Sunday, May 26, 2024

APM continues the fight against his dead brother on relocation of key headquarters to the capital city

Chakwera; the game changer


With sagacity, the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, who was the brother of the former President Peter Mutharika, decreed the relocation of government office headquarters to Lilongwe for smoother operations.

The decree was made specifically on 17 June 2004, barely a month after moving to Plot Number One after winning the 2004 General Elections. Bingu decreed the relocation of all Cabinet Ministers to the capital, Lilongwe. The aim was to increase government effectiveness.

All Cabinet ministers already had offices in Lilongwe, but some preferred to operate from the commercial capital, Blantyre arguing that “it was closer to their constituencies”. However, this argument of closeness to the constituencies was not so close to the truth because even those whose constituencies were in the Northern region were settling and operating from Blantyre.

The actual undeniable truth was that Bingu’s predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, preferred staying at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre and these Cabinet Minister found it convenient to stay close to the President.

Immediately after taking power, Bingu preferred staying in Lilongwe. He commanded all Cabinet Minister to relocate to Lilongwe and they complied. Effectively the policy shift by Bingu meant that head offices of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) also had to move to Lilongwe. That is how the massive process of relocating most MDAs which had hitherto been headquartered in Blantyre to the administrative capital, Lilongwe started.

An insert of media report on Bingu wa Mutharika's decree to move Government offices from Blantyre to Lilongwe
An insert of media report on Bingu wa Mutharika’s decree to move Government offices from Blantyre to Lilongwe

Ken Lipenda, the then Minister of Information was quoted in the local media as saying the move would also help Cabinet ministers provide leadership and guidance to their respective ministries which were all based in Lilongwe. Said Lipenga: “It will also be more cost-effective running one office, instead of two.”

But Bingu passed on in 2012 before his administrative policy could be fully implemented. A few MDAs including the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), Malawi Prison Service (MPS), Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS), and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to mention but a few still remained in Blantyre.

The coming in of President Lazarus Chakwera has reactivated the implementation of the policy initiated by Bingu. The starting point was the relocation of MEC and Prison Headquarters to Lilongwe. Before the relocation, MEC announced in January this year, the decision to relocate to Lilongwe as a way of ensuring centrality as regards the coordination of the commission’s activities. The relocation was the implementation of one of the reforms that MEC proposed in 2006 (seven years ago, two year after the Bingu’s policy directive) as part of reducing MEC’s operational costs by 30 percent.

Following the relocation by MEC, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) national coordinator, Boniface Chibwana, commented that MEC’s relocation was long overdue as the issue was one of administrative reforms highly recommended by stakeholders.

In the case of the Prison headquarters, the rationale was that Chiefs of Prisons needed to convene with senior government officials in Lilongwe, and this necessitated extensive travel, incurring significant expenses. This could be mitigated if they were situated in the same locale in the capital, Lilongwe. The same reasoning applies to other government institutions.

Edging at a will of full-scale implementation of this policy which many have recommended as not only cost-serving but also congruent with administrative schemes of developed countries, President Chakwera’s administration has committed to move the remaining MDA who are still headquartered away from the Capital City.

Meanwhile, plans are at advanced stages for the immigration department headquarters to be moved to Lilongwe while Blantyre will operate a regional headquarters. The authorities have also hinted that the judiciary and ADMARC are to be headquartered in the capital. Speaking to Zodiak Online Wednesday (08/03/2023), economic expert, Edward Chilima, hinted that the move is going to facilitate easy coordination among the various government’s departments.

“All factors being constant, you would expect all critical government offices to be at the centre where the Government sits is for easy coordination. This is quite common in all developed countries. Much as this would affect business in Blantyre city in the short term, but the city should be able to adjust”, said Chilima.

However, Peter Mutharika who is apparently toxically obsessed with regionalism politics is of different view. He contends that this decision by the Government decision is an economic sanction against the Southern Region. For this reason, he says, he will run for office of President again in 2025 so that if he wins he should reverse these relocation decisions.

Manifesting it as a mere political mileage, Mutharika seems to conveniently ignore the fact that the policy was initiated by his own political party through his own brother whereby the present administration having seen the merit in that policy simply implements it to its full scale.

Mutharika first showcased ignorance of this policy at Mulakho wa Alhomwe event in Thyolo in October, attacking the MCP-led Tonse Government as hateful of the Southern Region. Regionalism is the only card that Mutharika thinks can leverage as he remains less competitive in the market of genuine ideas centered on policy, ambitions and delivery.

Commentators have argued that, if APM’s decision to run for office is exclusively or partly motivated by the need to reverse the relocation he is laughable, and ridiculous. They have accused Mutharika of peddling a statement that has tribal and ethnic connotations.

“APM’s thinking is reminiscent of what another senior DPP member George Chaponda once said in his advice to Bingu wa Mutharika that DPP can do without the Northern Region. But DPP zealots should know this hard fact that in order to win the presidency, especially now, with the 50 + One system in place, presidential candidates need votes from all the regions,” said a commentator whose views were printed in Nation Publications newspaper.

Others have remarked that the statement reflects APM’s silent manifesto which clearly shows that he does not put much premium on his support base in the other two regions. This has been described as careless and self-injuring statement coming from someone who wants to vie for the high office.

The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Secretary General, Eseinhower Nduwa Mkaka, commenting has said people should learn to say the truth which is that the relocation of the Government MDA offices headquarters from Blantyre was started by Bingu wa Mutharika and that it is sad that Mutharika and other DPP members have chosen to embark on misleading people on imaginary hate towards the Southern Region.

Speaking at a rally in Dowa yesterday, Mkaka suggested that the statement coming out of Mutharika could be a product of a confused leader who is immersed in a conundrum of disunity and total lack of tolerance and democracy within the party. He called upon MCP to jealously safeguard the principle of Unity and not to replicate chaos that is happening in DPP. He further urged the MCP members to continue observing other corner stones which include loyalty, discipline and honesty.





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