2014 and beyond: Malawi’s only strength is unity of purpose

Malawi 2014 presidential candidates: Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika, Atupele Muluzi and Lazarus Chakwela
Malawi 2014 presidential candidates: Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika, Atupele Muluzi and Lazarus Chakwela

If the year 2013 has taught us anything at all, it is that Malawian leaders, no matter what good intentions they confess, preach or claim at the time of their acquisition of power, they are commonly denominated by how soon they succumb to greed and self enrichment as power gets to their heads. I will spare no one.   Kamuzu Banda had good intentions when he became the first president of the Republic in 1964. But soon, power went to his head. He declared himself life-president and brutally silenced critics and opponents, while amassing more wealth for himself and his cronies.

By his death, Kamuzu Banda’s wealth as an individual exceeded that of Malawi as a nation.

Bakili Muluzi followed the same self-enrichment formula set by the late Kamuzu before him. Coming into power with so much good will at the dawn of the new Malawian democracy, Muluzi soon lost sight of the tenets of democracy that had become almost his identity, and his swansong to Malawians was the undemocratic acts of a man blinded by the love of power.

Muluzi pushed for third term and open term bills, and having failed on these, went for a ruling behind the throne strategy that backfired terribly. He left the political arena a disgraced man, still desiring the power and the unexplained wealth that the presidency had brought him.

The late Bingu wa Mutharika promised much after his controversial break away from Muluzi’s United Democratic Front. And for a while he seemed to be determined to deliver even during very politically turbulent times. But he soon followed the same well-travelled road.

Mutharika soon endeavoured to demonstrate his newly found power after 2009 elections by changing the Malawi flag, a needless idea that simply betrayed his vanity. Mutharika then attempted to make Malawi parastatals and civil service’s staff lists resemble that of the Thyolo district council, a move that exposed more clearly his hubris and blinded him to the vision that he had once had for Malawi.

Self-enrichment was also evident in the building of expensive mansions and mausoleums, numerous property purchases and at one point even an intention to open a bank.

By the time he passed away in April 2012, Mutharika had managed to transform a goodwill that had evidenced itself in an overwhelming electoral victory to a populace that was baying for his blood and which even celebrated as his body lay in state.

As we stand on the threshold of 2014, I cannot help, however, but declare that current president Joyce Banda’s appetite for wealth and power by far overshadows all those that have gone before her. Hers is a very unusual appetite and thirst for power and self-aggrandisement indeed!

That a president who spoke love, forgiveness and economic development at the ascendancy to the office can so quickly transform that into unscrupulous plunder of state resources, attempt murdering her own officers in her efforts to cover up rampant corruption and persecute needlessly her critics, all in a space of 18 months is a new Malawian record.

It sends shivers down the spine to imagine what she would do in five years, never mention in ten years.

In 2013, President Joyce Banda has jailed journalists, let hospitals go without drugs, failed to provide on time salaries for civil servants on numerous occasions, and planned and presided over the most disturbing and devastating looting of state resources ever seen in Malawi.

And as this greed and thirst for power has gone unchecked by Malawians too shocked to do anything about it, President Banda has used state resources to pay for international consultants to manage her image and make her evil deeds and the killing of her own people easier for people to swallow.

Under President Banda, the discovery of a president-led corruption syndicate has been called a breakthrough and an example of the fight against corruption. Before passive Malawians and right under the very noses of a spineless opposition, the president has abused her power to make questionable arms deals. She has made arms dealers her closest advisors and rampantly travelled the world stashing the looted funds while back in Malawi the Kwacha was in free-fall, children were dying of hunger and patients were dying because of the failure of the government to provide medicine in government hospitals.

The fall of the Kwacha and the rise in the cost of living has been described as economic recovery, with obscure reports being cited, reports whose projections of the Malawian economy are based on facts that were collected at the beginning of 2012.

Meanwhile, a much more current report by the IMF has been hidden from the people, a report that accurately demonstrates that Malawi, a country whose economic growth was the second best after Qatar not too long ago, is now the second worst performing in the world.

Indeed, in spite of all this, President Banda has somehow been able to declare in 2013 to the Malawian National Assembly concerning Malawi’s economy, “Mr Speaker, sir, we have recovered”.

But what has been most tragic for Malawians in 2013 is not president Banda’s almost psychotic obsession with riches and power and her determination to remain in office even after such a clear demonstration of her inability and unfitness for the office. The biggest betrayal to Malawians in 2014, and one that must be corrected decisively in 2014 if the Republic is to survive at all, is that of an opposition divided and too selfish to recognise its duty to Malawians.

To an analytical observer, it should be quite easy to recognise that with the determination and the obsession that president Banda has to cling to power at all costs, and indeed the cost and the result this will bring to a country already on its knees, the first and foremost concern for Malawians would be to put aside their personal differences, their selfish ambitions and their hunger for absolute power and unite in one goal and one goal alone: to rescue Malawi from certain death and oblivion.

