The warning signs were there but we didn’t listen. This time around let’s try to do better. There’s no reason why Malawi should be suffering so!!
“We’ve observed that the Sec Gen (Mutharika) hasn’t fully utilised his directors for decision-making as a team..When he summons them, it’s either to lecture them, rebuke or impose his will on them.”~COMESA Report.
The Thesaurus dictionary defines history as the continuum of events occurring in succession leading for the past to the present and even to the future. Malawi’s history is both exciting and sad. The events that follow below will either make you cry or stronger and more determined to bring about change in the political arena or development. The next president will be will be judged, elected and compared to the past rulers because Malawians are tired of being taken for granted. They will suffer no more…
Malawi the warm heart of Africa has had its share of leaders who were elected and overstayed their welcome. This is a disease that plagues African and most third world countries today. In his book “What is Africa’s Problem” Yoweri Museveni said that “The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power.” Little did he know that today he would be the same problem he talked about. Now a dictator clinging to power he has done everything to make sure that he stays in power. Trying to appeal to the young, he came out with a “rap” song to during Uganda’s last presidential elections.
Malawi under Mutharika’s rule
Our leader does not have such talent so he has resorted to oppression using laws to keep the people from demonstrating. July 20th is the day when Malawi took to the streets. As demonstrations were planned from the southern region to the north, people didn’t have to sit down and say reasons why they had to march in solidarity. It was either you were counted as a coward or an active citizen. What the referendum brought to the country in the form of democracy/multiparty governance has long since died down. What you have now are frustrated and very angry citizens due to economic woes, electricity shortages, lack of fuel, no Forex in the banks, no proper healthcare facilities and supplies. Poverty is at its highest and unemployment is now on the rise. Why you ask? Due to the lack of energy in the form of electricity and fuel companies have started to downsize, and the best way of doing this is through layoffs.
Taking into consideration all the above points one wonder when, how and what went wrong from 2004 to now. Some have blamed old age while think it is a health issue. A lot of people have condemned talking about this because in our culture we don’t talk ill of our elders. This mentality by the way is what has set us back as Malawians to the point that sometimes we give respect where it’s not even due. What is wrong with knowing someone’s medical records especially if they are to rule over the country? A president has to be of sound mind to be able to make rational decisions when it comes to matters of governance.
How his record at COMESA should have been fair warning enough but we chose not to listen.
Let me touch on the issue at hand, that of our history or rather the president’s history record as a leader. While Banda and Muluzi had their faults, Mutharika’s record is fascinating as a leader and thanks to google, his information is only a stroke away. For those of you who don’t know, our president was the head of COMESA from 1991-1997. To be fair to the people of Malawi most were not aware of the fact that he was fired although there had been some rumours about it when he was running for presidency. Not only were there rumours, some have claimed that some people saw a xeroxed copy of the report but did not alert others and now Malawi is paying for it. At COMESA Mutharika was reportedly fired after a report by a special committee of Eminent Persons on the Operations of COMESA said they uncovered a number of gross inefficiencies describing his management style as one lacking the ability to mould and motivate a dedicated management team. A journalist friend of mine used one word to describe him and that is “hubris.”
Sounds familiar? Of course it does! Mutharika has failed as a leader. Once a strong supporter then critic, then turned supporter of then president Muluzi, he later joined forces with him once he was offered the deputy governorship of the Reserve Bank of Malawi. Mutharika was elected president in 2004. About a year after he was elected president he came into conflict with Muluzi which led to his resignation from the ruling party UDF. He then founded his own political party the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). It would be fair to point out that the conflict in this case was due to his stand on corruption. In his first term as president, Mutharika wanted to do away with corruption. Sadly, he is now accused of corruption.
After a failed attempt at a third term bid, Muluzi hand-picked Mutharika and his running mate Chilumpha to succeed him after he left office. The vice president pick was to guaranteed the muslim votes in Machinga, Zomba and Balaka. Other districts that helped to deliver the muslim votes were Nkhota Kota and Salima. The fact that he was imposed on Mutharika could be what led to his dismissal in 2006 amidst allegations that he was plotting Mutharika’s assassination. Whether he was forced on him or not Chilumpha was his VP so Mutharika should have tried to work with him for the good of the country especially since he praises himself as a good leader.
