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  • Christine Chumbler
    Persevere and read the whole thing. There s some interesting stuff in here... Feature: Malawi-Politics Muluzi Launches Re-Election Bid in Style Africa News
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 29, 1999
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      Persevere and read the whole thing. There's some interesting stuff in here...

      Feature: Malawi-Politics Muluzi
      Launches Re-Election Bid in Style

      Africa News Service
      29-MAR-99

      BLANTYRE, Malawi (PANA, 03/29/99) - At least 50,000 people braved
      rains Saturday to witness Malawi President Bakili Muluzi officially launch his
      United Democratic Front (UDF) party's re-election bid ahead of the scheduled
      25 May general election by making new promises on top of other unfulfilled
      previous promises to the country's mainly illiterate and poor electorate.

      Still smarting from his acrimonious separation from his wife Anne after 30 years
      of marriage and his party's simmering in-fighting, an excited Muluzi told the
      people his party deserved to be re-elected.

      He said this was so since the UDF has, among other things, managed to keep a
      clean human rights record, has respected press freedom by ordering the
      withdrawal of state adverts to opposition newspapers and has worked hard to
      provide for the day-to-day needs of Malawians suffering under his liberalised
      economy.

      "For instance, by 1994 the (former ruling Malawi Congress Party) MCP
      government had sunk 9,600 boreholes in 30 years but my government has
      managed to sink over 6,000 boreholes in under four years," he said.

      (Ironically, Muluzi was one of the longest serving Secretary-Generals of the
      MCP, only second in command to his mentor, the late Malawi president
      Kamuzu Banda who died in 1997).

      He said this means that over 54 percent of Malawians have access to clean
      potable water. He said since water is an integral part of life, if re-elected his
      government would ensure that 84 percent of Malawi's 10 million-plus people
      have access to potable water by constructing three big dams and 130 small ones
      across the country.

      Muluzi also said he found the agriculture sector in a crisis with a collapsed
      smallholder credit scheme. He said by 1994 Malawi used to only produce
      800,000 metric tonnes of the country's staple food, maize.

      He said since he took over Malawi's average maize output averaged 1.2 million
      metric tonnes which is still not enough to feed the nation.

      He also took a swipe at the MCP regime's carefully-controlled policy on
      tobacco, the country's chief foreign exchange earner. He said the MCP used to
      restrict burley growing but his government liberalised the industry, thereby
      adding 200,000 more growers.

      This move, hoever, depressed the quality of the crop, resulting in the poor prices
      on the market which left angry farmers rioting at low prices paid for their
      tobacco. On one occasion the Lilongwe tobacco auction floors had to be closed
      for some days to let tempers cool down.

      He did not, however, explain these anomalies in his speech that have occured
      since he took over.

      Muluzi, nonetheless, admitted that despite strides his government has made in
      agriculture, 50 percent of Malawians do not have nutritious food with only 15
      per cent able to have enough food daily.

      High fertiliser prices since his government took over mainly explained the failure
      of the country's inablity to grow enough food, observers noted, in the last few
      years.

      "Clearly there are too many hungry people in our country," he said, promising
      that the next UDF government would ensure food security by providing people
      with more free fertilizer and develop small-scale irrigation.

      He also said the country's central bank, the Reserve Bank of Malawi, would
      open a foreign exchange account for the private sector to import fertilizer and
      other farm imputs.

      He admitted that Malawi's health indicators are less than impressive with the
      country--at 200 deaths in every 1,000 babies born--having one of the highest
      child mortality rates. He also said 30 per cent of the country's under-five children
      having stunted growth due to lack of food.

      He said his newly-launched Bakili Muluzi Initiative would ensure that every
      village has a health centre. He said the programme would utilise retired medical
      staff in the villlage clinics.

      On education, where his government has performed dismally with failing
      standards and a demoralised workforce characterising it, Muluzi said he was not
      impressed with the 40 percent illiteracy rate Malawi has. He said his next
      government would abolish fees for the whole system from primary, secondary to
      tertiary education in order to correct the situation.

      He added that his next government would continue with its privatisation drive
      which has earned the state coffers some 840 million US dollars over the past
      four years. He promised to restructure the 120,000 strong public service,
      warning that all dead wood would be dismissed.

      Although his speech cut across all issues concerning the country, Muluzi failed to
      acknowledge his party's in-fighting. Internal sources said party bigwigs have
      already started jockeying for positions ahead of the 2004 polls where Muluzi
      would not be eligible to run again.

      The party's first vice president Aleke Banda who, in normal circumstances is
      entitled to take over the party presidency, has more enemies than he can handle.

      Banda, like Muluzi, was also a veteran MCP leader under Kamuzu Banda. A
      shrewd figure, a forceful and witty speaker, Aleke Banda is not liked by other
      UDF bigwigs. Notable among his detractors is Muluzi's right-hand man Brown
      Mpinganjira, the education minister.

      Of late Mpinganjira's newspaper has been running a smeer campaign to discredit
      Banda by highlighting alleged corruption scandals involving the minister.

      The latest edition on the day of the Muluzi campaign launch Aleke Banda's
      picture was conspicuosly missing from a list of UDF heavyweights despite his
      being the chair for the UDF 1999 campaign.

      The president, who appeared on the podium with his sister, also did not refer to
      his separation with his wife who was reportedly banished to her home village
      outside the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, where she is incommunicado (her phone
      was cut off) and under tight security.

      At the end of the rally Muluzi ordered that Sunday's Africa Cup Winners football
      game between Malawi top side Bata Bullets and Kenya's Muthare football clubs
      be free for all as part of his campaign.

      Bata won 3-2 but failed to go through because Mathare, who beat Bata 0-2 in
      the first leg in Kenya, has won on higher aggregate.

      Like in Bata's unsuccessful bid to go into the next round, Muluzi's thunderous
      campaign launch is not a guarantee for easy victory, either. The opposition has
      since mended fences over their own power struggle and people are wary of
      UDF promises which were never fulfilled.

      In 1994, for instance, Muluzi promised to build 250 new secondary schools,
      roughly one in each of the 177 constituencies. And civil servants were assured of
      a better-than-hand to mouth salaries once UDF was in power. That has not
      come to pass.

      Added to that, the education standards have virtually collapsed under the UDF
      leadership with too many entrants in the system since the introduction of free
      primary school education but too few teachers, lowly paid and demoralised like
      their counterparts in the civil service.

      Most of the country's roads are in disrepair and high profile corruption in the
      government is a daily theme. All this might conspire to make Muluzi and his UDF
      run for their re-election under pressure from an opposition and an electorate
      attuned to these problems.

      By Raphael Tenthani, PANA Correspondent
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