No one can doubt the damage that the Zambia maize procurement deal may have inflicted on the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), making the issue of competent and clean leadership a pressing need, especially after President Peter Mutharika sacked Agriculture minister George Chaponda for his alleged involvement.
Given the growing perception by many Malawians that the Mutharika administration is a bunch of thieves, it’s not surprising that some people within the party want the DPP to distance itself from the infamous maize deal.
They do realise that no party is likely to be at its best when one of its top officials is in court answering graft charges because the risks are huge.
So it is understandable that some of the senior people in the party are pressing the President to sack Chaponda as the party’s vice president for the Southern Region.
The growing pressure to have him fired and arguments put forward by party loyalists are, perhaps, the ultimate indictment of Mutharika. It is up to him to show that he listens to the voices of others.
Many believe maintaining Chaponda on the position is a silent endorsement of suspected corruption and impunity by the ruling party. We do agree that the President needs to understand that it is awkward for him to have someone suspected of corruption deputising him.
But Mutharika’s shortcomings cannot shock anyone, after he has become synonymous with perpetual failure to solve crisis, after crisis.
Since his election as the President of Malawi in 2014, he has failed to act when the country has wanted him to do so. We now know him as someone who sleeps on the job, waiting for things to get worse before acting.
For instance, his delays to lift the maize export ban last month cost this country billions in revenue.
A report from an International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) last month estimated that the country lost export revenue between K25 billion and K69 billion (approximately $34 to $95 million) from the export ban in the 2016/17 agricultural season.
His delayed decision to declare a national disaster to help stem the fall army worm invasion is another case in point. He waited until 20 districts were affected, effectively destroying thousands of crop fields before he announced the disaster.
So, with such indecisive leadership, we really see Mutharika not acting to help clean the image of the party. This may only happen if the issue goes to the party’s politburo and members start shouting louder.
But then, again, Mutharika’s legal mind maybe at work. He may want to wait until the courts conclude the case. He may be right this time.
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