In this open letter to President Peter Mutharika, Mallick Mnela zeroes in on a litany of possible actions the Malawi leader may consider – from rolling out broader financial stimulus packages across the social strata, engaging political stakeholders on possibly shelving fresh polls, providing better incentives for health workers to design of stringent measures to enforce movement restrictions locally.
Your Excellency Sir, it is such a great honour to write to you after a long time. At this time, I trust you’re maintaining social distance in the confines of your highly secure home office there at Sanjika Palace. As a matter of fact, Sir, your closer circle should be more responsible than ever, and none of your boys or girls should be seen loitering and mingling aimlessly at Kamba in Blantyre, the COVID-19 isn’t a joke!
While I just highlighted the need for your own safety and good health, Sir, I also wish to quickly applaud the move by the central bank to lower the Liquidity Reserve Requirement (LRR) on domestic deposits by 125 basis points to 3.75 percent from 5.0 percent.
Essentially, this lowers funds the commercial banks have to deposit, leaving them with more resources to pass on to the banked population. The stimulus move will go a long way in salvaging some businesses in the wake of the COVID-19.
Your Excellency Sir, while we are very much aware that the stimulus package by the central bank will take about 90 days to take effect or gain traction in our economy, you need to be aware that most businesses have already laid off staff.
As you might be aware, most hotels have been having zero occupancy since countries that supply us international visitors went on lockdown. As a result, some employees are being sent home and others are being forced to take pay cuts.
This has affected the shuttle driver at the airport and a curio seller at Mtakataka in Dedza or the Curio Market in Blantyre.
Mr. President Sir, we are talking about people that provided sustenance for others back in the rural areas. It, therefore, implies that the ripple effect has roughly been felt across the social strata.
You will also appreciate that while measures for the banked population have been set in motion, we are yet to hear something on broader, multi-sectoral measures, particularly measures that cater for the rural or poor Malawians that are already reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is, therefore, my plea to Your Excellency, to consider designing swift measures to cushion the shocks to the poor and most vulnerable communities for sustainable livelihoods. This could best be accomplished using the digitised social cash transfer at this most trying time our nation, and many others are going through across the globe.
Mr. President, we have not even started talking about the welfare of health workers and their families. It goes without saying that failing to manage the safety of health care workers on the frontline against the battle with the COVID-19 will be a betrayal to our larger society. On this, I reckon those in charge are looking into it. There is need for better incentives: incentives that are better than the laughable K 1, 800 risk allowance budgeted for each health worker!
By the way, Your Excellency, the K 15 billion COVID-19 fund basket needs more accountability than ever. We cannot afford to have a dime stolen as this will weaken our resolve against the disease. Voluntarily giving details of expenditure will go a long way in building trust among us, your citizens.
Your Excellency, COVID-19 related lawlessness has also been noted. There are some people that reportedly entered the country but gave authorities false or nonexistent addresses making follow ups difficult for our diligent and ready to work health workers. This is a betrayal to our country. This is carelessness that should be punished. Luckily Sir, the passport details should be able to provide details of such miscreants and ensure that exemplary punishment is meted out.
There is also troubling news that some of those people that have tested positive for the COVID-19 were out and about in Lilongwe, allegedly defying self-quarantine rules. Sir, we can not delve much on whether this is true or not. For now, you need to show decisive leadership and act to save lives by ensuring the disease doesn’t spread any further.
Your Excellency Sir, I will not bore you with the details contained in the report compiled by the Kuunika Project: Data for Action on the COVID-19. I am certain relevant officials have briefed you on the mathematical model of the disease.
However, let me just remind you on how inaction, delayed action or laiser fair approach would result for Lilongwe alone:
- About 1,559,184 people could be infected in 365 Days
- About 47,278 will require hospitalization
- About 8,582 will require ICU Care
- As many as 5,064 deaths could be registered in Lilongwe alone
Your Excellency Sir, I have recently been a regular at the Kamuzu Central Hospital due to my recent poor health unrelated to the COVID-19. I am grateful for the passionate staff. But the system is overburdened as it is and any further strain as estimated by the mathematical model referred to above will be catastrophic and suicidal for us as a people.
Therefore, Your Excellency Sir, you may wish to consider drastic, unpopular and urgent measures. Your legacy will, no doubt, be factored by how you handle this unprecedented public health challenge during our lifetime.
To begin with, the measure to bar groupings of 100 people isn’t appropriate given the suspected pervasiveness of the COVID-19 in, and, God forbid, around Lilongwe or other parts of the country.
I am very much aware of the forthcoming elections. It appears the sane (yet sad) thing to do for the time being is seriously consider engaging relevant stakeholders to shelve plans for the fresh elections for the time being.
I am very much confident that this being an Act of God will not earn the resistance of opposition leaders Lazarus Chakwera of MCP, UTM’s Saulosi Chilima or any other politician.
This will be understood as an Act of God, something not of your own making. Understandably Sir, some will assume you will be the political beneficiary of this move. In actually fact, however, it will be Malawi and Malawians- those that you swore to diligently serve that will benefit.
For the time being Sir, the panacea is enhancing testing for the COVID-19, further limit people’s movement, cushion socio-economic shocks and ensure harmony between protection of citizens and ensuring enjoyment of their constitutional rights; otherwise you will, Your Excellency, be pursuing a futile endeavour. I have no doubt in my mind that by seeking God to guide us, we will conquer the COVID-19. God bless Malawi …