BLANTYRE-(MaraviPost)-The immediate past governing party Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)Southern Region Vice President Kondwani Nankhumwa has disapproved gazetted Covid-19 prevention, containment and management measures which among others, government has ordered mandatory wearing of face masks in public and banned public gatherings of groups of than 10 people.
In a press statement available to The Maravi Post, Nankhumwa who is also opposition leader in Malawi Parliament observes that opposition expectation was that the Tonse Alliance government should have come up with short and medium term policy interventions to cushion people’s suffering before framing and gazetting the above harsh and unrealistic COVID-19 measures.
“We are all aware that prior to the fresh elections in June 2020, the previous DPP government attempted to impose a 21-day lockdown on the country as a measure to prevent the further spread of Coronavirus, which included travel restrictions across the country and a ban of public gatherings for groups of more than 100 people.
“The country erupted in arms against these measures, resulting in opposition-led mass demonstrations against the measures. Among the sticking points for the demonstrators that time was that Malawi is an informal economy with many people literally living from hand to mouth,” reads part of the statement.
Nankhumwa adds, “Those against lockdown argued that the government must first distribute money or other life essentials to the underprivileged and most vulnerable families in order to cushion against the effects of the lockdown and cover up for the lost time that people would spend staying in their homes as a result of the lockdown’.
He observes that it is an open secret that there is pervasive poverty across the country and it is wrong to think that suddenly Malawians have become rich to afford a face mask, costing in the region of MK500 above each, let alone pay a MK10, 000 fine for not wearing one.
He further added that when one moves around public places in towns and villages is when they become acutely aware that it will be a huge challenge to make everyone wear a face mask in public.
“It is, therefore, ridiculous to expect the same people who can hardly afford a MK500 face mask to afford a fine of up to MK10, 000 for failing to wear one in public. It is a simple fact that a lot of Malawians will not comply with this measure because they simply don’t have money to buy the masks.
“It is our strong view that the people who were at the centre of framing and gazetting these by-laws lack the necessary knowledge of the daily struggles of most Malawians. What it also means is that the Tonse Alliance administration, led by President Lazarus Chakwera, simply disregards the heartbeat of the people it pretends to serve,” he said.
He said government should consider freeing prisoners with minor charges to decongest prisons, institute zero charges on mobile money transfers, order commercial banks through Reserve Bank of Malawi to ease loan repayment conditions, targeting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and set up portable water sinks in public places to encourage hand washing in all cities and towns.
Further, Nankhumwa said government should reasonably reduce tax rate for resident companies to avert retrenchments, cut President and cabinet ministers’ wages, halt all familiarization tours by cabinet ministers, reduce tax on all mobile phones credit and ICT services, ensure adequate availability of Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) for health workers and ensure contact tracing surveillance capacity and screening services such as availability of thermo scans and laboratories.
“They should also implement cash transfer programmes to increase the number of existing beneficiaries of Mtukula Pakhomo Program in all districts in Malawi, reduce pump prices for fuel to cushion the poor following the new measures on transportation and put all health workers, especially the COVID-19 frontline personnel, and their direct family members on reasonable health insurance,” he said.
As of August 11, 2020, Malawi had 4714 Covid-19 cases with 152 deaths.