school such as bursaries and loans, there are still huge gaps that must be addressed to fully fix this problem.
I am saying this because a few weeks ago, some public universities raised their tuition fees, with some raising the fees by close to 100 percent. I wish to reiterate my call to the government to intervene on this development because it is becoming too much for parents and guardians to raise tuition fees in a troubled economy like ours.
Whilst I am on the issue of Universities, I also wish to appeal to the government to do something about the rising menace on the students of MUBAS (formerly the Polytechnic) coming from ‘Ana a Masikini’. Cases of MUBAS students being attacked by street kids on their way to and from school at MUBAS have reached alarming levels. This is a troubling issue, which has the potential to snowball out of control if left unattended.
We have always said these street children are a breeding ground for criminals, and it is unfortunate that the problem is playing out in front of our very own eyes, and on unsuspecting students.
I wish to remind my Honourable colleagues on the opposition benches that in times of adversity and economic hardship, it is our collective duty, as the opposition, to hold the government accountable and fight for the rights and well-being of the people.
We may have different ideologies, but our shared commitment to democracy and progress should guide us towards finding common ground. Let us remember that true leadership lies in our ability to listen, understand, and work together for the betterment of our nation.
Finally, Madam Speaker, I would like to reiterate my gratitude to all Honourable Members of Parliament for their dedication and hard work during this meeting.
Together, we have engaged in important debates and discussions, which will positively shape the future of our nation.
May the Good Lord Bless Our Nation.