By Ajong Mbapndah L
The success of Malawians, their prosperity, their aspirations fulfilled, their future ensured, their country secured, and their lives assured, is what must define the success of this administration, says President Lazarus Chakwera. Responding to questions from Pan African Visions on the first hundred days of his administration, President Chakwera says the focus has been on laying a solid foundation for an efficient machinery to deliver change that Malawians want.
“Ours is a system that needs an overhaul. That’s why we are talking of changing direction for this sinking ship which had been weighed down by greed, nepotism, corruption, executive arrogance and all the economic atrocities that were committed by a cartel of state criminals,” President Chakwera said.
Describing the evils as deeply entrenched, President Chakwera says it will take a collaborative effort to uproot them and his administration was resolute on putting the right people in the right places to get Malawi back on the rails.
President Chakwera thanks for accepting to answer our questions, your presidency has recently clocked one hundred days, may we know how Malawi is faring under your leadership?
President Chakwera: What the first hundred days of my Administration have sought to do is to turn Malawi around, to change course. My first task was to put up a team of ministers that would understand and implement the Tonse philosophy of shared responsibility, shared accountability, and shared prosperity. The values of that philosophy are outlined in my Super High 5 agenda, whose tenets are Servant Leadership, Uniting Malawians, Prospering Together, Ending Corruption, and the Rule of law. Over the past three months, we have focused on laying these foundations across the public sector so that we have an efficient machinery for delivering the change Malawians want.
In what shape did you meet the country when you took over, and what are some of the concrete measures you have taken to get Malawi back on the rails?
President Chakwera : I said this when I was giving the State of the Nation Address in parliament, that by way of diagnosis, my Administration believes that the Executive is too powerful, the Judiciary is too underfunded, the Legislature is too subservient, and all three are too corrupt. Ours is a system that needs an overhaul. That’s why we are talking of changing direction for this sinking ship which had been weighed down by greed, nepotism, corruption, executive arrogance and all the economic atrocities that were committed by a cartel of state criminals. These evils were deeply entrenched and went on for so long that it will take a collaborative effort to uproot them. But we are resolute, and we are on course with putting the right people in the right places to get the country back on track.
How is your administration coping with the ravages of COVID-19?
President Chakwera: The COVID-19 pandemic is such a colossal challenge that requires not just domestic unity, but also global unity and innovative solutions. It has ravaged our health system and caused deep economic harm to our nation. Malawi, being one of the Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Countries is among the hardest hit.
As a country, we have made efforts to contain the disease from spreading, to disseminate messages of awareness, and to sustain economic activities., ensuring the pandemic does not wipe out our socio-economic gains of the last few months.
It will interest you to learn that Malawi issued a Statement on 25th September, 2020, to the United Nations, which highlighted the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in terms of: high risk of debt default; worsening trade competitiveness; supply chain disruptions; and a constrained informal working sector. The Statement further appealed for enhanced international support towards the LDCs and debt cancellation ultimately and an extension of the debt moratorium in the meantime.
In short, we know that there are short and long term implications that come with COVID-19 and my government continues to deal with both. So far, we are thankful to God that our efforts are yielding fruit.
What is your response to criticism that your cabinet is a family affair with relatives appointed as Ministers and the bulk of the cabinet from the Central region which is your fief?
President Chakwera: When I came up with the list of names, marital status, religion, and tribe were not considerations. All I consider was whether these Ministers have the capacity to deliver results and the public credibility to have a following for their example of hard work. I believe that a just society is not only one in which familial, regional, and marital ties do not qualify you for service, but also one in which those ties do not disqualify you for service. The only thing that counts is merit.
Let us talk about some of the promises you made, and we start with fighting corruption, just how bad was corruption in Malawi when you took office and what progress has been made in fighting it?
President Chakwera: Like I have said somewhere before in this interview, our society is deeply entrenched in corruption and that it will take all of us to cooperate in order to deal away with this beast.
In the first place, we must equip with enough resources the arms and organizations that are concerned with fighting corruption, such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau, the Police Service and all others. My Administration has already fulfilled this promise in the recent budget allocation that was presented and approved by the National Assembly.
Secondly it is to allow all the bodies that fight corruption to function independently, to make sure that there is no interference from the Executive or any other arm of government. I am glad that, the Anti-Corruption Bureau for example, is now able to carry out its work without interference.
We have seen several officials from the previous administration arrested, how will corruption cases be handled in a way that Malawians do not see it as a witch hunt of the previous administration?
President Chakwera : As long as there is independence in the bodies that are mandated to fight corruption, as long as we follow the rule of law, as long as there is no interference from any arm of government, people will eventually realize that there is no witch hunting in our fight against corruption.
One of the promises you made was to meet regularly with opposition leaders to get their input on running the country, may we know how many times President Chakwera has met with the opposition and how useful their proposals have been?
President Chakwera: This is an ongoing process, and we are on course to set up the first meeting with the Leader of Opposition before the end of the year. So far, I have already met with the Secretaries General of opposition parties and well as various senior members of the same to get their views on board. In that regard, I can assure you that we have met and continue to meet with the opposition, and we are resolute in making sure that we are servant leaders who put Malawi first.
What plans do you have to strengthen the electoral system and institutions in a way that under your leadership and going forward Malawi will not experience rigged and flawed elections again?
President Chakwera: We are putting in place plans to ensure the independence of the Malawi Electoral Commission. One of them is to ensure that there is no obstruction to the electoral reform Bills that were passed by Parliament recently, and that we continue to propose legislative amendments aimed at enhancing Parliament’s independence in handling matters of elections and reducing the President’s power to obstruct its functions.
President Chakwera is known to be a man of strong religious believes, what role are your Christian values playing in influencing your policy choices and the direction of Malawi under your leadership?
President Chakwera: The Super Hi5 agenda is the blueprint for the Tonse government development agenda. This template is not a biased agenda that leans on religion or party affiliation. It is a template that suits all Malawians from all walks of life. As a Christian, one thing I need to continuously remember is that I represent people of diverse backgrounds, that is the reason why the Super Hi5 makes sense; Servant Leadership, Unity, Prospering Together, Ending Corruption, and upholding the Rule of Law. All our policies must be guided by this template. My faith guides me to remain strong in delivering this agenda.
What is the reaction of President Chakwera to penchant for African leaders to abrogate constitutional term limits to remain in power?
President Chakwera: As long as I live and breathe, that will never happen here.
With all the promises you made to Malawians and the great ambitions you have, what will be your definition of a successful presidency?
President Chakwera : I am here to serve Malawians, nothing more, nothing less. The success of Malawians, their prosperity, their aspirations fulfilled, their future ensured, their country secured, their lives assured, is what must define the success of this administration.