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Beautify Malawi Trust has failed First Lady

This is quite embarrassing.

First Lady Gertrude Mutharika went to Providence Girls Secondary School in Mulanje on Saturday to donate assorted relief items to students affected by fire that gutted one of the hostels at the institution.

The First Lady plays a crucial role in assisting those affected by disasters in the country. Her focus is on girl child and Beautify Malawi (Beam) Trust is constructing girls’ hostels across the country.

So, on Saturday, Madam Mutharika, brought with her 40 bags of cement for the renovation of the gutted hostel to the school and promised the contractor would be on site the next day.

However, Archbishop of Catholic Diocese of Blantyre Thomas Luke Msusa who was at the school when Madam Mutharika visited the institution said the church had already identified another donor, from Germany, to undertake the renovation of the hostel.

I was not, therefore, surprised to hear screaming headlines in the local media such as ‘Bishop turns down First Lady offer,’ ‘Bishop snubs First Lady’ and etc.

Both the First Lady and the bishop are not to blame for this mess; officials from Beam are.

The officials are supposed to undertake a needs assessment exercise for a particular disaster to find the exact needs of victims before any donation is done.

Beam officials or the First Lady’s handlers were supposed to call or meet owners of the school to find out the needs of the girls before the First Lady arrived, probably days if not weeks before her trip.

For instance, the First Lady, brought along her 40 mattresses for the girls whose mattresses went burnt, yet the bishop said another donor had already provided 40 mattresses for the same girls.

Some girls somewhere needed the mattresses and a hostel.

This embarrassing situation affecting our First Lady should not go unchecked; some heads must roll at Beam to bring sanity at the charitable organisation.

At the same time, this embarrassing situation should serve as a lesson not only to the First Lady but to other donors too.

Some months ago, the nation was shocked to learn that the government had burnt K500 million worth of drugs including the much-needed malaria drugs, La, and life-prolonging ARVs.

The Ministry of Health was quick to say the drugs were not bought by the Malawi government but rather they were donations which came when their expiry dates were due.

This is another embarrassing situation the government always finds itself in.

The ideal situation would be for the government to reject such an offer of donations when the drug expiry dates are due.

I am very sure if Bishop Msusa was responsible for the receiving of such a donation, he would not hesitate to turn it down outright.

That is how things should be. That is how the government should treat donors who want to take Malawi as their dumping place for their expired drugs.

The First Lady should not treat the scenario at Providence Girls Secondary School as embarrassing but rather a wake-up call.

Away from the First Lady and let us go to the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDS 3).

Finally, Malawi has a National Planning Commission which started its operations in 2017 after Parliament approved the names of its commissioners.

This is a body which will see to it that there is continuity of government development after a ruling party loses an election and another party takes over the running of government’s affairs.

Put it simply, this is a body mandated to formulate all development programmes and ensure that they are executed in a bid to spur economic development and end the rampant poverty.

This is exciting news.

So, when President Peter Mutharika launched MGDS 3, the blueprint for the country’s development agenda, and the National Planning Commission commissioners, headed by Professor Richard Mkandawire, witnessed this, I immediately said last rites for political party manifestos.

Political party manifestos are now irrelevant.

They are actually to blame for the slow pace of development or none of it in the country for the last 50 years or so.

We have very hard-working people in Malawi. Malawi is not poor, as former head of State Bingu wa Mutharika observed, but its people are sadly.

The question that creeps and boggles in people’s minds is: Why are Malawians such poor in such a very rich country?

It has to do with our political system partly coupled with the lack of a body such as the National Planning Commission which would have ensured that development is not stopped suddenly after a political party is kicked out of government or a president dies.

We all witnessed how the United Democratic Front (UDF)-led government tried and, in some cases, succeeded to dismantle what the Malawi Congress Party (MCP)-led government had built for years after tMCP lost the 1994 elections.

Bakili Muluzi, who took over from Kamuzu Banda after the 1994 presidential poll, even changed names of public places as if the aim was to erase everything that Kamuzu and his MCP did.

The UDF administration even went to the extent of showing journalists from various media houses Kamuzu Banda’s bedroom and his bed at Sanjika Palace just to embarrass the founding father of the nation.

In 2004, we also witnessed another episode of political power outdoing each other over development programmes and projects.

After Bingu dumped UDF, the party that sponsored him into power to form his own Democratic Progressive Party, we witnessed the very same thing.

Very same people who were in UDF and helped Muluzi plan some of the development programmes were the very first same people who erased and dismantled what Bakili and his UDF had sweated for.

In 2012, soon after the sudden death of Bingu, Joyce Banda and her People’s Party wanted Malawians to believe that the development plans of her predecessor were senseless and she wanted to bring her own development agenda in her own style.

Then, after Mutharika was voted into power in 2014, he initiated his own plans for the development.

This is why Malawi has been sliding in development programmes and remains one of the poorest countries in the world!

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