Malawi24 HardTalk featuring Rick Dzida


Host Burnett Munthali

Welcome to this special edition of “HARDtalk” with me, Burnett Munthali, from Lilongwe. Malawians under the Tonse Alliance Government live under a constant threat of failed leadership, corruption and failed economy.”

 *1) Today we have Rick Dzida a social commentator on HardTalk. This is the second HardTalk interview with you today on Monday 22 April 2024. Rick Dzida, we are privileged to have you. How are you doing?* 

The Lord is taking care of me well. I am happy to be back again on this interview series.  The aim of this undertaking is to present an analytical view on the prevailing political landscape in this country. So I don’t take this privilege for granted.

 *2) How is your stay where you live?* 

You know that we are now living in a hostile environment where the poor economy has affected  every citizen across the globe. So Malawi is not an exception.

However, I get perturbed when the current leadership just blames the previous regime, COVID 19 pandemic, natural disasters and Russia-Ukraine war without offering practical economic solutions.

 *3) What is your perception about Malawi?* 

Frankly speaking, Malawi is the best country to stay. It has beautiful natural resources including fresh lakes, mountains, minerals and exceptionally friendly people.

Unfortunately, most governments inherit porous systems. As a result, Malawi remains a poor nation because political leaders  have also failed to manage our precious  resources.

 *4) Let’s talk about politics and 2025 elections. How do you assess the potential presidential candidates ?*

The major battle will be between the incumbent President Chakwera and the former president Prof. Peter Mutharika.

Interestingly, both Chakwera and Mutharika will have served one presidential term  by the time 2025 presidential elections are conducted. This will give the electorate the chance to objectively compare their regimes.

It is widely believed  that Malawi’s economy was much better under Mutharika’s regime than it is now. That is an advantage for Mutharika.

However, President Chakwera has an added advantage as he has all government resources at his disposal. It is not surprising now that some senior opposition party members are joining the ruling party.

Chakwera has the added advantage of winning the elections.

On the other hand, Peter Mutharika is well known of winning elections while coming from the opposition side. He floored President Joyce  Banda in the 2014 presidential race. Can he outsmart President Chakwera in 2025 again?

I must also add  that it is pathetic that voters in Malawi tend to vote  along tribal lines. This may have adverse impacts on the competence   of the elected president.

Apart from such parameters, any presidential candidate who competently  strategises to enter into a formidable electoral alliance has a greater chance of forming a government in 2025.

 *5) What has really changed in Malawian politics today?* 

We now see new faces in government depleting our resources. What has changed are the names of beneficiaries of corruption, nepotism and tribalism.

What has changed  in Malawi politics is the increasing incidents of criminality, food insecurity and poor public service delivery.

Another change is the pride and hypocrisy publicly  exuded by the current regime in failing campaign promises and also failing in implementing economic austerity measures.

Sadly, we are in a situation  where we have noticed  that the more things change, the more they become the same.

 *6) Is it necessary that people must go and vote in 2025 general elections? Why should Malawians go to vote?* 

It is very necessary  that every eligible citizen must vote for their preferred candidates without  fear or favour. Voting is ones constitutional and democratic right.

The  downside of not participating in the voting process is that some unscrupulous leaders are put in positions of power without our approval.

So let me take this opportunity to encourage every citizen to cast their vote in September 2025.

 *7) What’s your comment on Malawi’s economy today compared to the recent past?* 

Much as previous regime, COVID 19 pandemic, natural disasters and Russia-Ukraine war may have adversely affected our ailing economy, many Malawians expected Chakwera Government to take a pragmatic stand in resuscitating our economy.

It is a fact now that Chakwera regime’s monetary and economic policies have plunged this country into economic abyss.

With frequent and astronomical devaluation of the Kwacha, inflation rate has skyrocketed culminating into the perpendicular rise of prices of basic needs and services. 

Many Malawians concur that life was much better during the previous regime than it is now.

 *8) Can you say something about the Malawi passports mess?* 

Frankly speaking, the passport mess prevalent  in the Immigration department is as a result of the clueless leadership.

