If I were given a chance to define the word ‘promise’, I would definitely say it is a self-inflicted wound.
I am talking about promises made voluntarily to others and not those one makes under duress.
Now, the moment one voluntarily promises something, the spot where one is standing becomes bare stage-cum-big spotlight.
More so because, at every turn, one finds himself overwhelmed by the weight of the promise made.
The need to make good of a promise becomes urgent the day of fulfilling that promise, or promises, comes.
Tacticians take the opportunity to make people anxious by, for example, needlessly looking up at people in, say, balconies.
But that is just fair.
The boring type of people are those that, on the day or night of fulfilling the promise, needlessly clear their throat and, as those to whom the promise was made lean forward in anticipation for some good news, the individual who promised finally pretends to have forgotten something in a car or in the house and suddenly runs back.
But, then, at least the individual made an appearance and just happened to have forgotten something somewhere. Sooner or later, they will be back.
Well, there was nothing like a brief appearance from President Lazarus Chakwera on January 31 2023, despite that he had promised Malawians, in his New Year address, that he would appoint a “leaner” Cabinet before the citizenry could kiss goodbye to January.
But, unlike the pompous— read strategic— type that needlessly clears the throat for no apparent reason other than to make people know that they [the throat-clearer) are still around, President Chakwera did not even pretend to cough— say, through State broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation or other media— to assure Malawians that he was on course to delivering on his promise.
Of course, a Cabinet list is released by the Office of the President and Cabinet.
Granted. But, then, the Office of the President and Cabinet merely serves as a transmission belt— translating the wish of the President into action. As such, everything falls and rises on the President.
In this vein, it is the President who chose to keep quiet at a key moment, leaving the nation guessing.
If it were a strategy, it backfired big time.
I mean, it is not wrong to keep quiet; just know when to.
As Mónica Brito Vieira indicates, in Silence in Political Theory and Practice book, “For even where silence is not complicity, it lends itself to being interpreted as such…”
There we go. Some forms of silence border on complicity.
And, as happens in life, where opposites are true, some forms of silence translate into detachment.
After the events of January 31 2023, I would go for detachment, as regards the President’s failure to release names of Cabinet ministers in time.
This is unlike the Chakwera who was time-conscious on the campaign trail.
Maybe what authors Daniel Enemark, Clark C. Gibson, Mathew D. McCubbins, and Brigitte Seim say, in the book Effect of Holding Office on the Behaviour of Politicians, holds true.
What do they say? “Does being elected to political office change an individual’s behaviour? Some scholars and policymakers assert that elected officials are inherently different from nonpoliticians, whereas others argue that political institutions or the culture of politics inculcate certain behaviours…”
Maybe the President has changed.
I mean, what pleasure would one get by keeping people waiting? What purpose does it serve to miss one’s own deadline?
Now the Office of the President and Cabinet has egg all over its face.
It must be trying hard to make the citizenry believe that the President did not miss the deadline he, himself, had set— of his own volition for that matter.
Now, if this is the way we will be conducting national business, we will become the laughing stock of the world. No one will take us seriously and it will not end well.
In the end, what Chakwera did, making a promise he had no intention to fulfill, is akin to shooting oneself in the foot.
The problem with self-inflicted wounds is that one suffers alone.