Leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera has asked government to prosecute individuals who looted public resources in the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration while continuing with investigations into the 2012/13 Cashgate.
In a scathing response to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address delivered on Tuesday which he described as a wish-list, Chakwera, who is Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, said Malawians were not just angry about Cashgate, but the mismanagement of public funds that prevailed in government for the past 10 years.
He asked the new government to bring to justice all those who, in previous DPP and People’s Party (PP) regimes, acquired riches and property illegally.
Said Chakwera: “No President can stamp out corruption completely without first cutting off his own arm, and this means exposing and prosecuting corrupt politicians in his own party as well as corrupt banks and business interests with strong links to and a long history of dealings with government. The President’s ability to do these remains to be seen.”
He said such actions would demonstrate DPP’s commitment to root out corruption.
“The truth is that Cashgate under PP-led government was a result of a porous financial management system that was put in place by the DPP-led government. Malawians are anxiously waiting for answers on who stole their money,” said Chakwera while condemning the lack of detail on which periods would be investigated.
Commenting on Mutharika’s proposed reforms, among them reduction of presidential powers, Chakwera suggested a constitutional amendment to enshrine the proposal but also the reduction of Cabinet size to 20.
He also took to task Mutharika’s lack of direction on previous government programmes such as the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) or proposed plans to build a new airport at Chileka yet he wanted to establish a council that would ensure continuation of long-term public programmes.
The new leader of opposition also described the soon-to-be-tabled provisional budget as “on-the-job training” contrary to Mutharika’s assertions that his government would hit the ground running.
Chakwera also asked the DPP government to reduce creating other subsidies as it has done with cement and iron sheets which he said would be a fiscal burden on government rather look at ways of making these items affordable to all by tackling problems such as high transportation costs.
On youth, Chakwera asked government to avoid politicising the soon-to-be-established National Youth Development Service as it did with the Youth Enterprise Development Fund launched by DPP government in 2010.
In PP’s contribution to the responses to the nation address, Ralph Jooma lamented the lack of acknowledgement of his party’s achievements the past two years which have enabled them to handover an economy with three months import cover and industrial production capacity at 75 percent, compared to 35 percent in 2012.
“We expected the State of the Nation Address to come out clearly with assertions that job opportunities will be available to all regardless of tribe, government tenders will be won on merit as opposed to being given to a few business persons, MBC will continue to beam opposition parties as well, and fuel and forex will continue to be available,” Jooma said.
He concurred with Chakwera that the DPP-led government should pursue Cashgate investigations but also include the 2010 K400 million and K92 billion plunder of government resources whose report is with the Public Accounts Committee.
United Democratic Front (UDF) leader Atupele Muluzi’s contribution to Mutharika’s address concentrated on proposals for a coherent approach to policy programmes.
Responses to the State of the Nation address continue on Monday until Friday when Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe is expected to deliver a provisional budget for July to October.