Malawi started facing passport issuance challenges since 2021, when the government terminated its contract with Techno Brain, which had been the supplier of Malawi’s passports since 2019. In 2023, the government, unable to find a replacement, re-engaged the company on a temporary basis.

One questions how could  a serious government  terminate a big contract like that without finding a replacement first. That’s absurd.

For example, if you terminate your marriage but later re-engage your spouse on a temporary basis, can that be a serious commitment?

I am  therefore not surprised  that the Immigration Passport  system was hacked.

It is funny that the Chakwera Government  fails to learn from its mistakes. It has again engaged E-Tech systems on temporary basis but their capacity  is questionable.

Recently, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma paid a surprise visit to Immigration office. He discovered that E-Tech systems did not provide heavy duty computers which do not cope with growing backlog of passport demand.

One wonders why can’t  the Government openly and transparently float a public tender calling for the supply of passport printing services?

 *9) What do you have to say about sugar and food shortages and insecurity in this country?* 

These are the fruits  of Chakwera’s  laissez faire  style of leadership which expected, on its own, that we will have a constant supply of  sugar and food throughout the year amid cyclone Freddy and depleted forex reserves.

It is a fact that production  of sugarcane was affected by the natural floods. Limited  availability of forex also imposed some constraints on the importation of raw materials that are used to manufacture sugar. Unfortunately, there were no contingency plans to address this  situation.

With our sleeping leadership on the mantle, unscrupulous politicians disguised as traders further smuggled the already scarce sugar to other countries where the commodity was selling at a  higher price hence making huge profits.

Back home, low supply of sugar imposed  high demand for the commodity and in economics, this  forced the price of sugar to soar.

In a nutshell, the scarcity of sugar in Malawi is a wake up call to Malawi Government to proactively implement contingency plans to avert such situation.

 Many companies should be allowed to manufacture sugar since competition may stabilise the availability and price of sugar in Malawi.

On food insecurity looming in Malawi, did President Chakwera just wake up from deep slumber only to get startled that 23 out of 28 districts were in dire need of food aid?  Was this the reason President Chakwera was coerced to declare the state of disaster to 23 districts?

Doesn’t President Chakwera receive annual reports on the availability of maize and other food crops in the country? If President Chakwera saw the deficit of maize supply in the country, what contingency plans were out in place to avert the hunger situation?

Food insecurity in Malawi boils down to poor leadership. Malawi Government must take proactive strides to shift from its reliance on natural rains to full throttle irrigation schemes.

On public insecurity, it is pathetic that there are increasing incidents of criminality in the country under the tutelage of Inspector General of police and the elder of Area 30 CCAP Church , Merlyne Yolamu. 

Recently,  Malawi has witnessed a series of organised crime in which a gang of thugs invaded  markets and confiscated innocent people’s merchandise including phones. It is surprising that no culprits pertaining to these organised crimes have been apprehended so far.

The worst case of Merlyne Yolamu’s leadership  was when the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) was unceremoniously arrested on allegations that were civil in nature.

What was even more dramatic is that the Commander in Chief of the Malawi Armed Forces, President Chakwera, the Inspector General of Malawi Police Service, Merlyn Yolamu and Minister of Homeland Security, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma all connived to feign ignorance over the arrest of such a high profile public officer.

Our worry is that if such arbitrary arrests happened to senior officials without the knowledge of those in the echelons of power and jurisdiction, are the plebians and common men safe in this country?

 *10) What’s your comment on the lack of medicine in public hospitals?* 

The resultant effect of scarcity of essential drugs in public health facilities is that many innocent lives have been lost.

 What is worrisome is that this tragedy is happening when Chakwera and his loyalists are competing to defraud government coffers.

Such deaths could have  been averted if Chakwera government channelled appropriate funds to proactively procure such essential drugs on time instead of globetrotting unnecessarily blowing millions of Kwachas.

It must be overemphasised here that the right to life is a constitutional right and those who infringe such peoples’ rights must face the long of arm of the law including the responsible cabinet minister.

