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We are square

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For close to half a century, Libyans cowered and coiled at the sight or voice of Muammar Gaddafi. In Egypt, Hosni Mubarak was, for 30 years, a god and his word was law. Zine Ben Ali, for 23 years, made Tunisians believe he was the almighty to whom every Tunisian owed his existence.

Nobody could ever allow a thought stroll in his mind that these demigods would one day leave office and shamefully so. Until 2011, Ben Ali, Gaddafi and Mubarak survived on oppressive tactics that included muffling all critical voices, issuing threats, arresting perceived dissidents and killing all voices of reason. They had their countries in their hands.

But look at how these monstrous men fell. Ben Ali’s unceremonious fall from grace was ignited by a hitherto unknown street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, who, tired of unemployment and abuse after his merchandise was confiscated immolated himself. Khaled Mohamed Saeed of Egypt was, just like Bouazizi, an unknown guy in Egypt but after he was clobbered to death by some sanguine security agents, people of Egypt thought enough was and decided to do away with the Mubarak iron-fisted regime. Gaddafi’s fall, 42 years after lording over Libya, was sort of a domino effect of the Arab Spring.

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The bigger lesson in all this is that we, somehow, allow ourselves to live in manacles of fear of those governing us yet we are more powerful than those who believe they are. Last week, I was overcome by ambivalent feelings of pride and disappointment. I was proud to learn that a decent section of society believed that I had spoken for them in the entry Dear Peter. It is thrilling to learn that people really have so many things they wish they could tell our servant number one, who happens to be Peter Mutharika, yet they somehow do not have the opportunity to do so. To the flip of it, I was disappointed with how people become afraid on my behalf. How could you say that about the President? You might get killed or arrested. That was the mantra of the week.

Look here, such belief that telling the president or whoever in power the truth is criminal or risky is what has dragged this country to stagnation and left it there. Politicians capitalise on their knowledge that we are too afraid of being killed, arrested or some illusory fate that might befall us for being honest.

In Mchinji, President Peter Mutharika could not hide his aversion to truth and criticism. From all the street words he used in his mad vitriol towards the media and critics, one could tell that this is a president who still believes that threatening people is a solution to all the nation’s problems. Peter said he is disgusted by “blind” criticism. Well, at least some of us were relieved that he finally told us about his state because, you might agree, it is difficult to read from his countenance whether he is disgusted or pleased. It is all the same.

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Well, if Peter wants us to stop this “disgusting” reportage of his doings, then he must first put his act together. It is mad, really, for a leader to expect us to lay palm branches on his path when his government is busy doing everything in reverse. Who would seek glorious titles when he is presiding over a ceremony of hopelessness that has become of Malawi? Unemployment rate for the youth continues to swell, civil servants are still surviving on loan sharks or usury, people are still leaving on a meal a day while there are no notable changes in infrastructure development.

Recently, Mutharika insensitively showed his spendthrift side of life by adding to his bulging fleet of vehicles a K100 million Lexus. Now this is coming at a time when the rest of us are being told to save every morsel of our grain and encouraged to eat tubers and grasshoppers. In all this, again, Peter wants all of us to genuflect each time he passes by. I refuse this celebration of lousiness.

Sounding like some god in Mchinji, Mutharika generously offered his forgiveness to his imaginary critics, who, in his thoughts, have been saying bad things about him. But it is not his forgiveness we want. If there is something that Mutharika has to offer Malawians then it has to be sound leadership, food on the table, a robust health sector, a balanced economy and everything we voted him for.

We have very disgusting problems in this country that have even made us a disgusted people. Our president is very disgusted by people who hold him accountable while on the other hand citizens are disgusted with President Mutharika’s flippant and hopeless leadership. So, sir, as you are disgusted just know that we too are disgusted, so we are square.

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