Peter Mutharika’s UN mess
As allegations and conjectures, truths and half-truths continue to swirl around President Peter Mutharika’s trip to New York where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly, political analysts have bashed the government for failing to handle the matter in an honest and transparent way.
Worse still, says one analyst, government has rubbed salt on the wound by asking Malawians to concentrate on other things such as progress on cashgate cases instead of dwelling on the implications of the president’s UN trip.
Mutharika left the country last week with an alleged contingent of over 100 delegates.
It is feared that this could bleed the country anything between K300 million and K500 million of taxpayers’ money.
Since the revelations emerged, government has been in a defensive mode, arguing that some of the delegates to New York have been sponsored by other organisations such as those in the UN family.
But such explanations have not stopped the matter being subject of heated discussion and anger by the public who feel let down by the government at the time the country is reeling in economic hardships.
Chancellor College analyst Boniface Dulani has said the lingering controversy on the matter is of government’s own making.
“Government has not been honest and transparent enough on this matter. They have been spinning truths and half-truths. In the end, there is a vacuum and the public is looking for what to fill that space with. That is not doing any good to the government because it has allowed the public to look for the truth themselves,” he said.
Dulani said at the heart of this saga is that this is happening at the time Malawi is struggling in almost all social and economic fronts.
“Remember the President left just hours after addressing the nation on the dire food situation in the country during which he also asked for assistance from local and international community. So he has given the nation two contrasting messages, hence the endless controversy,” Dulani.
Dulani also questioned the claim by the government that some of the delegates had been sponsored by UN organisations.
“I find it hard to believe that line of argument. I don’t understand how the UN could commit itself to sponsor some people who are travelling on a holiday in the US.
“UN is a membership organisation. That means it also relies on contributions of member states. I don’t think it would have the capacity to be sponsoring people anyhow out of the contributions of its members,” he said.
Another analyst from the same college, Blessings Chinsinga has described the development as a hallmark of politics of patronage.
“That is not strange. It is a way of rewarding political supporters. It is a hallmark of politics of patronage. You take on board people who will have nothing to do at the Assembly and at the end they get allowances,” he said.
“Political logic is different from rational logic. Rational logic will tell you there are problems in the country that need you to be as prudent as possible, while political logic will tell you to do whatever you can to get more supporters.”
The social media and other online platforms are awash with reports that among the delegates that have travelled with Mutharika are members of the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) whose roles on the trip are not clear.
But Minister of Information Jappie Mhango has, however, insisted that there is confusion in the understanding of the whole issue.
He said people are not differentiating between presidential delegation and overall Malawi delegation.
“The people that government has paid for are those under presidential delegation. There are some people who have gone there using their own resources or after sourcing their own sponsorships. The presidential delegation has only 18 people. I cannot speak on behalf of the people who have gone there using their own means, but are still recognised as members of the Malawi delegation,” Mhango said.
“We have only spent money on the presidential delegation. It is very clear. People want just to distort facts deliberately,” Mhango said.
He was, however, not ready to give exact amounts government has spent on the 18 people said to be sponsored by government.
“At the moment I don’t have the figures. But there is no way government can spend the amounts being mentioned on presidential delegation,” Mhango said.
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