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ColumnsHitting The Nail

It’s not nonsense, Mr President

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The uncharacteristic anger that President Peter Mutharika flaunted last week when Malawians called upon him to account for the actions of his government to take a plane-load of hangers-on to New York General Assembly has already received a chorus of rampant condemnation it deserves.

Simply put, Malawians want a President who displays calmness when under pressure and explains matters of concern to them with fatherly demeanor that reflects control and statesmanship.

All these things were amiss on that fateful Thursday at Kamuzu Palace in Blantyre.

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Because the President lost his cool, what Malawians got was a Peter Mutharika they had never seen before: Arrogant, mean, patronising and calling every other concern that Malawians had about the trip to New York utter “nonsense.”

But after the dust has settled and when the President is having a cup of coffee after a hard day’s work, perhaps with the First Lady besides him, can he say in his heart of hearts that Malawians demanding accountability from him can be called nonsense?

What is nonsense? Has the professor of law forgotten the principles of transparency and accountability? Has he pushed aside the right of the governed to demand answers from the elected?

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How has this become nonsense?

The President repeatedly demanded apologies from Malawians during the presser for demanding of him to explain the entourage to New York.

I say it is Malawians who deserve an apology from the President for calling their lawful demand for accountability nonsense.

During the presser, the President made an honest confession that government is dead broke.

But then instead of taking responsibility, he pushed the blame to civil servants for their insatiable appetite for a salary raise.

The truth is neither here nor there. What I find alarming is the fact that the President seems to be blaming everybody except himself.

He says he wants to travel because he needs to in order, in his own words, to help us. He says he needs to hire jets for comfort travel because he can’t spend 10 hours at connecting airports.

In fact, he says this is unbefitting of the Presidency. After all, he says, we must not advertise our poverty in this manner.

The question is: what does the President want Malawians to say? That he is entitled to all the comforts but that only civil servants are responsible for their misery? Is this realistic?

No, Mr President, this can’t be. You said yourself that Malawi is dead broke. This is the message that came with the IMF mission the other day and you summarised it well.

What Malawians expect is that you would be the first to take responsibility and show that you care by cutting your own costs.

Malawians would applaud you if you spent the 10 hours at an airport and tell them your government has used the saved money to buy oxygen concentrators for one of the district hospitals.

I would not mind if the hospital were to be Kasungu District Hospital where my folks are dying like flies because there are no enough supplies as is the case with all other government hospitals due to the fact that your government is broke.

By the way, Mr President, this other workmate of mine asked me to remind you that you don’t have to spend 10 hours at an airport waiting for your next flight as most of them are near good hotels where you can rest.

The point in all this is that the press conference was a disaster. That is why Malawians are still demanding answers. They are still in the dark as regards who funded the huge delegation to New York. No list was given out although the President was waving one to journalists.

All Malawians got was that their concerns and demands to a President they elected were nonsense.

But, I dare say, it was not nonsense.

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