Every year scores of heads of state from around the world descend on New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations. Each of these heads of state claims he or she has a special message for the world during their respective addresses in the chamber.
Yet after hundreds of these speeches, only 3 speeches (US President, Russian President and Robert Mugabe) eventually get to be reported in the world media. The rest do not get mentioned at all except by their local press. This raises the question: why don’t these heads of state just stay at home and make speeches to their respective local press?
Yes, I do understand that the gathering of world leaders and diplomats creates an opportunity for meetings among the leaders. I do understand that leaders can take this opportunity to talk to investors. However, I doubt that with modern communication in this era of social media, travelling to New York is the only way to achieve these results.
Even if it is imperative for the president to go to these meetings, it is just hard to justify a presidential delegation of nearly 100 people at a time when Malawi is battling with the fallout from cashgate. What is it that these 100 people do in New York that cannot be done by a delegation of 10?
This government has done quite a few things right: the cabinet size has been reduced to 20; the civil service is being reformed; and a credible competent Anti Corruption Bureau chief was appointed, and cashgate prosecutions are in progress. While there is still much more to do, these are substantial achievements. Yet all these achievements will be obscured if the government continues with these inexcusable unforced errors.
Allegations of bloated delegations and bloated allowances on these UN trips are becoming a constant feature of this government. These allegations are distracting from government agenda and painting the government in an unfavourable light. In fact to be fair to the critics, the leadership has not taken serious steps to address this issue. It does not make sense for the president to cancel a trip to a SADC summit because of money, and yet proceeds to take a 100-man delegation to the UNGA.
2019 is just around the corner. The tragedy suffered by PP in 2014 should also be a warning to DPP in 2019. Political experts often say that once the electorate of a young democracy realizes that they can kick out an incumbent president, the likelihood that future incumbents will not be re-elected is usually high. DPP would be wise to take this advice.
A picture is worthy a thousand words. Perception is everything. The picture being painted by these UN trips is terrible. Perhaps, it is time for the president to stop going to the UN.