I, for one, do not think Kondwani Nankhumwa just woke up one day and started yapping, “Every country deserves a presidential jet! Malawi needs one!”
No! I do not think the Information Minister is that daft. Government was testing the waters, as it were. Somebody thought it was high time Peter bought his own toy. But government was not sure how the public would react and, therefore, Nankhumwa was sent to deliberately let slip the ‘let’s-buy-a-jet’ idea and see how the public would react.
I must declare my hand. I have had the privilege of travelling on something akin to a presidential jet. The Big Kahuna had not yet bought his controversial Dassault Falcon 900EX when it pleased him to invite me as his guest to Nice, France, the other year. So he just commandeered one of those Air Malawi planes and turned it into a presidential jet.
There are no hassles when you are travelling presidential, no visa hassles – somebody does that for you; no queuing up for immigration formalities – somebody collects your passports, you just wait in the VVIP lounge. No one even checks your luggage; therefore, you pay no taxes on anything.
Who does not need a hassle-free ride once in a while?
But, unfortunately – just like in Bingu’s time – we cannot afford a presidential jet now. Peter still has to continue enduring seven hours of waiting for connecting flights at OR Tambo. In any case, what is seven hours of waiting in the First Class suite while sipping his expensive 40-Year Single Malt Scotch and puffing away at his favourite Cubana? Several of his countrymen are waiting seven days for life-saving drugs that never come. Many die waiting.
And the timing could not be worse. Look, last time we bought a jet the British reacted by cutting £3 million in budgetary support per year for some years because we used part of their money.
Now we want to convince them to resume budgetary support and we are again talking jets? Well, some dimwit may argue that since the Brits stopped aiding our budget they have no business in meddling in our plans to buy a toy for our dear leader with our own money.
Well and good, but what can stop the British and their friends from saying if they can afford a jet on their own then they do not need our pounds?
Let us shelve this jet dream for now. After all Peter says he is not interested in hitting the skies often. Why should we maintain a jet, with its attendant daily maintenance costs, if we are only going to use it for, say, three times a year?
Let the President fly like the rest of us. After all David Cameron flies commercial and the British Prime Minister’s stature in the world has never been diminished because he flies like the next guy.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :