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The minister should have done better

Although Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) spokesperson, Francis Kasaila, has cheekily dismissed it as idlers’ chatter, we feel civil society organisations have a strong point in condemning Minister of Gender, Jean Kalilani, for wearing DPP attire at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

Despite that she is a senior member of the DPP, Kalilani’s presence at the UNGA is because she is a Cabinet minister who is supposed to represent the country. But strangely—and perhaps to impress upon President Peter Mutharika about her loyalty to the party— Kalilani chose to do the awkward by appearing in party regalia.

Trivial as it might sound, the decision by Kalilani to dress in party colours at such a meeting tells you a lot about the kind of leaders we have. Of all people, an educated politician like Kalilani should have known the difference between the UNGA and some political rally in Nansadi, Bwengu, Kabudula or Chinakanaka. It even sends shocking to hear Kasaila, another educated and exposed Cabinet minister, defending his colleague’s queer choice of attire.

If at all Kalilani is not a fan of formal attire and wanted to look more traditional then it could have been best, as one activist has argued, for her to wear something that advertises our tourism industry or culture.

We appreciate that Kalilani has a right to dress in a manner she wishes. But, by virtue of being a public servant, there are trade-offs when you have to do things for the nation not oneself. At the end of the day, it is the name of Malawi that will be known for all the bad reasons.

At the centre of Kalilani’s choice of clothes is that congenital disease of this country where people fail to differentiate between government from party functions. If a minister feels it is right to dress in party clothes at the UNGA and another minister defends the move religiously, then we must know we have a problem.

Our take is that, even though we know that discussing Kalilani’s dressing will neither change the economic fortunes of this country nor will it bring us better roads, good schools, functioning hospitals and what have you but, still, the minister should have dressed like one on national duty. After all not every Malawian is, or is represented by, DPP.

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