“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and ask, ‘Where have I gone wrong?’ Then a voice says to me, ‘This is going to take more than one night.’” – Charles M. Schulz
There are millions of people in the warm heart of Africa hearing this voice as they ponder where they went wrong.
You can recognize a lot without breaking a sweat, and if you are honest with yourself, you would be the number one on the list. Both sides of the political divide have examples in abundance.
In this article, with your leave, I will zoom on His Excellency, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, the man of the moment.
Yes, the man whose brilliant ideas, as per the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) manifesto, are now progressively turning out to be not worth the paper they were written on.
For a start, and without further ado, buried somewhere in the DPP manifesto is reference or references to economic stability under the leadership of the professor.
If the run-away Kwacha and interrupted services (in virtually all sectors) are anything to go by, economic stability and Malawi are as far apart as the north and south poles.
When children take to the streets seemingly aware that a certain Kahuna has not being paying their educators; the said teachers being very same lot that added one plus one, somehow got three, and installed the same Kahuna as the powers that be in May 2014; something has definitely gone very wrong.
Again, APM as the professor likes to be called, back in the day when he grudgingly found himself in the opposing side, went to all corners of Malawi, preaching the gospel of security for all and sundry, day and night, 24/7; if he were elected as president.
He was indeed ‘elected’.
Tell me today, five months on, how many people in Malawi can claim to be safe? Even the Vice president, Rt Hon Saulos Chilima and senior ranking minister’s residences are not exempt.
The goons terrorizing Malawi, as the VP and the Minister of Energy Atupele Muluzi can testify, were not paying their homes a social visit. They had evil intentions.
And if this is happening to ‘green trees’, what unreported horrors are visiting ordinary folks like you and me?
Lucky for you and me, APM has solved it.
The other day, he issued a watered-down version of the infamous “shoot to kill” policy; robed of course, in politically correct language.
The order seems to have already started delivering, with one problem. It has come with lethal ‘side-effects’. Where these side effects will lead us to, only APM knows.
What has already become abundantly clear is that soon after APM’s rendition of his late brother’s “shoot to kill” – dressed in legally acceptable but open to interpretation terms; we suddenly have a dead soldier on our hands. A soldier who died from police bullets, a few kilometres from the barracks.
His crime: ‘rogue and vagabond’ or something to that effect.
Since when is the sentence for rogue and vagabond instantaneous death by a bullet? Even barbaric ISIS go through the notions of locking you up, before chopping your head off.
Come to think of it, we should count our blessings that the situation in Zomba did not deteriorate into a free for all “Fergusson-Missouri” type of thing. But, we came dangerously close – thanks to a vague statement of policy.
The question is: where did we go wrong? For sure, finding the answer(s) will take more than one night.
Having talked about the tanking economy, only to find APM’s administration wanting; and after putting security under scrutiny, only to prove beyond reasonable doubt that – under the circumstances – even APM’s house cannot be said to be secure, let us move on to other matters.
Chickens, as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, always come home to roost. You know who is not playing ball now?
Judiciary support staff. Yes, the backbone of the very theatre where this presidency was contrived, are up in arms. And this, is not the first nor will it be the last strike.
With respect to these strikes, what is irritating is that the first thing, and perhaps only ‘intelligent’ thing APM has done in office; was appointing a high powered grouping to look into the Civil Service Commission, headed by none other than the VP.
This takes me to the VP himself. Going back to Charles M. Schulz’ remark, SKC – as the VP is called, must be asking that question too.
‘Where have I gone wrong?’
Then a voice says to him,
“SKC – this is going to take many nights, weeks, months, and for sure, years.”
Fact is: the Civil Service Commission assignment was – and SKC knows this – a rope gifted to him to hang himself. The writing was on the wall from day one. How?
Even before the commission or committee or whatever had finished reading its terms of reference, APM was all over the place, “redeploying” people.
Shouldn’t the “mass redeployments” have awaited recommendations of the commission, assuming that the so called “redeployments” were based on plausible grounds?
