Flaws that are paying


I am told that in a recent move to be seen to be serious on cutting costs, the government has decided to cut allowances for the cabinet as well as limit the number of external travels.

On another day and in a country that is known for its rectitude, I would have celebrated this move: But this is Malawi where we are always told half truths by politicians and even men of the collar at our various places of worship.

Besides, a cut in allowances and being strict on the number of junkets ministers take annually are not enough to salvage an economy that has been on a life-saving machine for as long as I can remember. There are far too many things that I think this government, just as the previous bad ones, is doing that if changed, we can at least start believing that we are serious about saving the little pennies we have in our rusty and cockroach-smelling Account Number One.


Think of this, before Peter’s presidential diapers started falling off and he was still wearing a face of a naive, impressionable but well-meaning head of state, he promised us that he will see to it that we are done away with days when the whole Capital Hill closed shop to attend to rallies, be it departures or homecomings.

But if you have noted like I have done, it seems the old man is slowly but steadily being swallowed in to the politics of patronage whereby one has to be seen close to the president to be seen to be doing something worth noting.

I noticed on Peter’s return from his leisure trip to the US recently that all the talk about saving the little dime government has is only but cheap talk because, if you noticed the cars that lined up at the airport, you will notice that, despite being a Saturday and an officially day-off for the civil service, the cars were just too much of fuel guzzlers—a sharp mockery to our talk about austerity measures.


Of course Peter found in place a system that is rotten to the core and in serious need of a complete overhaul thus we cannot heap the load of blame on his lanky and senile self. But what I have noted—which of course is fodder for today—is that Peter just adds to the list of our wayward, mazy, clueless, tactless and uninspiring leaders that we have had: But there is one thing that he is doing that sets him apart.

Peter’s performance appraisal is best compared to his two predecessors: His demised brother Bingu and the ousted Joyce Banda. Bingu was the kind of leader who had plans laid and, in his rather eccentric thoughts, envisioned the path on which the country ought to be taken. But his tragic flaw was that he was rabid and had a scathing tongue.

Think of this, even when we were spending nights on fuel queues, he had the guts to call us names and unleash his hounds—otherwise known as cadets—to squeeze the life out of anyone who thought contrary to him.

I still believe, if you ask me today, that the reason people got annoyed with Bingu was not because of the terrible economic state he put us in because I know Malawians are used to worst situations, but it was the carelessness of his and his minions’ speeches and aloofness that made people go as far as dancing and partying on his grave.

Then came another terrible national mistake in the frame of Joyce Banda. JB—for that is what her aficionados call her— had her best moments when all she had to do was reverse the magnificent bloopers of her predecessor, Bingu. Then everything started falling apart when she forgot about running the country and concentrated on building he fragile orange grouping.

Prices of commodities went mars, morality sank to the abyss and hope faded like dew after a terrible midday sun. All these were compounded by some of her party members’ involvement in the Cashgate scandal.

Again, I believe, JB could have been given clemency had she played humble and honest. But she missed the jackpot when she started—together with her cabal—working so hard to create a true illusion of a false reality as far as the Cashgate was concerned.

So you see, people got incensed by the dubious tales her government was telling us as far as the Cashgate cases were concerned. They only had to wait for the polls to show their anger.

Looking at Peter now, it is obvious that the old professor cannot give us ropes to hang our hopes on. Granted, one year is such a short period to give a fair analysis of a president, but what I believe is that, managing a terminally ill economy like Malawi’s, one is never given the luxury of going to a honeymoon or warming up. He must hit the ground running.

Drugs helves have become breeding grounds for cockroaches, spiders are building their mansions there, and commodity prices have gone mars while the government continues to be chocked with loans that we will have to burden posterity with.

But Peter has all the luck because he has not been noisy and rough to prick at people’s raw wounds of disgruntlement. His docility is helping him avoid getting on people s nerves.

Even the loudest mouths of the former DPP seem to have been given a dose of discipline. We are a tranquil nation so far despite the harsh economic conditions we are exposed to.

For Peter, his quietude and drowsiness are flaws that are paying.

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