MPs Squeezes Chakwera

Estimated read time 5 min read

Corruption fight, AIP dominate questions

President stresses govt’s commitment

Members of Parliament (MPs) on Tuesday took turns to ask President Lazarus Chakwera to clarify his administration’s efforts to fight corruption, implement some infrastructure projects and the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP).

The President appeared calm and composed when he took his seat in the National Assembly to take questions under Standing Order 70(b), blending his responses with some seriousness and lightheartedness.

Chakwera and Nankhumwa (R) share a lighter moment

Taking her turn, Machinga East MP Esther Jolobala (United Democratic Front-UDF) asked the President if he was ready to reduce his powers as he promised during the campaign for the court-sanctioned fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020.

“Are you ready to reduce your powers in as far as some appointments in government are concerned? Mr. President, you promised Malawians that when you become President, you will make sure that the appointment of the director general of the ACB [Anti-Corruption Bureau] will not be done by the Office of the President,” she said.

In response, the President said reducing presidential powers was not about presidential decree, but changing the law. He said the law needs to be looked at in view of so many other challenges.

Said Chakwera: “There are still checks and balances built into the system. Parliament is the one that confirms an appointment made by the President. And if Parliament is unhappy, Parliament can inform the President of the same.”

Jolobala: Are you ready to reduce powers?

Responding to a related question from Zomba Lisanjala MP William Susuwele Banda (Democratic Progressive Party-DPP) on government plans to ensure that the fight against corruption is not lost, the President said government remained committed to the fight against corruption.

He said government is strengthening the prevention of corruption by strengthening the capacity of the chain of institutions in the fight against corruption.

Chakwera also said government is strengthening the prosecution capacity, adding that the ACB recently advertised to engage more lawyers to help in the prosecution of cases.

He also said the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is also being strengthened by bringing on board more lawyers and that government is establishing the Financial Crimes Court to speed up prosecution of corruption cases.

The President said three judges have been engaged to manage the Financial Crimes Division of the High Court of Malawi.

Susuwele Banda: What plans are in place?

“It is not right to say the country is not doing anything on the fight against corruption,” he said,

In his response, Chakwera said the AG was already on top of things on the issue and that “it is not a matter of satisfying political demands, but requirements of the law”.

“As such, you cannot reasonably claim that the Malawi Government lacks political will to see these cases move towards their just conclusion.

Chakwera also assured that all AIP beneficiaries who have not accessed fertiliser will get their fertiliser. There are about 348 000 of the 2.5 million beneficiaries yet to access fertiliser under the subsidy scheme.

Looking ahead, the President said government will this year improve on procurement of fertiliser and ensure that people start accessing the commodity as early as July.

He said government will also introduce measures to ensure that the fertiliser is not smuggled outside and that it will earnestly work on implementing mega farms to increase agricultural production for local use and export.

Mangochi Central MP Victoria Kingstone (DPP) also asked the President on the status of the proposed Mangochi International Airport to which the President assured the project will be undertaken.

In an interview after Parliament adjourned, Nankhumwa, who is Mulanje Central legislator affiliated to DPP, said the President’s appearance in Parliament was just “a waste of time and resources” because he allegedly he avoided critical questions.

He said the President should not dodge issues he promised, adding Chakwera is on record as having said he will reduce his powers in particular on the appointment of ACB director general.

In a separate interview, governance expert Charles Kajoloweka observed that the President was simply running away from his commitment and displaying a double character.

He said: “He cannot begin to change colours now. The best thing to do is to respect his commitment. It will be betrayal of trust because that is what he said during campaign and people voted for him. He cannot begin to swallow his words.”

Under Section 89(3) of the Constitution, the President is each year required to appear before Parliament to answer questions at such times as may be prescribed by Standing Orders of the National Assembly.

Since his election in 2020, Chakwera has made at least four appearances, the highest among multiparty presidents. Former president Bakili Muluzi is the only other leader to take questions in Parliament while Bingu wa Mutharika, Joyce Banda and Peter Mutharika never did

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