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Go deeper than empty PR stunts

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President Peter Mutharika is a man on a mission to revive the crumbling fortunes of the DPP.

During last week’s entry, I argued that October 17 is special, in the diary of the President in particular and the DPP in general, because it was the day when they woke up to realize that getting out power in 2019 can be a real prospect.

To their credit, they have realized that discerning Malawians in general are not happy with the direction the country is taking and desperate attempts are in full swing to change course.

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The only problem is that DPP thinks public relations stunts will do the job instead of tackling the real fundamental issues that are making Malawians angry.

It is alright for the President to have the First lady Gertrude Mutharika tag along and buy some tomatoes and pumpkins at Limbe Market or some sofa set in Ndirande.

The idea is to reconnect with voters and show that the First Couple will not just cocoon themselves at the State House but are down to earth and want to meet real people in their real setting in Blantyre’s most populous town of Ndirande or the famous market in Limbe.

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It is what leaders all over the world do. American, British or French politicians, among other examples, do step out once in a while to greet people at a pub or brewery and share a pint.

That tends to bring attention to the real problems the people are facing and boast their little businesses.

So, there is nothing wrong really. Yet in the end, this is nothing but public relations stunt and that is where my problem is.

The question that the President’s handlers must ask themselves is: After sending the President and First Lady to Ndirande and, in the course, inconveniencing Malawians who were unfortunate to be on theclosed roads that time to pave way for his motorcade, are they also guiding him to address fundamental issues that have made Malawians angry for the past four years? If they are, is it going deep enough or it is falling within the same ambit of public relations stunts?

Mutharika and the First Lady have been in Blantyre or Southern Region for the past two months as he came in December and obviously, the idea was to shore up what the DPP strategists consider the party’s base so that it stays loyal.

The question that the strategists must, again, answer themselves is whether this has been achieved and how. Were the residents of Blantyre, for example, impressed with the constant police blockages of the roads to give way to the presidential motorcade, even at peak hours, when the President was in their city? What about the constant laying of stones for projects which are still unborn?

Politics is about impressions and perceptions of voters but it is insulting them to imagine that they can be impressed with the number of foundations stones you put up when they know that there are projects such as Mombera University in Mzimba, whose foundation stone was laid long time ago but remains the only visible structure at the site.

If the President wants to regain the trust of Malawians to give him a fresh broad mandate like they did to his brother Bingu in 2009, then he must deal with the fundamental issues that are worrying to Malawians.

He must deal with the economy, for example, and put necessary infrastructure to make sure that all Malawians participate in meaningful activities that would spur real growth and not the imaginary one he and Goodall Gondwe want us to believe in.

The President must take bold steps to help local farmers benefit from their sweat, which is not the case at the moment when they are being exploited by marauding big companies that roam the rural areas during harvest time, taking their produce almost for free and exporting it abroad where they stash their proceeds, without government collecting any meaningful tax.

He must, then, institute tangible far reaching reforms in agriculture, health, education, energy, among other sectors, that will make a real difference and move this place called Malawi forward.

If Mutharika wants to be believed that he deserves a second term, he must deal with corruption just as he promised Malawians before the 2014 elections, without shielding anybody, whether he or she is a close friend or family member.

If the President wants a second go at presidency, he must start making Malawians, from Nsanje to Chitipa or Nkhotakota to Mchinji, to feel that they all belong to this country by stopping the monopoly by only one tribe or region, as is the case at the moment.

This practice is called nepotism or tribalism and it has no place in the modern day

Malawi.

These, among others, are the fundamental issues that will make voters think twice about the DPP and the President, and not the PR stunts he is engaging himself in so far.

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