In his second term as president Chilumpha was dropped over Joyce Banda. Running under the pretense of promoting women in politics Joyce Banda was added to the ticket to guarantee women votes. A founder of the National Association of Business Women in Malawi (NABW), her work as a member of parliament plus minister of foreign affairs helped get her in that place. Some people have said that she was the ideal candidate because her husband is from Nkhata Bay which guaranteed votes from northerners. I have my doubts because I see very few northerners who would be influenced by that. Though Joyce Banda is still the vice president she has been fired from the ruling party and is in the process of having her own People’s Party (PP) registered. Her crime was refusing to endorse Mutharika’s brother as the DPP presidential candidate in 2014. It is when you look at the different scenarios that you see the “lack of ability to mould” in that once Mutharika has disagreement with people he does not resolve the issues inorder to work together for the people.
“The Committee established that there was ample evidence of financial Malpractices as Mr. Mutharika used COMESA funds to finance missions that could not be confirmed to be official and beneficial to COMESA itself. He also used COMESA resources for his own personal activities unrelated to his office.”
Mutharika abused his office by first trying to intimidate the vice president and others into nominating his younger brother Peter Mutharika as the next presidential candidate for DPP. He has also used the public radio/TV stations to advance this initiative and to force people into accepting this candidate. Whatever happened to fair elections? His wife is being paid a salary of MK1.3million lary as the Goodwill Ambassador for Safe Motherhood. The same charity work under the VP did not permit a salary. There have been reports in the media that government workers promised some huge allowances if they worked at the presidents farm in Ndata tending to the president’s personal projects have not been paid. According to the constitution they need to be reimbursed for monies owed.
“The COMESA Committee also established that Mr. Mutharika displayed a flagrant disregard for protocol and frequently breached the provisions of the Treaty, the Staff and Financial Rules and Regulations.”
During his first term citizens were happy with Mutharika cracking down on corruption, There was a boost in the economy though sadly there was no plan to sustain the economy’s growth. His stance on human rights should have been clear in part from the picture painted by the report which detailed gross insubordination to the COMESA Council of Ministers whom he considered to be beneath him. Recently parliament passed an injunctions bill which protects those in government from prosecution of any crimes. Another such bill was the Section 46 which gives the government powers to control the media. The issue of the ongoing saga between the University lecturers and the government (academic freedom) has had people asking why we still have a ceremonial Chancellor for the University versus an academic who would have the student’s interest at heart.
It is common knowledge that when one gets funding from the donor community there are agreements /contracts signed by both parties. As a recipient of donor aid one is held accountable to such agreements through audits on the expenditure of funds. According to the DFID general budget report aid to Malawi was suspended because UK had some concerns of economic management. Malawi also happens to be off track with the IMF program.
‘Do not look back in anger or forward in fear, but look around you in awareness” ~James Thurber
De ja vu? Today, the day when citizens were demonstrating against the government an injunction barring people from exercising their rights was issued but because of what happened yesterday in the town of Blantyre, people are more determined than ever to go ahead with the march. Supporters of DPP with “Panga knives” took to the streets in broad day light to scare people from showing up for the demonstrations. Meanwhile the president delivered a nation wide lecture to counter stage the demonstrations. The conditions in Malawi are gravely sad and instead of coming up with solutions we seem to be trapped in quick . The more you wriggle the deeper you sink.
While the president basks in the false glory that Malawi is a “peaceful” country everyone knows that peace does not exist without freedom and that is one of the reasons they took to the streets. History has taught us that when people are sad they do nothing but cry over the poor conditions they live in but when they are angry, they become the vessels of change. Now is the time for change. Everyone of us has been bestowed that responsibility, that change can become a reality when we join our brothers and sister as we march for our freedoms. That change is you!