 *11) Do you think this is the best way government can handle drivers licences?* 

Not at all. It is unfortunate that the Road Traffic Department is replete with incidents of abuse of office and corruption. So it is not only the issuance of driver licenses that take ages to be processed.

We have had cases of Traffic officers being bribed so that traffic offences are dropped down or written off just to borrow the recent NEEF term.

In my view, embracing technology is a panacea to most of the quandaries in our public sector.

For instance, if we can implement a robust transparent computerised system to handle expeditiously the issuance of drivers license, I am sure some of the complaints will be history.

If cameras are installed in strategic points along the roads, bribing an officer would be futile since a camera footage would provide such evidence.

Sometimes we may have a robust system but system administrators may sabotage the system with a view of corruptly benefiting from the same system. I once witnessed such happenstances. 

This is why we need leaders with political will to analyse periodic reports from such systems. 

Unfortunately, our political leaders gave us unrealistic promises that they would issue driver licences  that don’t expire. Obviously, that would defeat the whole essence of a driver licence. There are times when circumstances change and a driver may be incapacitated to drive yet his driver licence would be valid for life.

 *12) What are the majority of Malawians saying about the economy of Malawi?* 

I think it is important to distinguish between what people say and how the current ailing economy has affected people’s  lives.

Those in the opposition are frank to say that President Chakwera has dismally messed up our economy.

 It is interesting to note that UTM members who are part of the Tonse Alliance grouping are in the forefront voicing out their dissatisfaction with  the worsening economy.

On the other hand, Malawi Congress Party loyalists are acknowledging that the economy is bad but they seek either someone like former President Mutharika or something like Russia-Ukraine war to blame.

However, the reality on the ground is that the worsening economy has affected every Malawian including both the ruling MCP diehards and opposition party members.

For instance, astronomical rising of basic goods and services, food shortages, poor public service delivery and the growing public insecurity are big concerns to all Malawians  regardless of their political affiliation.

 *13) Do you think the economy of Malawi is growing or is on the path of destruction?* 

Having explained the status of economy in Malawi, It sounds logical to conclude that our economy is not growing. It is not stable either.  In fact, it is declining at a supersonic speed due to poor economic and monetary policies followed by the current regime. 

This situation contradicts a recent world economics  report that ranked Malawi as the seventh best governed country in Africa.

I must emphasise here that Malawians are best assessors of their economic governance simply because  they are the ones who are directly affected by the mismanaged economy.

Listen to this!! Isn’t it total insanity of the highest order to celebrate that Malawi is ranked as the seventh best governed country when you can no longer afford to buy  your basic goods and services and when  your loved relatives and friends are dying of hunger due to food shortages?

 *14) What is a failed state? Do you think Malawi is progressing or is just a failed state?* 

In my view, a failed  state is the one that cannot manage itself resulting into too low productivity to sustain itself.

In the case of Malawi, our country is not progressing. It is regressing. It is swiftly moving many steps backwards.

Malawi as a nation is accelerating towards a failed state. 

For instance, we are unable to feed ourselves. We are in dire need of international community support to provide food aid to 23 out of 28 districts which were declared as state of disaster by President Chakwera. This  translates to 82% of the whole country that  needs food aid.

When natural disasters such as Cyclone Freddy strike, Malawi fails to support its own victims alone. It issues an alarm for international support. 

Since independence, Malawi relies on budgetary support from donor partners. Have you noticed how Malawians suffer when donors pull out their budgetary support? Is Malawi economically viable and independent?

On corruption, we have failed to tackle corruption on our own. Do you think the arrest of Director General of ACB, Martha Chizuma was the right path to fighting corruption?

For example, Uladi Mussa was once banned entry into the United States America before being convicted  of corruptly aiding foreign nationals to obtain Malawi passports. Did you ever hear Dr. Lazarus Chakwera condemning the US government on that?

Now that the US government has just done the same thing to ban Chakwera’s accomplices in corruption, are you surprised that President Chakwera has come in the open accusing US government of interfering with our Malawian courts? 

Bravo, US government for kumenya galu kuti mwini wake aoneke. This adage analogically simply means that if you want to know the mother of the child, just play with the child as this action may attract the attention of the mother.

