Mark Botomani: Information minister

Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology, Mark Botomani’s overzealousness is embarrassing. His habit of releasing long nonsensical statements and calling them ‘Malawi government press releases’ has reached alarming levels. If not checked, the country will become a laughingstock. 

In his response to Malawi’s Vice President Dr Saulos Chilima’s proposal to reduce PAYE for middle and low income earners to cushion them from the effects of corona virus, Botomani said, “the Government of Malawi has always been committed in ensuring that its employees are accorded ‘descent’ salaries to sustain their livelihoods.” Botomani was in hurry to respond to Chilima and impress his boss that he actually used a wrong word. He used a word that means dropping or falling instead of ‘decent’. And this is an entire Minister of Information!

By using the wrong word, he inadvertently gave the correct definition of the civil servants’ salaries under the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime, ‘salaries whose values are falling every year despite some rare forced increments’. The cost of living under DPP has gone up by over fifty percent rendering any salary increments useless. The purchasing power of civil servants’ salaries has been decreasing since 2015 such that even if Botomani used the right word as in ‘decent’ salaries, it would be disingenuous.

In response to Chilima’s demand for the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) to stop spending on South African lawyers on the appeal of the election case that MEC soundly lost and has no chance of winning at the Supreme Court, Botoman said, “MEC has the right to defend itself and Malawi’s young democracy”.

All sane Malawians know that the current MEC is just an extension of DPP, no wonder the minister is backing the spending of millions of Kwachas which could be of much help in the fight against corona virus. MEC is not defending Malawians, it is defending Mutharika and DPP. That is why the president refused to fire MEC commissioners despite the court and parliament finding them incompetent.

On Chilima’s demand that the announced additional two billion Kwacha to the Malawi Enterprise Development Fund (MEDF) should be redirected to the fight against COVID-19, Botomani said, “it is the dream of His Excellency Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika that we lift our people from poverty into the middle class then eventually upper class. By providing significant resources to the public through MEDF, Government is demonstrating its willingness to narrow the gap between the have and the have nots.” 

This is worse than fiction. Under DPP, within 5 years, Malawi has moved from the sixth poorest country to the third poorest country. The cost of living has rocketed with many families struggling to survive on low salaries. The only people who have moved from rags to riches are DPP members. Some of these members were politically identified as MEDF loan beneficiaries who took 8.9 billion Kwacha and disappeared never to pay back the loans! This is why the minister is defending the allocation of extra billions that will benefit DPP members.

On Chilima’s statement that said government is not serious in protecting citizens with only 20,000 test kits, Botomani said, “Our response to Covid-19 is in progress and throughout the different phases, we are guided by our highly qualified public health experts and the WHO. The test kits that we have are enough for now.”

Botomani is both lying and being ignorant. He is lying because any health expert who has seen how fast corona virus is spreading around the world, can’t say 20 thousand kits are enough for a population of 18 million. Malawi doesn’t manufacture test kits and logistically it would not make sense to start running around looking for kits if the situation suddenly got worse. We need more kits now.

In addition, the number ‘20 thousand’ for the kits that we have now was not given by Malawi experts after any projections. The kits were just donated by Jack Ma of Alibaba and distributed equally among African countries. Therefore, Botomani should stop lying that health experts decided that this is the best number for now. These childish lies are going to kill thousands of Malawians.

Minister Botomani needs to slow down. In his quest to be relevant and keep his job, he has been making ridiculous statements that contain falsehoods, silly remarks and outright lies. The corona virus pandemic needs concerted efforts in order to save Malawians. Any suggestions on how to fight the virus are in good faith. There was no need to respond to Chilima’s advice like that. Botomani should stop being childish.

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