‘Debaters came across as unprepared’

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Deborah Nyangulu’s review of the debate as posted on Facebook.

The Mzuzu runningmates debate was the best in terms of the robustness of both the questions and follow-up questions asked.

The moderator was in control and managed the debate well. The venue seemed small and I doubt if the audience was comfortable and free to express themselves within the acceptable rules of decorum in what seemed like a tight space.

The larger point on the venue is that it points to the lack of infrastructure in Mzuzu when compared to the cities of BT and LL plus how often Mzuzu is sidelined when it comes to hosting national events. I therefore commend Zodiak for taking the debate to Mzuzu and Kazako for making the assurance that next time people of Mzuzu won’t have to beg for a debate.

Hopefully other businesses /institutions will make use of currently available spots such as the Grand Palace hotel and bring national events to Mzuzu.

Hopefully this can raise the city’s profile in the long run.

The debaters came across as mostly unprepared and unaware of what is in the country’s documents. This being the third debate I expected more from the candidates and their campaign teams should have prepared them well.

For example, all three candidates were obviously unaware of what is contained in the constitutional review report of 2007 and that mention of driver’s licences was just off the mark.

But all 3 should have anticipated a question on the constitutional review report. It is clear that their campaign teams are not keeping track of feedback and reviews of the debates.

After the Lilongwe debate, a team of Zodiak experts comprising Prof. Kayambazinthu and others called out the candidates for not making reference to the constitution review report and being seemingly unaware of it. If the campaign teams were keeping track of feedback they should have anticipated a question on the report and the candidates would have familiarised themselves with its contents beforehand

OTHER POINTS:
1. The homophobia among all 3 is inexcusable and their apparent refusal to even make the effort to understand what LGBTQI is about is disappointing. Mwenifumbo emphasized that LGBTQI is a foreign import unknown to Malawians. While the terminology itself might be foreign the issues that these terminologies describe are not foreign to Malawi. For example, there have been reported cases of intersex children born in Malawi, one of whom was forcibly assigned as female by census enumerators despite having both male and female features.

Homosexuality is not foreign in Malawi and Africa. While there is a way in which the West tries to control discourse around homosexuality and tries to set rules around sexual orientation, homosexuality itself is not foreign. What is foreign is the legalisation of homophobia by the colonial government which made it criminal to engage in homosexual acts.

2. On Malawi’s energy figures Usi was right, at least according to the the 2018 energy policy document which Usi also mentioned he had looked at. Malawi has currently a total installed capacity of 361MW, 98%of which comes from the hydro power plants of Shire and Wovwe and 2% from diesel generators. The total estimated demand is over 700MW. Usi is probably right to insist on the 700MW figure although the policy doesn’t foreclose an increase as the 700 figure is only an estimate.

I don’t know how Mia and Mwenifumbo arrived at their 2000MW figure even when other alternative sources of energy such as solar are taken in account. It was also clear that the 2 nkhalakale were trying to pick on the newcomer Usi who unfortunately didn’t a good job of defending himself or articulating UTM’s plans on energy.

3. On the Senate and this question comes back to the constitutional review report. It seemed Mwenifumbo is the one who had a lot of info on the Senate. Yes, the Senate was removed and as Mwenifumbo pointed out arguments against it include that it is costly to run a second chamber and that it would be open to abuse as it would be comprised of presidential appointees. The constitutional review report has recommendations on how the Senate would be constituted if it were to be brought back. Note that all its members are not appointed and it would also have elected members from the districts plus others. The constitution review also recommended reducing the number of presidential appointees in the Senate from 32 to a lower figure and having an appointments oversight committee.

As expected all 3 refused to reveal their source of party funding and resorted to the oft-abused well-wisher and party member. It was also not clear if Mwenifumbo was speaking for Aford or UDF during the whole debate, he made sure that his Aford badge was visible.

4. On the Tanzania-Malawi lake wrangle it seemed Mwenifumbo is the one aware of the colonial history that made a mess of borders pertaining to the lake. He mentioned that he is a resident of the border town between Malawi and Tanzania and he wouldn’t want the two countries to fight over the lake as it is most likely people from that border region who would suffer the effects of a war.

I tend to agree with his views that Malawi and Tanzania should sit down and discuss how they are mutually going to exploit the lake’s resources. He gave an example that Malawi and Tanzania are already in partnership on the songwe River basin project and maybe the two countries can explore a similar route on the lake.

CONCLUSION
I think Mwenifumbo is the most knowledgeable of the three candidates although it is not clear if he represents UDF or Aford and if UDF is actually contesting in this election. He is eloquent although he struggles a bit to make his points succinctly in Chichewa. However, one must listen to his words carefully because he mixes fact with fiction. It is important to always fact-check him.

I struggle to characterise Mia, debating is not one of his strong points and he struggles with Chichewa. I get the feeling that he has not read the MCP manifesto and mostly presents MCP podium talk at the debates.

Usi is very combative in his approach and he spends a lot of time criticising the others instead of articulating UTM’s plans. He interjects the most and this is not a good sign; it’s good that the moderator is able to rein him in.

All in all, I think Usi is trying to appear honest and not promise what he doesn’t know which is in itself not a bad thing. Both Mia and Usi should get up to speed and familiarise themselves with some of the important national documents.

Nyangulu’s post: https://facebook.com/deborahnyangulu/posts/2703829536326254

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