 *15) What do you make of a statement “Malawians are the saddest people in the world?” What’s your interpretation of this statement?* 

Honestly, it is a sweeping statement. Amid all the agonies, Malawians can afford to laugh, crack jokes and let life move on.

Perhaps this statement was meant to depict the dilapidated environment the Chakwera government has plunged this country in.

It remains a fact that many Malawians are losing their loved ones due to effects of looming  hunger, scarcity of essential drugs in public health facilities, suicides, and electricity black outs. Obviously these unfortunate events can make one sadder than before.

I was touched when Minister of Energy, Ibrahim Matola, disclosed that he shed tears when he personally witnessed the death of 30 new born babies due to abrupt electricity load shedding. This tragic event can make relatives remorseful and gloomy.

 *16) Explain the importance of community colleges towards driving the economy of Malawi.* 

Over decades of my life, I have discovered that there are things I can do effortlessly  but at the same time they are the hardest ones for others. The vice versa is true. There are other things which some people do much better than me without applying extra effort.

The point I am underscoring is that everyone has a unique talent or skill. Nature provided a set of diversity so that people can be interdependent.

The truth of the matter is that not everyone can attain a university degree. Therefore those who are left out of the normal university education can opt for community college courses and skills which are also needed for both formal and informal employment.

This arrangement ensures  that education and trainings are in tandem with the industry demands. In the final analysis, availability of jobs  will be guaranteed.

 *17) What’s your comment that Tonse Alliance Government has abandoned community colleges?* 

The previous regime emphasized the need to promote community colleges since research confirmed that there is a lacuna in that arena.

Unfortunately, Chakwera Government has not taken community colleges seriously. Are we then mesmerized that Chakwera regime has the highest rate of joblessness?

 *18) What’s your comment on Agricultural input program (AIP)?* 

It is very unfortunate  that the AIP is being used as a tool to appease Tonse Alliance diehards.

Much as the program had a good cause of assisting the underprivileged farmers, it is marred with a lot of mismanaged irregularities.

In a nutshell, AIP is a poorly and politicised program besides being unsustainable.

 *19) Are you satisfied with the way Tonse Alliance Government is handling AIP program? How best could they handle this program?* 

Much as I did not expect Tonse Alliance to perform wonders, I am not satisfied with how the current government has handled AIP.

First, they did not implement the much touted universal input subsidy. This  was a scam. They could have promised  Malawians that a selected few farmers would be the beneficiaries.

Second, the delivery of fertiliser was not timely. They could have planned better so that the delivery of subsidised items align with events on the farming calendar.

Third, contractors who supplied the AIP items were hired based on their loyalty to the Tonse Alliance. As a result, some contractors did not have the capacity to meet deadlines. Others literally failed to deliver.

Fourth, corruption took the centre stage when procuring fertiliser for AIP programme. How could fertiliser be procured from a UK based butchery company?

Fifth, beneficiaries of the program were largely identified based on Tonse Alliance allegiance. This program was not supposed to be politicised.

Lastly but not least, the AIP had no evaluation component to know if the program is yielding positive results.

 *20) Do you think if the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was still in power the economic situation would be different and much better than the present economic situation?* 

Most likely. Mutharika’s regime has a track record of maintaining a stable economy. Most Malawians are of the view that if Prof. Mutharika was still on the driving seat, the economy would have been better.

This is the very same reason why most voters are pressurising Prof. Peter Mutharika to stand  again.

 *21) What’s your last message to people who follow you and your views?* 

As 2025 presidential election is nigh, let us elect a president wisely. We should know that this president we will elect in 2025 will be on the driving seat for the next 5 years. Voters should not sell their votes for unscrupulous leaders.

I urge all Malawians to elect any president who has a track record of integrity, honesty, and vision. We should desist putting in power leaders based on their religion, tribe or district of origin.

Lastly, I am appealing to all youths and women to join the presidential race in 2025. May I also take this opportunity to urge all Malawians to support youths and women who wish to contest in the 2025 tripartite general elections.

 Thank you very much Rick Dzida for coming on HardTalk interview.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.