Taking Malawians for fools

Listening to Presidential Press Secretary Gerald Viola—who is supposed to be the lead singer of the Peter Mutharika praise choir talk to Times TV last week—you would think that all of Malawi’s problems started the day Joyce Banda sold off Bingu’s beloved presidential jet.

Viola:  Gave controversial interview on Times TV

Viola: Gave controversial interview on Times TV

I cringed with embarrassment at that interview. While Viola tried to appear assured exuding an air of arrogance and self-importance, it was clear he was unprepared for it or, worse still, bluffing.  I felt ashamed that, for a country desperate to build its battered image, Malawi has such palpable shallowness in the quality of spokesperson for the president of the country.

I don’t know about you but if it’s this government’s diversion tactic to talk ad nauseam about the jet that Joyce Banda sold, then I am also quite keen to find out what happened to the proceeds from the sale or disposal of the Kwacha, Sapitwa and any other planes that Air Malawi had—done during the time the DPP was in power.

If Viola—who ostensibly speaks for the president—spoke not for the president on this occasion and misled the entire nation about President Peter Mutharika wanting to purchase a jet of his own, then I’m waiting to see him punished because he deserves no less. President Mutharika must know that a leader who hesitates to punish a miscreant is morally and politically weak and has no business being in that position.

Yet you must look at the bigger picture.

Peter Mutharika, in all likelihood, wants to have that jet. On several occasions, he has complained about the lay-over times at airports, as if waiting for connections in cushy airport lounges is something beneath him. Our leaders feel they are entitled to be as lavish in their lifestyles as they possibly can. They feel they can be arbitrary in their regard for the economic well-being of ordinary people; they can ignore them and not expect to be censured, not by the international community which gives them generous donations and loans, and not by their own people.

If President Mutharika doesn’t act to scold this man, then we can conclude that purchasing a jet is a Peter Mutharika pet project, anchored on some personal pride, likened to the attempt by Bingu wa Mutharika to purchase two obnoxiously-priced Mercedes-Maybach Pullman limousines soon after he took office in 2004. Only after the media carried the story and the public reacted with disbelief did Bingu back down, but not before he reacted first with fury and later with threats against the strong-willed reporter and the newspaper which had broken the story.

So I suspect Gerard Viola was speaking with the blessing of his boss, perhaps to test the waters. If he didn’t have Mutharika’s backing, he would have been fired by now. Before him, Frederick Ndala and Timpunza Mwansambo found out to their horror that once you cross Peter Mutharika in that job, you’ve burnt your bridge and there is no going back.

But if this was the plan, then I hope they have read the public reaction very well.

Malawians remember all too well what happened the last time a leader went shopping for a toy.

Bingu bought himself a private jet, using donor money meant to feed the poor. Not that there was a pressing need for it at the time, but he felt he could do it because he was the unquestioned leader of the country and nobody could challenge him because he was the later-day Ngwazi, God’s Gift to Malawi.

But Malawi went on a slippery slope soon after; the Kwacha took a battering, the economy tanked, there was a terrifying fuel shortage, and the loss in productivity everywhere was incalculable.

The reason by Bingu to purchase the jet was based on pride and emotion, not reason. Viola saying Peter Mutharika needs a private jet because Malawi is the only country in Africa without one was pride and emotion speaking, not reason. Any reasonable person knows that it’s not true. Off-hand I can name for him 10 African countries without a private presidential jet but I can’t be bothered.

Gerard Viola must take the message back to his boss as he has gotten it; that Malawians are saying he hasn’t done anything yet to deserve a jet.  He must tell the president that people are angry because, not so long ago, he promised them milk and honey but is now giving them monkey nuts, instead.

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12 thoughts on “Taking Malawians for fools”

  1. FRIENDS OF NORTH says:

    Amwene chilungamo chizakumasulani awuzeni amalawi zowona zokha zokha .

  2. tsetsefly says:

    I salute you Idriss. Ever since I started following your articles I have not regreted spending even more time reading them twice. You are such a superb writer that these half baked journalist can borrow a leaf from. You are very objective in your presentation and you simply say it the way it is. This makes you an exceptional one in the sense that you can be hugged by a politician today and tomorrow you will use the power of pen and paper to tell them the truth about who they are. Keep it up. My only advice is that do not throw it away because of love of money. I can mention tens of scribes who are now almost in the dust bins rotting together with their pens and papers because they loved money and started twist the truth. Gerald is following suit.

  3. kunyado says:

    I missed you Dude…. I’d rise.m..m I like your style…m.love it or hatebit

  4. Ziggy wa manoma says:

    Gulani basi

  5. No Laughing Matter says:

    Do I hear that the writer once worked for the state? If so what looks like a great observation by him has just turned into sour grapes in the vineyard. Sir if this is true write about other issues or else people won’t take you serious but I must say your observations are not far fetched

  6. Stampycious says:

    Munthu sungagule zovala pomwe mnyumba mulibe chakudya, ndegeyo mugula koma muyambe mwakonza mavuto athu, inuyo mukamadya mpunga wanuwo ife ndikumadya mgayiwa sitingadandaule

  7. chikhwa says:

    Koma ya

  8. Pete Nyandoro says:

    Saathanso kulemba Press Release m’chizungu uyu, koma matama. Amakalembesa kwa John Saini. TImuyalusatu ife. Vuto la ntchito zongopasidwa popanda qualification yeneyene ndi zimenezi.

  9. Sapitwa says:

    What is your story here Idriss? So you say Peter must do some thing as if he hasn’t done anything? Viola is suspended hasn’t he been?
    What is wrong for Malawians to deserve to know the proceeds of the jet that JB sold? And you are countering with Air Malawi Planes, who queried about them at the time; yet no one and why now? Give us a break about these personal issues of an employee and an employer. There are many areas of importance that a journalist can write. You can write about progress on land preparations and what hurdles farmers are experiencing.You can write about how other governments are feeling the same type of economic pinch that Malawians are feeling and leave it for them to conclude. You can write about which cash crops people should grow this year that will fetch more money etc. Kumangokakamira za ndale ngati journalism imaphunzitsa kuti muzilemba za ndale zokha zokha?

  10. mpinganjira says:

    What exactly is the point of this article????

  11. Happening Boy says:

    Nassah can articulate issues and Viola and his master plus the accolades can take something from here. For instance, who told Viola that it’s only Malawi without a jet in Africa, very sad.Someone said, this is the worst pres press secretary Malawi has ever had.

  12. chinyengo says:

    The country needs a jet. It will not belong to Peter bit to the country.

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