Tales of time: Beneath the joke


South African president Jacob Zuma lost a few Malawian friends the other day when he made reference to the pathetic roads we have down here. Many people took Zuma’s statement as an insult to Malawi and some even went as far as demanding an apology from Pretoria. What, however, we should have done is to read what Zuma exactly meant and use that statement as free advice to us. There is a lot in statements that most of us fail to read.

On Saturday, President Peter Mutharika made a statement which, I believe, most Malawians have interpreted differently. At the height of his speech, Mutharika told the nation that “ine ndilibe problem” meaning he has no problem or he is not worried because he has all he wants. ‘Nilibe Problem’, to those who do not know, is a popular Zambian song that is being played mostly in beer halls and many other places where idlers while the hours away.

Obviously, Peter made that statement to tantalise his hangers on who were chanting his praises during the opening of the Masauko Chipembere Highway stretch. Probably, Peter was just trying to throw a joke and we must not be too hard on him. Of course, I must confess that I have always found Peter’s attempted jokes drab, mirthless and empty. But if Peter had the tact of a fine leader, he should have known that this is not the best of times for a Head of State to be bragging about how things are going well for him.


It is an insult to the bruised souls of Malawians and a sign of executive immodesty for Peter to talk about how he and his cabal are enjoying a good life without problems yet, out there, people are being forced to keep vigils at the dehumanising Admarc markets waiting for maize that is not easily found.

The kwacha is still on that frightening free fall, commodity prices are skyrocketing by each passing minute while our hospitals do not have proper things that make them hospitals. In summary, everything is in a mess and Malawians are rehearsing life in hell and for that it is shocking that the President seems to live in his own fantastic world of wealth.

It seems Peter is too busy mastering street lingo and songs other than working for Malawi’s good because, the other day, he told the opposition to go hang because he and his blue boys and girls “tikumwa tea wamkaka”(having the best of times). Clearly, Peter thinks all that is there is for him to please those close to him and, as long as those are happy, then he has no problem.


One thing that is regrettable is that we always seem to have, one after the other, leaders that are too preoccupied with reminding everything about their being leaders other than doing what the leaders were elected for. When Joyce Banda was president two years ago, she wasted her two years in office bragging about how she found herself in power and then, made sure that at every opportunity she mocked the DPP which was then out of power. Peter too and ironically, a whole professor with genuine academic credentials to boot, is busy making shallow statements that ought to be made by some uncouth cadets that have nothing better to do other than painting themselves.

If Peter really believes he has no problems when even a toddler can notice that we are a country enduring a bad patch, then we have a leadership crisis that needs corrections. Of course, somehow, Peter is indeed a “no problem” leader because he has always refused to see problems even when he was a minister regardless of how glaring and enormous the problems were.

Peter should stop being another cheap leader who lacks the skill of choosing how to address a starving nation. Words have the power to hurt and from them wars have started and countries crumbled. Good leaders sieve their words and they just don’t say whatever come to their mind. And words can be interpreted in so many ways. And Peter’s I-have-no-problem statement has been interpreted differently.

If you asked me, Mutharika knew what he was saying and meant just that. And I am not surprised. Peter is having some happy time. He does not pay bills, everything is paid for him, he has the luxury of having a 30-car-long motorcade of fuel guzzlers, he can hope into a plane any time it suits his fancy and all the pleasures that come with the presidency. So, indeed, he has no problem. But you and I have.

Perhaps we should also start thinking that Peter was just telling us that he does not care about our problems because he has none. And I would not be shocked because we all know that he is leading a party of sadists that always seem to take pleasure at our suffering each time they are in government. I think that is what is beneath the joke.

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