Three out of eight aspirants for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidency on Friday battled it out in a public debate, with most of them focusing on the need to realign government policies with “foundational” structures MCP laid in sectors such as agriculture before it went out of power in 1994.

But the three—Malawi Assemblies of God president the Reverend Dr Lazarus Chakwera, former Cabinet minister Jodder Kanjere and former Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Felix Jumbe—differed on wealth creation and poverty alleviation.

Apart from politicians from different parties, the debate, organised by Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, attracted a diverse audience, including members of the civil society, faith community, private sector, public service, media and ordinary citizens.

All the three aspirants said MCP’s four cornerstones of unity, loyalty, discipline and obedience are still relevant in the current democratic dispensation.

Jumbe said his farming background makes him the best candidate to revive the country’s agriculture sector by boosting the capacity of farmers to increase their production.

“I have 49 years of experience in farming. You cannot learn how to swim if you have never swum. So many people have theories about agriculture, but they have never farmed.

“I am more relevant to the current situation because of my exposure to agriculture than any of the candidates that are competing with me,” said Jumbe, who said government needs to reverse the policy focus from poverty alleviation to wealth creation.

He said wealth creation is key to addressing all problems Malawi is facing in different sectors such as education and health.

“We first need to save from what we have. The systems are not working. We need to address the losses and overheads in the systems. If I become president, we are looking at having a Cabinet of only 15 ministers,” said Jumbe.

Kanjere said his experience in running government as a former top civil servant and Cabinet minister would help move the masses out of poverty, saying he would strictly enforce fiscal discipline in government.

“We need to instil fiscal discipline to the level where ordinary people understand it. You cannot achieve anything without discipline. As president, I will show you how to do it,” said Kanjere.

He also said there is need for competent people to hold critical positions in government to address inefficiencies and irregularities on issues such as land administration.

“MCP policies are people-centred. We will always focus on what is collective contribution in our economic planning,” said Kanjere.

Chakwera, who addressed the audience in Chichewa, focused on the need to fight corruption, control public spending and ensure that taxpayers’ money is accounted for.

“If you are wounded, you need to first stop blood from coming out of the wound before doing anything else. Those who fought for this country did it well, but certain things have been forgotten with the passage of time. We need good policy direction in terms of public spending and stabilise our kwacha by producing and exporting more than we import.

“It’s not just about agriculture. We also need to look at mining to make sure that those who do mining activities in this country bank their money in here,” said Chakwera.

On the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp), the three said they will revise the programme and introduce initiatives through which farmers would be getting fertiliser and other farm inputs on loan.

Other aspirants are Lovemore Munlo, Betson Majoni, Eston Kakhome, John Tembo and Chris Daza.

ZBS editor Pilirani Phiri said the other aspirants failed to turn up for different reasons.

But he said ZBS will organise another public debate for all the aspirants before the party’s convention which has been postponed to a later date.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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