Malawi President Chakwera Fails to Impress On 1 Million Jobs, Nepotism, Blames Predecessor in Hardtalk Interview

President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera who is in the United Kingdom (UK) for a Global Education Summit featured on BBC HARDtalk interview on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 where he was grilled on a wide range of issues including creation of 1 million jobs, Covid 19 and healthcare, state of economy, nepotism covering appointment of daughter to diplomatic mission and inclusion of family member in the 10 person delegation paid for by the British tax payers.

HARDtalk is the flagship interview program by the BBC that provides in-depth interviews with hard-hitting provocative questions on topical issues which normally could not be asked by local media. The style and format is highly combative that sometimes interviewees walk out.

Experienced journalist and presenter Sarah Montague hosted President Chakwera on Wednesday, pushing the Malawi leader to the corner with various tough questions.

One million jobs creation

Among the questions, she asked Chakwera whether or not he has fulfilled his pre-election pledge a year ago when the Covid-19 pandemic was already underway on creating one million jobs. Chakwera and his administration have blamed the fragile economy and high unemployment statistics on Covid-19.

Instead of informing the host about how many jobs his administration has so far created, President Chakwera went round and round bringing about an issue of Affordable Inputs Program (AIP), which he claimed had created thousands of jobs for the youths as wage labourers.

"When we started for example with Affordable Inputs Program, we had thousands of jobs. Young people were employed across the country with millions of people accessing the affordable inputs. It was 3.5 million actually able to access the inputs," he said, claiming the AIP had offered millions of smallholder farmers access to low cost fertilizer resulting in a record yield so far and thereby creating wealth for thousands of households.

President Chakwera also claimed his government had given loans and initiated cash transfer programs to create wealth for the people.

He, however, acknowledged the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, which had resulted in about 600,000 people losing jobs.

Asked to comment on the recent remarks by his predecessor Peter Mutharika that President Chakwera had plunged a million people into poverty instead of creating one million jobs, President Chakwera retorted: "He should be the best and the first one to know what they did by destroying the economy of the country. There is no iota of truth in what he is saying."

Reminded that creating one million jobs was his significant campaign pledge, a visibly angry and finger pointing Chakwera said that was "not the only pledge".

"The majority of Malawians, I said 80 percent, are smallholder farmers and they voted on the basis that we would have affordable farm inputs, which we did provide and Malawi now has, on record, the best yield. It is not an empty pledge (jobs), we will fulfill that but how many people have lost jobs here (in the UK)," wondered President Chakwera to which the interviewer said was "irrelevant" because she was asking about Malawi.

Nepotism

President Chakwera was challenged on the appointment of his own daughter, Violet, as a diplomat to Brussels, Belgium against his own accusations of then President Peter Mutharika.

Montague quoted a paragraph from Chakwera's speech then as Leader of Opposition in his response to the state of the nation address (SONA) in parlimament delivered on 7th May, 2019 saying:

"If there is a vacancy at a foreign embassy that requires a professional and career diplomat, the DPP will send someone unqualified whose only credential is being related to someone at State House by tribe or blood, because it is a chance for someone to steal from Malawians."

An angry President Chakwera responded saying: "I am really amazed that you could use that as an example of something that is not true. Violet is not going to Brussels. Check your facts and investigate those things".

He failed to put the facts straight but levelled accusations of untruthfulness.

A fortnight ago, State House through the President Press Secretary Brian Banda confirmed the appointed the daughter as a diplomat to Brussels and that it was not nepotism because she is qualified. She (Violet) also went through a diplomatic orientation at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Lilongwe alongside other diplomatic appointees a few weeks ago.

Since President Chakwera became President, he has made over 2,000 appointments in the civil services and out of those 2,000 appointments only one appointment which was duly vetted, following thorough process in as far as appointment is concerned. you have a problem with that? Someone who is qualified for the job, the only problem that the person you are referring to is being the daughter of the President. We at the State House find that lacking," said Brian Banda, the President Press Secretary.

It is normal practice that State House to change tune when the heat is on. The appointment may be diverted to London or elsewhere to distance itself from Brussels.

London trip family inclusion

Asked why he included the daughter (Violet) and other family members, - wife and son-in-law - in his delegation on the UK trip by for by hard working British tax payers. President Chakwera - without elaboration - defended his decision, arguing that he brought "Malawians that are doing something along with me on this trip and that they are just as valuable".

When asked that he had brought with him family members against the backdrop of his own promise to clear the rubble of corruption and cronyism, President Chakwera retorted: "I can tell you, each one of them have specific functions and the specific functions are such that for me to be able to attend a meeting like this, I need their services".

Elsewhere, The Times of London reported on Wednesday that President Chakwera is "an unreasonable nepotist who flies his family cronies to the summit instead of proper government officials who could handle issues at the meeting".

It is on record that President Chakwera applied to travel with 61 people to travel with him but the British Government refused and told him to travel with 10 people only. According to the Times of London, the British Government could not accept such wastage of resources for a country that they assist with aid.

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