It appears the Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) administration’s self-made calamities will continue to happen, at least for the foreseeable future. President Peter Mutharika and his vice, Saulos Chilima have just announced that they have suspended an increment of 80 percent to their salaries.
The announcement by the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to that effect follows a media expose of the ‘secret’.
By suspending the hike, President Mutharika and his vice have behaved like they have been ambushed by a decision that came from without and made without their consent or knowledge. They are behaving like they have all along lived their rhetoric of “not effecting any salary hike until the economy gets better or recovers”.
But hold on a minute. What does it take for a President or minister’s salary to be raised? Can the Secretary to the President and Cabinet, George Mkondiwa just wake up one Sunday morning and announce a presidential salary hike? Is it the decision of one man, or a collective responsibility of a group of individuals?
Presidential salary hikes are generated at cabinet meetings, chaired by no other person than the President himself. At this level, issues are exhaustively debated or ought to be debated before any conclusion is made. The process continues with Parliament also getting involved for consideration.
President Mutharika must therefore have chaired a meeting that debated and finally approved the 80 percent salary hike for himself and his ministers. He must also have been part of the process that led to a 367 percent salary for Members of Parliament (MPs).
One would want to know the reasons behind Mutharika’s decision to approve his own salary hike and that of his Vice President and later turning around to appear like the decision has been thrust upon him. Is this about politics?
If the President were not interested in raising his own salary based on what Malawians are currently going through, he would have nipped those suggestions in the bud at a cabinet meeting, which he chaired. This is just another blank presentation from this government. It is a smokescreen by President Mutharika to appear like he is a caring president.
It is clear that the President has decided to play poker with Malawians yet again as the economy continues to drift south.
In the midst of a public outcry over decaying public service delivery and a declining economy, it seems President Mutharika has resorted to propaganda to win cheap public sympathy. This is cheap politics by the DPP administration and at best taking Malawians for fools.
It is sad to note that barely six months into what President Mutharika thought would be a smooth ride, his administration has been hobbled down by self-made gridlock, which is threatening to shut his administration down.
His attempt to use the cashgate saga to deflect attention from his failure to turn around the economy and to victimize political opponents has come across as feeble and hopelessly wanting.
It is clearer now donors, who have zipped their financial purses, have not fallen for the cashgate fad as is currently propagated. Donors want MK92 billion of public funds that mysteriously disappeared under the DPP and the late President Bingu wa Mutharika investigated for donor budgetary support to return. In fact, Germany has made available funds to facilitate a forensic audit into that financial scandal.
The forensic audit carried out by Baker Tilly into the ‘recent’ cashgate is rapidly receding. Alleged culprits were identified and named, and cases are currently running in courts. What is on the table for donors is the MK92 billion that was stolen under the watch of late President, Bingu wa Mutharika, Peter Mutharika’s brother.
If the DPP government thinks it can hoodwink donors on the pretext that it is adequately dealing with cashgate, it better start thinking again and think hard about the MK92 billion.
Making a decision, and then turning around to rebuke your own decision, Mr. President, does not begin to remove the blip that was caused by the MK92 billion financial scam. It does not vanquish the fact that this country is simmering and will soon erupt into a cacophony of economic and governance anarchy.
Grabbing the bull by the horn is the only way of beginning to deal with these problems than continuously nibbling on the wrong end of things. Always?
Finally, one Goodall Gondwe tells the whole world it is the former President Joyce Banda who “proposed” the salary increments. The Finance Minister, revered as he is, must be the biggest joker in the current political, social and economic melodrama.
It is clearly on record that President Peter Mutharika has faked declining two salary increments. Does it therefore follow that the former President left two sets of salary increase proposals in her office before she left in May?
It is now over six months since Joyce Banda left. Is it really political and economic prudence to continue using her as a scapegoat for all the commissions and omissions by the DPP regime? Sounds petty, or should we begin to conclude that this panel of ruling octogenarians is becoming more senile?
*Hastings Kandoje is an economic, social and political commentator. He writes in his own rightFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :