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What a joke from State House

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The usual annual African Union (AU) Addis Ababa razzmatazz when African leaders gather in Ethiopia to discuss everything and do nothing about it —and later celebrate it with sumptuous lunches and dinners of exotic foods such as Caviar, followed by constant clicking of Champagne glasses to wash it all down— took place this week.

The toast of this year’s 29th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit was Robert Gabriel Mugabe of Zimbabwe who, for once, refrained from his usual pastime in such meetings, which is to enjoy his peaceful sleep. Instead, he charmed AU with a $1 million donation courtesy of the 300 heads of cattle he claims were from his people.

While this drama was unfolding in Addis Ababa, we, here in Malawi, were served with another bout of jokes from the State House to the effect that our President Peter Mutharika and the First Lady had missed the annual jamboree at the AU headquarters because they wanted to preserve money in the national kitty.

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As usual the idea from the State House strategists is to impress Malawians that they have a president who thinks about them and cares less about the annual gathering in Addis Ababa.

But this is what it is— a joke because memories are still fresh of the President travelling to London just to deliver a lecture to an empty hall that was occupied more by members of his entourage than anybody from Oxford University.

If the President is in the mood to save money, why did he undertake a senseless trip to England in Europe and then claim today that he is saving taxpayers’ money by refraining from travelling to Addis Ababa which has a daily scheduled flight and is only three hours away?

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Memories are also still fresh of once upon a time when he travelled to Addis Ababa on a chartered flight to collect a worthless piece of paper called honorary degree on lies that he has changed our fortunes on water shortage and electricity when the opposite is true.

He should not have gone to London to address an empty hall like he has done not to travel to Addis Ababa.

Malawians demand consistency.

Otherwise we know our reality and it is that in the Peter Mutharika administration, we do not have a government that can cut costs by reigning on expenditure and then using the same towards social services that are pathetically in a sorry state like they have never been before.

In case anybody thinks I am exaggerating, they should take a random trip to our central hospitals or district hospitals where they will see real human suffering of a mass of people groaning in pain but lumped together on the floor in wards with pathetic low levels of care because there is no equipment and drugs.

They can go to rural areas and see children of poor people learning under trees. They can travel by the roads to rural areas and witness how bad the situation is. It is just an impossible situation.

Contrast all this with how the Peter Mutharika administration refuses to live the frugality gospel they preach to anybody who cares to listen by going on an orgy of careless expenditure of taxes while refusing to be accountable.

This week, in the run up to the Independence Day celebrations, we all saw how Trade and Industry Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha shamelessly refused to reveal how much of our tax they were willing to blow to celebrate general failure, poverty, deprivation and mediocrity 53 years after the British left for good.

All Mwanamvekha said was it was modest and that part of it was underwritten by unnamed private sector donors.

There are so many questions here. What is the figure when the celebrations were about prayers and football? Why was it being hidden? Who are these donors and again why are they being hidden? There is no such thing as free lunch. What are these donors looking for in return? Is it contracts?

At the end of the day Mwanamvekha was peddling one hell of a fat blue lie like the one his brother-in-arms at Foreign Affairs, Francis Kasaila, peddled last year when he said Malawians would be told how much government spent on Mutharika’s trip to New York to be at the United Nations General Assembly.

When Kasaila came back he said nothing but arrogantly spit into the face of those of us who reminded him of his promise.

Malawians should just limit their expectations of this President and his government.

It preaches frugality when the opposite is true thereby cracking jokes with Malawians.

But our lives are not a joking matter.

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