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Another look at issues of public concern

It is said that every man is responsible for his own destiny as much as the destiny of nations is in the hands of leaders, except there are times when nations are led by unworthy leaders who fail their own people.

It is either Malawians expect too much from their leaders or the leaders are a disappointing species incapable of doing things right or they are opportunists bent on screwing people for personal benefit.

It is strange that with all the advice available, governors find themselves in awkward, not so dignifying and uninspiring situations. In a space of just weeks one senior minister in a supposedly effective government makes two politically costly gaffes:

In the first he suggests that government is considering purchasing a presidential jet, generating an enormous uproar, not because Malawi is not deserving of the dignity of a presidential jet but because the purchase of a similar jet was contentious and its disposal most suspicious.

In the second the same minister makes a public announcement that our only female ex-president in whom people prided is an assassin who eliminated her boss to take over leadership. And all this when experts reported that our dear president died of cardiac arrest, in addition to the reality that the suspected assassin was outside inner circles of power at the time of the tragedy.

My verdict and fear are that DPP is losing it slowly. There are seeds of decay sprouting with great energy. Its leaders are not just looking for reward – having toiled to win – ministers may be becoming overzealous to please so much so that they are leading both party and government into irreparable disrepute.

Meanwhile the best President Peter Mutharika can do – himself a revered lawyer – is to say his senor minister spoke in his own capacity. Well I am no lawyer – and I awe nobody apologies for bearing the budge of a persecuted teacher – but this makes limited sense.

As far as I am concerned a senior minister and government spokesperson cannot make such a serious statement involving two presidents ‘in personal capacity’ while the President takes no action on what is clearly irregular and costly to government reputation.

I am not being hawkish, but in normal government Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa would be the first Cabinet casualty or Cabinet have the license to make retrogressive utterances.

Meanwhile, the same government has just published a self-damning justification for the sale of Malawi Savings Bank. Government unwittingly admits abuse of the Bank; accepts having de-professionalised its staff and unashamedly insinuates that any party would have done the same. After all, the government reasons, public owned-owned banks are abused the world over.

This is feeble thinking. It is DPP which abused the bank. It is DPP-aligned individuals that got preferential access to enormous volumes of resources. But this lame reasoning is perfectly familiar. When Cash gate exploded it was described it as ‘a breakthrough’ much to the annoyance of citizens and donors. Perhaps this is another of those strange breakthroughs.

I pick issue with justification of abuse on the basis of commonality of such immoral conduct because Malawi is capable of being different. It is wicked to suggest that anybody would have done the same as this generalises such ill conduct to all Malawians and glamorises evil.

Well, government must know that there are upright sons and daughters in the Land, unless government is warning Malawians that there will be no time when Malawi will have morally upright, normal humans with uMunthu to run this country. People are listening to this reasoning!

It is also weak leadership to say that the sale was started by the previous government. So what? Rather government must argue out the technical sense of the decision and not dwell on history or engage in blame-shifting. This is unaccountable thinking!

I do not know what the arguments of experts, opposition and civil society are against the sale of MSB. To me government will not use public funds to settle loans owed by private individuals as this effectively makes the loans the liability of citizens when it is individuals who should be repay.

If a government defends such an erroneous policy and has the temerity to call those who query the decision ‘irresponsible’ it ceases to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people; it graduates into a band of conceited political elites blocking legitimate criticism and drifting towards autocracy.

On another note, Leader of the House from the government side lost his cool over opposition decision to reject a motion for government to access $40 million grant and $40 million loan from World Bank for recovery of thousands of flood-hit Malawians.

This is a noble move, but it needs not bulldoze the opposition into supporting bills which have issues. Instead the DPP government must accept that public concern with kusolola is still very high, that people’s trust of government in matters of money is extremely low.

Rather than become sentimental about the Shire valley recovery government must remain rational and present its facts. As Desmond Tutu says, when trying to prove your point, do not raise your voice but rather improve your argument!

I for one do not think that government should get into debt for this. This is a situation which grants and NGO investment can address just as effectively. Government should engage NGOs, relief organizations, resident bilateral and multi-lateral agencies to raise fund. If World Bank provides $40 million in grants I have no doubt NGOs and other partners can raise $40 million without getting into formal debt.

My view is that government should focus upon long-term investment in physical planning of the Shire valley, irrigation schemes and selective resettlement, not in short term rehabilitation and recovery.

As we close, governments that refund donors money due to irregularities cannot be trusted. Somewhere someone has become rich illicitly. This is as criminal as it is morally objectionable.

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