By Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, Dowa
A few years ago, I said that weak leaders do not stay long in the pressure cooker. They throw in the towel when it gets too hot.
When President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera took the mantle of leadership in Malawi after the June 23, 2020 presidential re-run elections, some people, particularly the opposition, gave him little chance. They said he was not up to the task; they said he would not prevail; they said he was inexperienced and new to the system of government, and that he would soon falter.
But look here now. President Chakwera is still standing. NOT just surviving but thriving. President Chakwera will perhaps go down in history as the most resolute President who is surefooted about the social and economic progress of the country and one with the welfare of Malawians at the top of his agenda.
President Chakwera took over at the height of teething global challenges such as the rampaging Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine. On top of this, he inherited a toxic government riddled with deep cronyism, rent-seeking, corruption, and many other isms that left a lot of Malawians widely disenfranchised.
The global economy was in tailspin with runaway inflation and rising of cost of living. It was difficult for Malawi to escape this Hara-Kiri being a member of the global village.
However, despite this mixture of challenges, President Chakwera has proved to be a man made of sterner stuff; a Teflon who has been faithful to his development agenda from day one despite obvious destruction voices from regular naysayers.
THE MALAWI VISION 2063
Over the past three years, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) government under President Chakwera has been at the pinnacle of so many development initiatives that will obviously transform Malawi into a middle income country in the next few years.
In September 2021, President Chakwera launched the Malawi Vision 2063, which is Malawi government’s development blueprint meant to transform this country into a middle income country within the next 10 years, and a wealthy and prosperous nation by 2063.
In his remarks at the launch, Chakwera described the Malawi 2063 agenda as a ‘photography of the new Malawi’; the Malawi that all Malawians should work to achieve, whereupon he urged everyone to deal with stumbling blocks that will stand in the way of that objective.
THE REFORMS AGENDA
Within that vision, the government also launched a reforms agenda, which has necessitated a system’s overhaul to ensure that government operations are seamless and agile. The President said the reform agenda is aimed at creating a high performing civil service which must deliver the development requisite to the vision.
To underline his seriousness, President Chakwera recently assented to some bills that will help smoothen trade between Malawi and other countries whilst helping the country earn forex; improve education as well as regulate gaming in the country.
They include Bill No. 16 of 2022: One-Stop Border Control; Bill No. 29 of 2022: Malawi School of Government and Bill No. 31 of 2022: Gaming and Lotteries.
The One-Stop Border Control Bill, which falls under Trade Reforms initiated by the Ministry of Trade and Industry aims at facilitating the expansion of domestic and international market share for Malawian products and services. The One-Stop Border Posts between Malawi and its neighboring countries are expected to cut time wastage by 70 percent in promoting local exports.
The second Bill is on Malawi School of Government, which was initiated by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) in conjunction with the Ministry of Education to amalgamate the Malawi Institute of Management (MIM) and Staff Development Institute (SDI) into one entity.
The Malawi School of Government will be responsible for the continued institutional and professional development of public servants and the general public for continued efficient service delivery in government.
The Gaming and Lotteries Bill was initiated by the Malawi Gaming Board and National Lotteries Board in order to merge the two institutions following an overlap of functions. The proposed outcome of the Reform was the establishment of a new institution called Malawi Gaming and Lotteries Authority (MAGLA).
The trade reforms will ensure improved and conducive business environment for trade and private sector development; enhance competitiveness and economic development and reduce transactional cost for the business communities and increased efficiency.
In totality, Malawi has seen the sprouting of various infrastructure developments under President Chakwera and the MCP government. City councils, municipalities as well as district councils in all regions of the country have been busy with infrastructure developments. For example, in Zomba, a 1.2 billion Kwacha project to expand the Namiwawa road to two lane is almost completed. The contractor, CAS Civil Contractors, is expected to hand over the project soon.
The government also allocated K600 million for the completion of Luwinga – Zolozolo – Mzuzu Technical Road in Mzuzu, which started from Luwinga at Mzuzu Coffee section. The project to upgrade to asphalt the Dunduzu – Mzuzu Academy Road is also expected to begin soon following the K1.2 billion allocation. This is also the case with the Dunduzu – NOCMA Fuel Reserve road following a K1.4 billion allocation.
In Lilongwe, the Kenyatta and M1 roads are getting a complete make over. From Crossroads Hotel roundabout to the interchange, the road is being upgraded to four lane from the current two lane in order to ease traffic congestion, especially during peak hours.
The development has also spread to other sectors. For example, the southern region biggest referral hospital, the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre now has an Integrated Stroke Unit, which is Malawi’s first and only integrated stroke unit. This project has been made possible through corroborative efforts between Malawi’s Ministry of Health and partners in London and Liverpool in the United Kingdom (UK)
The Dedza Border Post will also soon have modern buildings to house government and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) offices in order to ease border crossing processes and attendant requirements for people and businesses.
CHAKWERA ON THE INTERNATIONAL LEG
In September 2022, President Lazarus chakwera met US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken in Washington US, to sign a $350 million infrastructure grant between the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the Government of Malawi.
The grant is designed to reduce transport costs by upgrading more than 300 kilometers of roads to connect farmers to markets and by strengthening the country’s land administration.
All together, the MCC’s grant programs are expected to benefit more than 12 million people in Malawi, which is roughly half the total population across key sectors such as transportation, power, and agriculture.
I can write a whole book about the rounded development projects that President Lazarus Chakwera and his administration have initiated; completed and continue to initiate in quest towards uplifting lives of Malawians.
Suffice to say, Malawians are blessed to have a selfless and servant leader in Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, a President who no doubt needs our unequivocal support across, and in all seasons.
The author is writing in his personal capacity