By Malawi Exclusive
“No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism as well as the abilities of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House. But different men often see the same subject in different light and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to the gentlemen, if entertaining as I do opinions of character very opposite to theirs”.
These are words of Patrick Henry at the Virginia Convention in 1775 and they were as profound then as they are now as they have grown to illuminate what freedom of speech entails.
It is outrageous to fault people who hold views contrary to ours. At the same time we must realize that lies spread faster than truth in this digital era. Freedom of expression can become a societal menace when falsehood is regarded by the citizenry as the gospel truth.
It is increasingly becoming habitual these days that opinions are winning over facts.
President Lazarus McCathy Chakwera will be clocking two years in office in June this year. For whatever reasons some highly regarded social media influencers have gone to town telling Malawians that there has not been any meaningful change in two years president Chakwera has been in power, particularly in respect to what he promised when he was in opposition. It is therefore, only fair to put things into perspective rather than misleading people with misinformation about the country’s state of affairs.
Should I labour myself explaining the remarkable strides president Chakwera has done in shaping the new Malawi without supportive facts I will fall into the same trap of confirming my own biases the way those respected powerful socialites are doing.
To begin with, it is important to understand that President Lazarus Chakwera is not a random leader. As we are all aware, President Chakwera’s campaign was grounded in the promise of “Building a new Malawi”. It is in this motto which is a guide in his everyday activities.
However, the president understands that the dream of the progressive Malawi can only be attained if he can walk with the media side by side. The Malawi leader understands that renaissance without the media is a futile mission. Against this backdrop, from his first day in office president Chakwera set out to be the champion of media freedom with the understanding that the media and freedom of expression are twin notions.
As a testament of his unwavering commitment, the media were treated to the Presidential Breakfast on World Press Freedom Day.
This was a rare gesture as no any sitting president had ever done that before as attested by MISA Malawi chairperson Theresa Ndanga: “This is the first time we are celebrating the World Press Freedom Day with the sitting president.”
But this is where things get interesting, to say that the president is not without media critics is being far from the truth but this far even his critics acknowledge that there is media freedom in Malawi under president Chakwera. To quote from a renowned writer and president Chakwera’s most critical writer Idriss Ali Nassah who wrote on his Facebook page: “Thank God that gone are days when I would have to arrive in Malawi under the cover of darkness and picked up by friends in the middle of the night and smuggled into my own country and hidden in safe houses across the land in order not to be found by those in authority”. With that comment, one cannot help but see a significant shift in as far as freedom of the press and expression is concerned.
Malawi is now on the right trajectory towards becoming a better country. The road map towards meeting that dream is very clear. In the new Malawi we have seen an end to the abuse of civil servants particularly teachers who were ferried in parastatal vehicles wherever the president had functions. By travelling far and wide, what it meant was that their jobs were suffering and there was minimal productivity in the civil service. On another hand, the parastatals were greatly affected as they had to make logistical arrangements that were not beneficial to them, like fueling the vehicles.
Rwanda is a good example of how modern societies can progress when women are entrusted with power. Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and at the heart of its growth are women. As a progressive leader, President Chakwera has been championing women empowerment, not as an act of charity but a belief in their ability to shape the modern Malawi in line with his vision.
Today, women are everywhere where power resides. The Civil Service has a woman as the Deputy Chief Secretary and for the first time since the Anti-Corruption Bureau was established, a woman occupies the Director General’s seat. Again, for the first time in the history of Malawi, women are occupying the most senior cabinet positions like ministries of Foreign Affairs, Education, Health and Homeland Security.
The just passed 2022/2023 national budget has seen an increase of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) allocation from K40 Million to K100 Million. This is not the first time the Chakwera-led Administration has done this as in 2020/2021 financial year, government also raised the CDF from K30 Million to K40 Million. This double-hike towards the Constituency Development Fund is a clear indication of President Chakwera’s commitment to developing local communities.
As a scholar of outstanding pedigree himself President Chakwera understands the importance of education. In line with his vision of shaping an enlightened society, his government through the Loan Board has adjusted students’ loans in the public universities from K200, 000 to 350, 000. This increase will go a long way in addressing students’ problems since most of them have been struggling to meet their school needs.
The Malawi Defense Force, the Malawi Police Service, the Department of Immigration, the Malawi Prison Services are the most important security apparatus entrusted with our safety and instilling law and order in the country but they have been neglected by past regimes when it comes to decent housing. Officers working in these agencies have been living in the most appalling conditions for years. To ease the problem, the Chakwera administration rolled out a five-year project for the construction of proper houses across these agencies. An estimated total of 10, 000 houses are expected to be constructed across the regions.
Out of the 10, 000 houses, 4,000 will be allocated to the MDF, another 4,000 to the Malawi Police Service while the Department of Immigration and Malawi Prison Services will be allocated 1,000 houses each. The Project which started in 2021 is currently under way and some houses have already been constructed in some parts of the country. For example, Jenda Police Station alone is expected to have 100 new houses. (Currently 10 are being constructed in the first phase). It is expected that the houses will be ready for occupation in June 2022. Once completed, this flagship project will ease the housing problems facing our men in uniform.
Agriculture is the lifeline of the Malawi’s economy and tobacco being its mainstay has been greatly affected by the anti-smoking campaign, leading to the decline in production of this cash crop. The waning of the tobacco industry has seen many farmers shifting from tobacco farming to soya farming in recent years.
By sheer coincidence, farmers in this area have been encouraged by the government’s set price on soya of K450 per kilogram. According to a Times 360 report, farmers are going to realize more benefits this year from the sells of soya beans. The same source indicates that soya beans is currently being sold at K700 and K800 per kilogram in different parts of the country. President Chakwera put in place this economic measure as one way of empowering farmers economically.
As they say, Rome was not built in a day but surely Malawi is on the right trajectory. There are many things to be done but the structures for a Better Malawi are being laid. President Chakwera has performed remarkably well, considering the difficulties he has endured in his two-year stint as president. His development agenda has been slowed by problems which are largely beyond his control but he has managed to steady the ship.