And, just when the commission was enjoying its first tea break, as the committee members got to know each other better, Civil Servants went on strike.
To pacify them, and check this: without thinking through all the implications, a 45% increment was awarded and civil servants duly returned to work.
But now, looking at the dripping kitty versus the already bloated government payroll, recently spiced with a new horde of presidential advisors, no-one is surprised that the maths is not adding up.
As a result: (a) teachers have not been paid from May 2014; (b) the awarded increase to the Civil Service – or arrears thereof, are yet to be paid; (c) Mulli, Katopola and Sons Malawi Limited and several associates – owed by the Malawi Government need to be paid; (d) those “redeployed” before their time are demanding their pound of flesh; all the while – donors are not playing ball.
As if all this was not enough, the IMF Extended Credit Facility is off the rails. And as if some elaborate sabotage is unfolding, the revenue collection body, the MRA has joined the conspirators, to miss its monthly target by a whooping MK4billion.
This makes gloomy reading, but the one thing that I cannot be accused of is attempting to depress you.
There is no need for me or anyone to do that. The (a) free falling Kwacha, (b) skyrocketing prices, (c) poor service delivery, (d) return of “zigubu” economics, (e) onset of “Madzi alipati” Facebook groups – a marked improvement from the “Fuel alipati” Groups, and (f) marauding criminals; are all conspiring to make a good job of depressing everyone, except “….those that are eating”.
What I want to do, with your input after due contemplation, is to take stock and use our sober conclusion to put to rest any illusions on the part of APM and his flock, that they are doing the job they begged us for.
Unless all the facts I have catalogued above are fictions of my own imagination, my own studied assessment is that APM and his horde are leading us to an abyss.
Solutions? Suggestions? Ideas on the way forward? Not that this is my job, but I will offer a few.
The solutions lie NOT in denial, but in finding honest answers to the question: where did we go wrong?
For APM, this is his homework. For SKC, I suggest he joins the rest of us and for the rest of us, the answer is obvious: at the top, is where we got things wrong.
Malawians, voluntarily or otherwise, in an election rigged or not rigged, allowed the wrong person to get to the top. Full stop.
Scribes muckraked repeatedly that APM has never had a clue about anything beyond himself, people that surround him and home boys.
Very few people cared to listen.
This why people from ‘other’ regions, notably the north and centre, want federation or secession or what have you.
It is not because they have developed allergies to being “Malawians”, no; but they simply do not want to be APM’s guinea pigs as he shoots in the dark while his mob wants us to believe he is taking aim before shooting. They simply want to manage their own affairs.
Didn’t the Academic Freedom saga, which involved university lecturers – his own professional kith and kin, and laws – his bread and butter, fail to bring out the best in him?
“It is too complicated….” – weren’t these his own words?
Re: the Republic vs Cochrane Dyet, was a matter in which APM simply needed to massage his brother’s ego and rein in garrulous lieutenants.
The old fellow, after the fact, flew around the world – at our cost – to “mend” donor relations. Why in the first place, did he just sit and watch as the relationships soured?
It is a sad, but hard fact that the man cannot, under any circumstances, be described as an inspiring leader. And what Malawi is haemorrhaging from – right now – is the lack of an able captain, who can steer Malawi away from these troubled waters.
Shortcuts, like kneeling before donors or out-and-out illegal tactics, like ‘bribing’ media corps so that they start painting a rosier picture, are non-starters.
Deliberate amnesia, like ‘forgetting’ that there is an overdue MK1.7 billion Bakili Muluzi trial in court, that needs sorting will not boost assertions that APM is keen to fight graft.
Solution lie in crafting and implementing polices that will take Malawi to economic independence, as one whole unit.
To repeat, if anyone is expecting APM to lead this quest, they have another think coming and this thinking is going to take many, many nights. The only good news is that five has years has many, many nights.
- Nyakuchena Ganda is a Nyasa Times columnist