Malawi has to get kudos for successfully hosting the just-ended Sadc summit. Whether the summit maintained its talk show for the heads of State and government can be discussed later, but ably hosting the summit is all that matters at the moment.
Coming in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, the summit brought to light how the region can foster ahead, especially with digitization. We also saw talks on a possible Sadc parliament and the ever-growing calls for a single currency. You can say that the single currency for Sadc may come, but it may take a century for that to materialise.
From the sidelines, one can observe a few areas. What, in all fairness, really happened to our presidential jet? Some Malawians like me had green eyes seeing almost all the other presidents from the region touching down on their presidential jets. Last time we were given a line that the jet was sold to buy maize!
Congratulations are in order that President Lazarus Chakwera took up the chairmanship for the bloc, taking over from his Mozambican counterpart Felipe Nyusi. The chairmanship comes at a crucial time as we see insurgencies in Mozambique that threaten the region’s security.
While we were busy following the summit, the State House director of communications Sean Kampondeni told us the President was shocked with the high rise in fertiliser prices. Within three months, fertiliser has risen from around K23 000 to a little more or less than K40 000.
And we hear the agriculture committee in Parliament has threatened that government might as well empower the Smallholder Farmers Fertiliser Revolving Fund of Malawi and the Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation to sell fertiliser at lower prices.
Whatever happens, we go back to the pre-election promises. Before the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the UTM Party entered into a forced marriage to win the Fresh Presidential Elections, the two parties differed a lot on matters of principle. For instance, on the fertiliser issue, the MCP under Chakwera promised a universal subsidy, while the UTM Party pegged the price of the commodity at K5 000.
Now that the two parties won under the Tonse Alliance stable they lead, it is quite obscene that the price of fertiliser should soar like this. One can’t buy the lame explanation that there are other external forces that have led to the increased prices. That is simply because when they were making the promises, they well knew that Malawi has no fertiliser production plants.
The British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was one proponent of mandatism. She often observed that she had told people what she would do if elected, they would vote for her, and only she had the mandate to do what she thought appropriate.
At the next polls, she asserted, people would have a chance to decide whether this was indeed what they wanted.
This mandatism will haunt Chakwera hard, as it appears we are still a way to go for some of the promises he made during the campaign are so difficult to come by. In 2018, Chakwera made the promise that within the first 100 days promised to set the pace in his pursuit to create at least four million jobs by the end of his term. One can go far and wide the many promises the President made at that time with specific focus on his first 100 days in office.
Among the many promises he made was adherence to the rule of law and promotion of democratic virtues. It is a known fact that it was the people power that played a crucial part in bringing about the fresh polls.
The demonstrations showed how active citizenship is a must in a democracy.
It is, therefore, surprising to see that under his rule, arbitrary arrests are creeping in as the civic space is being narrowed. Centre for Democracy and Economic Development Initiative (Cdedi) executive director Silvester Namiwa may have been wrong proceeding with the vigil on the suspicious K93 billion loan authorisation bill without a court order against his detractors, but what was taking him all the way to Linthipe and putting him in leg irons necessary?
While his administration has been unable to live up to the free electricity connection promise, the low passport fee promise, the taint on human rights will certainly haunt Chakwera.
Or, should we say Chakwera does not really care about the next election because to stand for the MCP again, he will have to amend Article 36 of the party’s constitution, which provides that the President may be elected for a second term of office only. This is the very clause that saw John Tembo be left out at the party convention when he wanted a third term.