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A nation stuck with marauding negativity

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CO-HOSTED THE SUMMIT—Kenyatta

By William Phiri:

The popular narrative about President Lazarus Chakwera’s trip to the United Kingdom (UK), where he participated in the Global Education Summit, was initially full of negativity until it emerged that most of what had been said about the trip was not true.

There were deliberate attempts by some quarters to feed everyone with information that was starkly aimed at discrediting something which was not there.

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It was after the President and his entourage had arrived in the UK that most of us learnt that he had, in fact, been invited by co-hosts of the summit Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to physically attend the summit.

Still, there are those who do not want to admit that their skewed conclusions about the trip have been dismantled by the reality on the ground.

They still maintain that the President would have chosen to attend the summit virtually. They do not clearly explain why they are advancing such a narrative.

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It appears it is the usual negative opposition that is advanced to pit a leader against their people for the benefit of rivals. But there is so much enlightenment these days that someone propagating selfish and incorrect narratives is immediately censured by Malawians.

There were other presidents who attended the summit in person and those who argue Chakwera should have not travelled to the UK do not want to talk much about those other leaders.

While it is true that Chakwera is not a saint and makes mistakes like all of us do, it is preposterous that some individuals wait for nothing but to pick holes, even those that do not exist, in whatever the President says or does.

Imagine what we would be hearing now if the President returned home empty-handed or the UK confirmed he was not invited to be there physically.

Imagine what critics would say if we never learnt that the President would meet Johnson, where he would discuss with the Prime Minister possibilities on strengthening the cooperation between their two countries.

It had to take the Malawi High Commission in the UK to “set the record straight” and tell us that, in fact, the President had not gone to the UK for a virtual summit and we confirmed it after seeing him physically meeting stakeholders.

According to the High Commission, the President was among few leaders Johnson wanted to be at the summit in person.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also said, apart from the summit, Chakwera would also engage British Members of Parliament, deliver a statement at Chatham House and meet investors, among others.

All these engagements happened and the virtual aspect, which had been severally advanced here back home, failed in its fold.

Benefits for all

One of the reasons Chakwera had to attend the summit in person was to leverage the sidelines of the event to further strike deals for the benefit of all Malawians.

We understand he took advantage of the summit to hold bilateral talks with Dominic Raab, the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, during which he managed to secure the British Government’s commitment for additional support towards Malawi’s fight against Covid and climate change.

Now, it would be practically impossible to clinch such a deal in a virtual conversation. In fact, without attending the summit in person, no side meetings would be possible.

Covid and climate change are some of the biggest threats of our time and must be fought with all the necessary armoury including support from our partners.

And the President used his time in the UK and his engagement with Johnson to agree to work together on scaling up the use of green technologies.

Of course, it is the practicability of such agreements which matters. Malawians will be following up on this and many other commitments and agreements that have been made to see where they are.

During the actual summit, it has been reported extensively in the international media that over $4 billion has been raised to support the education of children in 90 countries and Malawi is one of them.

Chakwera also met Kenyatta ,where, the two leaders discussed the reactivation of Joint Committee of Cooperation between their countries.

In short, several events, which are beneficial to this country, which the President engaged in, would not have been practical in a virtual meeting.

It should be appreciated that global summits are critical arenas where important decisions and agreements are made. Take, for instance, the United Nations General Assembly: Stakeholders including heads of State participate in several side meetings for the benefit of their countries.

Unity of purpose

It is always important to offer constructive criticism to the President because, after all, he lives on our taxes and must be accountable for any action he takes or decision he makes.

But it appears the criticism that we sometimes direct at Chakwera is not genuine. It sometimes sounds and looks too personal.

We should never tire to offer constructive criticism. It is good for the nation because it makes good leaders. A good leader is what every nation in the world desires.

But some of the criticism we direct towards the President is clearly aimed at derailing whatever agenda he has in moving this country forward.

We are harshly judging him on almost every decision he makes, sometimes without even getting all the facts. Then, when we learn that we were wrong, we still seek ways of justifying the erroneous criticism.

I will say what I have said before; that some quarters are so bent on seeing or imagining Chakwera failing. It is not clear why it would be good for them if that happened.

But we all know the nature of our politics. I will not say much on that.

Here is a president who has been leading the country for just over a year but, throughout his time on the top seat, it is as if he has not done anything.

Even when he reminded Malawians that the Affordable Input Programme had resulted in a surplus of maize in the country, his critics found their own ways of damning that.

They even criticised his government for giving cash to households, in peri-urban areas, who have been hit hard by the pandemic. You could clearly see that the criticism was not being made in good faith.

Discretion is important

Of course, while the President has to listen to views of everyone regarding how he governs the country, he still has the final discretion, especially where he sees that some views will harm than advance the cause of the nation.

Such views are many and we have seen them being advanced by some people who would be very useful if they provided genuine constructive criticism.

The good thing is that even where some people are full of negativity and desperately want to see Malawi fail in many ways so that they can continue accusing the President of failing in leadership, there are those who are always positive and offer the needed constructive criticism.

Like the President said on his return from the UK, we must learn to offer support to any Malawian who travels to do something that will benefit the nation.

Yet what most of people did about the UK trip was to send messages outside our borders that it was not necessary for Chakwera to travel.

Having our leader trolled outside our boundaries is not something any patriotic Malawian can be proud of. It reflects badly on all of us, especially when the information that is being peddled is in bad light.

Of course, somehow, the government machinery fails to provide sufficient information when it is most needed.

In its silence, government gave falsehoods oxygen to breathe and burn. The damage could have been avoided and, hopefully, those employed to manage communication affairs of the President have learnt a lesson or two.

Government officials must learn to always provide timely, correct and sufficient information whenever it is needed.

Some of us are never happy when we see our country being presented in bad light out there, more so when those doing that do not have enough information because someone withheld it.

It is also high time that we, Malawians, differentiated between constructive criticism and sheer negativity.

We should continue holding our government to account because, if we stop, we will be the biggest losers, but we should not be in the lead telling the world lies about our own country.

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