Failure of the presidency: A case of PP administration in Malawi

If many of us were asked what constitutes a good President, we will surely give varied answers, as to who a good or successful leader is. To others, a good president is one who goes about attending funeral ceremonies of his subjects, although the practicability of such without being accused of favouritism may not be ascertained. Others will confess to have a good President if he/she goes about splashing bank notes to his subjects, claiming to assist the poor, how that reaches out to all those who look up to the administration, and the consequent dependency syndrome, is a discussion for another day.

Others will attest to the fact that, a good President is one who goes about distributing flour, one who distributes cows, one who personally ferries maize from one rally to another in an attempt to prove generosity, as for how many people can be reached out in this pomp characterized generosity is again a discussion for another day.

It therefore remains debatable as to what are the qualities of a good leader. While it remains debatable, but there have been recurrent responses with respect to a successful or good President.

President Banda

Before a further digression is made, the author wishes to submit this adaptation from scholastic junior that “anybody can become President, but, not everybody is cut out to be President. It takes a special kind of person, someone tough, smart, and driven, just to run for the job. It takes still more talent and character to hold up under the pressures of life in the state house, above all to remain relevant, decisive and responsive to the needs of society at large”.

One would therefore summarize, a good leader as one who is decisive, smart, strong, proactive, visionary, manager, one who initiates national programmes as opposed to petty projects, among others. In view of this and other recurrent responses, the author submits that the current presidency has displayed all characteristics of a failed leadership and this is why:-

Faced with the cashgate scandal, the Presidency did not know what to do and make out of it. It was swept off balance and this can be confirmed by the good for nothing confrontational approach that it took at the press conference upon return from the United States. The presidency was all over the place, and couldn’t make sense, except of-course to the PP zealots, who encouraged the goofing by applauding the incoherent statements.

To refresh the readers, statements were made to the effect that there is nothing wrong in benefiting from the loot as long as one didn’t participate in the actual looting itself; statements were made to the effect that the Presidency isn’t damn, (whatever this meant); statements were also made to the effect that the Presidency has been swimming in monies since the age not sure 21 or 22? These statements, for lack of better description displayed gross incompetence and indecisiveness in dealing with the cashgate scandal once and for all, unfortunately it cost the country budgetary support. What the Presidency didn’t know was that many Malawians including the development partners were eager to hear outright condemnation of the act of looting and plunder of resources at Capital Hill; proclamation of concrete measures by the Presidency in the governments’ commitment in dealing with the issue among others.

But alas, the Presidency missed the opportunity as it was excited to deflate the likes of Pilirani Phiri and the rest of the journalists, much to the delight of party cohorts but to the disappointment of the majority of Malawians and our development partners. If you ask me, why the donors have withheld budgetary support, well my answer is simple and that’s, “the donors did not withhold budgetary support because resources were plundered at Capital Hill, but did so because they were not convinced that the PP administration will seriously address the issue. By extension it’s a vote of no confidence to the administration and by extension, the Presidency!”.

Failure to own up to its blunders. The Presidency has never owned up to its mess, rather it has always blamed its predecessors for its mistakes. This alone is a clear manifestation of a failed leadership, one that thinks can get credit for every positive developments including those of the predecessors (remember the Chitipa-Karonga Road), but push the blame to others for every negative development, including its own mess, as evidently exposed in the cashgate scandal, where the presidency emphasized on what happened in the past, probably to justify the looting and plundering of the public resources.

The Presidency is so incensed with petty as opposed to coming up with national programmes that respond to the government development blue prints such as the Vision 2020 and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy. The Presidency continues to behave as if it is heading an NGO, conveniently forgetting that it is now leading a nation. Instead of investing into programmes that have a national face, such as extensive irrigation programmes, Nsanje World Inland Port, education infrastructure including opening the Malawi University of Science and Technology, prioritizing health, the Presidency instead sees sense in physically distributing flour, distributing cows, building a house for one old woman, elevating chiefs, building a guardian shelter, among others. The presidency fails to appreciate programmes as opposed to disjointed activities that are not only insignificant, but also create parallel structures resulting in difficulties in management and even sustenance over time.

The Lake Malawi wrangle has just punched holes and removed any doubts of a failed leadership, as the Presidency continues to display indecisiveness as shown by the continued change of goal posts on the issue. One day you are told of negotiations; the other day pulling out of the negotiations; yet the other day the mediators are given up to September to resolve the issue……and now nobody knows the status of the whole thing, which is a clear manifestation of bankruptcy in leadership.

The Presidency is so detached from the majority of Malawians as such the office is no-longer responsive to society needs and is becoming irrelevant each passing day. The Presidency’s recent outbursts that it will not cut travels despite the measures instituted by the Minister of Finance, confirms the offices’ insensitivity to the suffering of Malawians.

Surely the Presidency does not need to be reminded that Malawians are needlessly dying in the hospitals due to lack of drugs; that there are no maize supplies in Admarc depots throughout the country; that social services have completely broken down, among other ills.

It is therefore the failure of the Presidency to suggest that civil servants, their families and the rest of Malawians should bear the brunt of the measures instituted by government, while the presidency continues to plunder and abuse the resources, in pretence of appreciating the problems Malawians are facing. By suspending both internal and local travel by civil servants while the Presidency maintains its extravagance, isn’t that pushing the patients of the civil servants and Malawians to the limit? Or is the Presidency acting on precedence that Malawians tolerated the suffering that followed the massive devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha?

By the way what became of the “I have a dream” speech in which the Presidency saw a reformed Malawi Broad Casting Corporation that was never used as a propaganda machinery of the ruling party; government contracts being transparently awarded to all deserving Malawians irrespective of party affiliation; among others. How about the ‘Holy Spirit’ that was felt during the first Cabinet meeting?

While I submit that the reasons that make one a good or bad leader are debatable, I also submit that one cannot be a good president by becoming a relief officer (that distributes flour), a livestock development officer, a social welfare officer, a district commissioner, a housing officer among others…. Surely there are officials who are employed and paid to handle such business!

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