The President of Malawi–any president of Malawi, irrespective of party affiliation—needs to fly on his or her own jet. Seriously, people, should this even be a matter for debate? Listen, if Madonna, a mere entertainer, can fly on a private jet into Malawi, the President of Malawi, our country’s First Citizen, should be able to fly into London on a private jet.
Now. I know that times are hard. Maybe, we can no longer afford that Dstv package we used to get, maybe we have cut down on groceries, I know. (Oh, that horrible US dollar!) I feel our collective pain. Of course, there is also the politics—that issue about a so-called controversial election—tends to cloud our reason. Look, it is not surprising to me that people need something or someone to blame. This is, after all, politics in tough economic times.
But in a nod to the Biblical prophet Isaiah. “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV). Let us set aside our economic and political grievances and think, for just a second. Exactly, how is it that the President of Malawi—any president of Malawi, irrespective of party affiliation—is supposed to travel? A ship perhaps or maybe a train for regional travel? Look, if I sound like I am repeating myself, well it is because I am. And you know why I am repeating myself, it’s because I cannot understand why we have taken an issue that should be a matter of national interest and politicised it, or is that personalised it. People seem to be more emotional than rational.
This issue of the jet should not be about who is in government, or even the tough economic times. It should be about how we as a country seek to project ourselves. It should be about our national pride and prestige. We need to take care of our presidents and how they travel because they represent us on the global stage. Do we really want our President to be crammed with the hoi polloi on a commercial flight and wait from two to a dozen hours to connect?
And, no, first class will not cut it! The last time I checked the wait time for a connecting flight is no respecter of first—class passengers. Commercial is commercial, and is not befitting of a president. For my money, the initial mistake was not that we bought a jet, but that we sold the jet after we bought it. Ostensibly, it was to save money. Remind me again what happened to the money we got from the sold jet. Right, exactly! And after we sold that jet, well, the former President travelled on chartered planes. So what was the point? It was just another example of feel-good policies that take us nowhere.
We need to agree, collectively, that the current president and all other presidents that are to come will have to travel abroad from time to time. That is without question. Now, do we really want to be the only country whose president has to be stuck at some airport for hours, waiting for his or her connection? Let us remember that the person who holds the office of president of Malawi is not only the head of government, but also the head of state.
The person who holds that high office is more than the chief executive of the country. He or she is a figure head-a symbol, an emblem even. It is not about the person, it is about the office. The president of Malawi is not the prime minister of some island nation with a population of less than 100 000 people, all of whom happen to be related. We are more than that. We are a proper country with proper borders. We have a rich history of political significance in our neck of the woods.
Come on, people, our first president Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, once consolidated in power, never flew commercial. He would charter an Air Malawi plane for travel within the region and planes from elsewhere when he travelled overseas. His successors need a jet.