If you ask me, any state president should ideally fly in a private jet because of the nature of the office and the respect it deserves. However, I do not agree with the idea of hiring private jets for the president because it is so expensive, especially in the present situation in Malawi when the economy is in very bad shape.
What we have to accept in Malawi at the moment is that we do not have a jet for the president. At the same time, we can’t afford to hire one for the president.
The realistic way of flying our president, therefore, is through commercial flights. That is what we can afford now and anything else beyond that will be outside our means. Do we really have to borrow money for the hiring of a jet for the president?
This is why I need to commend President Arthur Peter Mutharika for heeding public calls to stop hiring private jets for his international travels. The president has demonstrated that he is a listening leader by flying commercial on his trips to Malta, United Kingdom and South Africa.
The problems that have been experienced during the flights, such as the purported queuing before boarding and the missing luggage, are normal when flying commercial. They can be sorted by, among other things, making special arrangements with the airlines before travelling.
It’s actually surprising that a first class passenger, let alone a head of state, can be made to queue at a checking-in counter or when boarding flights because airlines usually have special arrangements for such kind of passengers. Even luggage arrangements for a head of state are not usually handled the same as those of any other passenger.
By the way, this is not the first time for President Mutharika to fly commercial, even in his capacity as a head of state. Neither is he the first head of state for the country to do so.
What the president and other presidents have been doing in the past is that they have been flying private jets from Malawi up to somewhere such as Johannesburg or Dubai from where they have been connecting to destinations beyond such as Europe, Asia or America using commercial airlines.
The only new thing that has happened with Mutharika is that he has flown commercial from Lilongwe. But again while that could be new for Peter Mutharika, it has happened with previous presidents, including his brother late Bingu.
I remember at one point in 2013, former President Joyce Banda flew Ethiopian Airlines and the airline had to send a new Dreamliner aircraft to Malawi on that day just because they were also to carry a head of state.
So continue flying commercial Mr. President as part of the austerity measures the government has to implement to make sure that expenditures remain within our means. Hiring of presidential jets at the time hospitals are going with drugs does not augur well without the desperate financial situation currently prevailing in the country.
What we have to do as a country is to work hard and recover the economy to the point where we can afford to buy a presidential jet. A mistake was obviously made when the presidential jet that was bought sometime around 2010 was sold by the government of President Joyce Banda. We should have kept that Jet because our presidents need to travel in dignity and with a lot of convenience while on international duty for the country.
Yes we are a poor country but we should not go to the extent of letting our presidents walk or travel by bicycle just because we are poor.
As one Sunduzwayo Madise wrote on Facebook over the weekend, having a president is expensive and that a country that cannot afford to provide their head of state with some of the basic things such as office needs does not deserve to be a sovereign country and have their own leader.
I’m sure Malawi can afford to provide for its presidents. We have done that before and we can always be able to do it. Yes the country may be going through economic difficulties now and it may not make sense for government to buy a jet or indeed hire one whenever the president is travelling.
But we need to work at restoring the sovereign integrity of our nation in the near future by, among other things, making sure that our president starts travelling with the respect he or she deserves.
For now, the commercial airlines can do and we don’t have to make a fuss about it. Once again, bravo and #ThumbsUp to President Peter Mutharika for heeding public calls to stop hiring private jets.
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