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Mr President, listen to this very carefully

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Who said the public service is un-reformable?

Who said there are no leaders in Malawi courageous enough to tackle the core cause of the stagnation of the nation?

Well there are!

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I enjoyed enormously reading the editorials in our celebrated dailies about the reforms that President Mutharika approved in September:

The Nation noted, rather cautiously, ‘it is not smooth yet but the president seems to be on course to meeting his campaign promise of doing business unusual by reforming the public service. The reforms are now a national conversational currency and a miracle in the making’.

Indeed Mr President you have demonstrated great courage, putting your neck on the political chop board to save Malawi from embarrassing mediocrity.

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Mr President as I have said many times the attraction of your government is in ‘being different’ from all mediocre ones. This is the trademark and it is a unique trademark worth protecting. This is honest advice!

Take courage from the Biblical Esther who delivered the Jews. To me -and I think many Malawians too – the delivery of Malawians has come and Mr President be assured that you are here for such times as these. Do not let such delivery come from elsewhere and obliterate your own special legacy.

Yes, this is a ‘miracle in the making’ because it is the first time Malawians can see changes that were talked about and then thwarted; changes that should have come in 1994 to create a post- dictatorship society. Things only became loose.

You see, Mr President, leadership must entail taking people down tracks which some may not understand or want to go down but which the leader is convinced are the right tracks. Leadership is to sometimes take the risk of falling into unpopularity because of conviction.

Yet Mr President Malawians are willing to go down the tracks of institutional and moral renewal. The narrative is one of ‘cautious optimism’ not because the developments are in question. No Sir. The narrative is tempered by caution because Malawians don’t believe good things are actually happening.

Mr President if you do ask me why Malawi is not developing – development experts are bamboozled- I would say it’s the combined curse of a wicked political leadership and a grossly opportunistic civil service. This is the bottom line.

You see bwana; no country ever develops without focused political leadership and efficient public service. You are creating both right now and it’s not time to relent. It’s not time to feel guilty either because the nation is on your side.

I agree unreservedly with the free speaking US Ambassador Virginia Palmer that resistors should be summarily fired and I dare say ‘discharged dishonourably’. Mr President, such is the depth of Malawi’s quagmire that resisting or manoeuvring to fail the reforms is criminality that you should meet with resolute presidential force.

Whatever else you do Mr President is predicated upon positive thinking about our nation; it depends upon the adoption of the right values. This is the message Mr President: you have two types of people to fear – politicians who have mastered the trade of destroying those who represent good and civil servants who serve dark external forces.

That said let me quickly comment on the reforms you have approved:

De-politicisation of the public service and non-interference are great virtues of any truly pluralistic society. Your Vice said recently that civil servants can belong to parties; what is objectionable is tainting decision making with partisan platitudes.

And I suggest specific guidelines be drawn to mercilessly curtail such behaviour.

Thanks Mr President for re-organising the much abused parastatals, not only in safeguarding their autonomy but in encouraging private sector type business culture. Your government must now develop the best mechanisms for curtailing interference by the political machinery – in or outside government – as well as the civil service.

Autonomy Mr President must mean stopping seemingly harmless tendencies of using parastatals’ assets for political functions or seeking preferential consideration in matters of procurement. This is grossly counterproductive for a leadership that seeks to be different.

Yes autonomy, but how about the quality of staffing and organizational leadership? It’s one thing to incentivise and loosen the parasitic grip on these organizations it is another to staff them with quality experts without bloating them.

You might not know Mr President but there was a time when Admarc collapsed under the weight of numbers; and a time when PVHO was a mass rally which reduced it to an ugly graveyard of dead plant and vehicles!

That a radical decision has been made to remove JC examinations is a great development. It is true that Junior Certificate has had no real value in terms both of direct employment and access to training. But this is as much a reflection of the systems’ failure to link this level of educational attainment with skills development opportunities as of how ‘simplistic’ Junior Certificate has been all along.

However Mr President there must be an ‘assessment bridge’ after two years secondary education that will drive pupils to study diligently or without robust mid-point assessment in the four years we could have inadvertently created lacklustre culture that will exacerbate mass failure. This is my warning.

Of course we can develop strong school based continuous assessment systems but these require special expertise and systems in addition to being wide open to abuse and corruption. And to do this well, Maneb would have to be called right back.

About the introduction of a regulator for Water Boards Daily Times suggested it has come late. Again Mr President this only indicates that Malawians have always been aware what should happen, but lacked the leadership to spearhead the change. Yet work remains in these Boards to check corrupt tendencies and delayed action in times of crisis.

Mr President, be of good cheer: Malawians see the logic of the reforms. We expected them some 20 years ago.

Till then, good luck Mr President.

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