Sunday: will it be candies or chillies?

Hon. Folks, the governing DPP has finally announced it will tomorrow launch its manifesto in Lilongwe. Coming weeks after MCP and UTM had already launched theirs, it would be interesting to see to what extent the party’s agenda for 2019-2024 is informed by issues raised in the manifestos of parties seeking to unplug it from the power pedestal.

It appears the launch will also serve as an opportunity for the party to do some self performance evaluation of APM’s first five year tenure of office. Will they claim success, failure or mixed fortunes?

For those of us who really missed APM’s side on issues raised in the recent televised debates for presidential contestants in the forthcoming tripartite polls, we can only wait with bated breath to see how well APM will use the retrospective insight and incumbency to put up a case as to why the electorate should give him another mandate.  

Yes, come May 21, 2019 –slightly more than a month from now—the electorate shall exercise the power constitutionally vested in them to employ the person to serve as President of the Republic of Malawi from May to 2024.

Only the voters will decide whether to allow APM to continue or to pass the baton to MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera, UTM’s Saulos Chilima or UDF’s Atupele Muluzi. In fact, their choices extend to ADD’s Cassim Chilumpha, UP’s John Chisi, MMD’s Peter Kuwani or independent contestant Reverend Kaliya.

The mistake any of the candidates can make is to take the electorate for granted. In 1994 Kamuzu Banda with entrenched incumbency and all development projects attributed to his “wise, dynamic, pragmatic and foresighted leadership” lost to Bakili Muluzi with modest education and a criminal record just because the electorate wanted change that Kamuzu didn’t want to give them.

 Joyce Banda who became an instant sensation in 2012 when, with the help of donors,  she reversed the acute fuel shortage that rocked her predecessor Bingu Mutharika’s  short second term, trailed both APM and Chakwera and became the first one-term President in multiparty Malawi. She lost miserably despite controlling MBC, promoting 2 000 chiefs and make a massive distribution of houses, motor bikes, farm animals, maize flour and other food stuffs in various parts of rural Malawi just because voters were incensed by Cashgate which was exposed on her watch.

There’s no doubt that APM would point to various construction projects and the stabilised economy as milestones of his first term achieved despite the draught, floods and a freeze of budgetary support that characterised the term.

That would pretty much be true. However, stabilising the economy is probably too little a consolation for the humiliation of being stuck at the bottom rung with failed, war-torn countries. Our population has grown by 30 percent in the past 10 years but the economy, deliberately choked during Bingu’s second term, has correspondingly grown at a rate so paltry that we can only share more poverty and deprivation.

We need out-of-the-box ideas that can result in economic growth of no less than 6 percent for the next 10 years. What new DPP policies will guide and stimulate wealth generation and distribution especially to the 25 percent of the population living in the abject poverty category? 

There’s also the issue of rampant corruption. All the presidential candidates who have so far participated in the televised debates, including serving Vice President Saulos Chilima and Health Minister Atupele Muluzi, have unanimously acknowledged the prevalence of rampant high and low level corruption in Malawi.

Both MCP and UTM manifestos have spelt out how each party would tackle graft which results in 30 percent or more of tax-payer’s money ending up in the back pockets of individuals in government and the private sector while public service delivery soars in cost but decline in quality.

Will the DPP manifesto pledge new anti-corruption strategies?

Without trying to be alarmist, any survey conducted in Malawi since 2014 shows public dissatisfaction with how those in government are carrying out governance issues. Perception of corruption is high, the trust in political leaders is much lower than the trust in traditional leaders and the majority of Malawians are concerned about being food insecure in an agro-based economy.

The most recent Afrobarometer study lays bare how Malawi is lagging behind all its neighbours in inspiring public trust in governance issues. Whatever became of public sector reforms?  

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