Leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera has described President Peter Mutharika as a hypocrite and that his government is trying to divert the attention of Malawians from real issues.
Chakwera, addressing a news conference in Lilongwe on Monday where he reacted to the salary increments announced by Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe, observed that in August this year Mutharika rejected a 600 percent proposed salary increment for Cabinet ministers and called it unethical.
Said Chakwera: “Then in September  he approved [the increments], then pretended to suspend his own decision in December. This makes him a hypocrite whose government is run by distractions and deceptions, not leadership.
“So if the President has the power to reject or approve salary increases for himself and government ministers, how is it that on August 25 he denounced salary increases proposed by his own office as unethical and then within six weeks approved the salary increases he himself finds unethical?
“To make the deception worse, the same President who has approved what he himself finds unethical has now elected to suspend receiving the 80 percent increase in his salary until the economy improves.”
According to Chakwera, there are so many critical issues facing Malawians and the President has taken a blind eye.
Added Chakwera: “Whether the problem is the high unemployment among our youth, or the vote of no confidence from our development partners, or the salary delays for civil servants and teachers which he promised would never happen under his presidency, or the salary demands by the Judiciary whom his government negotiates with in private and demonises in public, or the water supply problems in our major cities, or the rising cost of living triggered by our currency’s depreciation, or the lack of progress on Cashgate cases.
“Malawians are right to be angry that their President neither acknowledges their problems nor addresses them in a decisive and timely fashion.
“Instead of solving the salary problems of teachers, civil servants and Judiciary staff within the rule of law, the President’s government chooses to distract Malawians with the revelation that effective from October 1, salaries for MPs, Cabinet ministers, leader of opposition, Vice-President and the President himself were increased by 376 percent, 168 percent and 80 percent respectively. If this is not intended to distract and deceive us, then why are MPs and myself only finding out about these increases through the media?”
Chakwera has since asked the President to suspend all proposed pay hikes saying it is the Malawian who is suffering as a result of such inconsiderate hikes.
“Personally, I do not care whether I am paid very little or nothing at all. But we are not talking about Chakwera, but an office that the Bingu [wa Mutharika] administration had demoted and which they now wanted to normalise,” he said
Gondwe has since said that none of the increments will be paid out to anybody until the economy improves.
Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture Kondwani Nankhumwa on Fridayjustified the salary hikes, saying they were in line with the 2014/15 national budget.
He said: “When presenting the budget, government had projections and this is exactly why the salaries have been hiked.”