Surely, it should be easy enough for Dr Chakwera, Professor Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi to recognise the need to unite or die?

Yet in 2013, what we saw were opposition leaders that are unwilling to work as a team for the good of the country; an opposition, whose leaders all are obsessed with becoming president, and believing that the next Malawi leader in 2014 will be them, forgetting that there always is room for only one president at the top.

If anything, this betrayal, this failure to unite on behalf of Malawi at the time when she most needs her so called political leaders to stand up for her, reveals to Malawians that none of those aspiring for the Malawian presidency actually have the selflessness and the magnanimous spirit required for true leadership, let alone statesmanship.

As I have written elsewhere, in the wake of appalling scandals such as the Cashgate scandal, and the abuse of presidential power as we have seen in interference with prosecutions of Ephraim Chivunde and Oswald Lutepo, the questionable arms deals and the selling of the presidential jet, an opposition with a majority in Parliament cannot comfort itself that it has done its duty simply by releasing a press statement. It is the responsibility of parliamentarians in the national assembly to bring the government to account, not issue press releases!

In 2014, Malawian opposition parties need to be under no illusion and appreciate that a president steeped in corruption, who knows that she will face the law once she leaves office, will fight tooth and nail to galvanise her power and ensure the preservation of her immunity from prosecution.

Her zeal to shield her malevolent actions has already been demonstrated by her refusal to declare her assets, to reveal her so called well-wishers, to cut down on her unnecessary travel, and her willingness to change goal posts and tell lies for convenience.

President Banda has had no shame to deny her own words and tales as long as such denials provide the sanctuaries of convenience where she can find refuge.

One day she says Malawi cant host the African Union; the following day she says Malawi can host. One day she says the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation must be open to all; the following day she says opening the broadcaster did not mean leaving the door ajar.

One day she says government contracts must be given to all who qualify regardless of political considerations; the following day all opposition sympathisers are not only denied the opportunity of acquiring contracts but are also eased out of the running contracts they had.

One day she says she does not want Chiefs and hired surrogates to use the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation for smearing critics; the following day Chiefs and road-side analysts are mobilised to slander opponents on the public broadcaster.

One day she says as a mother she shudders at the death of university student Robert Chasowa; the following day she does not care to have the matter pursued because there is no evidence against the opposition leaders that she was targeting and coincidentally she is not determined to see that her own nephew Misonzi Chanthunya is brought to Malawi to answer for his alleged killing of his Zimbabwean girl-friend Linda Gassa.

One day she says she is determined to sort out an age-old problem of limited room for tertiary education in Malawi; the following day she decides not to open an already completed university structure at Ndata. One day she says she wants to construct a five star hotel at Cape Maclear in Mangochi to boost tourism when all the while she has kept an already completed five star hotel in Lilongwe unoperational.

One day she says there is no problem between Malawi and Tanzania and leads a troupe to condemn Peter Mutharika that he is war-mongering for saying Lake Malawi must be protected at any cost; the following day she claims Malawi has been invaded and procures gun boats to patrol the lake and ward-off foreign intrusions including that of Tanzanians.

One day she says she will run a small government and will nip wastefulness; the following day she decides to usurp responsibilities of ministers, their principal secretaries, their directors and indeed district officials by laying foundations for one-room waiting shelters, bore-holes, toilets etc and, like a mother Christmas, totters around distributing 50-kg bags of floor and cows. One day she says she will make sure that the office of the Vice President is functional, the following day she decides that even nonsensical trips (local or foreign) will be physically undertaken by herself.

One day she says she knows who nearly killed Paul Mphwiyo; the following she denies ever making such an assertion. One day she says she was victimised by being removed from the DPP without being given a chance to be heard; the following day she decides that Ralph Kasambara be removed from her  party without being heard.

President Banda has claimed that she will make sure that many women attain leadership positions during her tenure, yet at present there are less women in cabinet than Bingu wa Mutharika’s cabinet. One day she says she will ensure that all cultures in Malawi are respected and promoted, the next day, she has shuns the Mulhako wa Lhomwe festival.

We have seen many lying presidents, but in 2014, we were introduced to a class act. In terms of telling lies, this President is legendary. She is in a class of her own. She has told more lies than her predecessors have in the same period. And the bottom line here is the fact that she is ready to sacrifice all morality and goodness at the altar of greed, power and self-enrichment.

In order to save Malawi from the certain death that will surely come upon the country should this clueless, decadent, corrupt and unscrupulous leadership continue, the only real guarantee for Malawi is the strength that will be found in a unified opposition.

As we enter 2014 and cruise towards elections in May, the Malawian opposition and the Malawian people must unite or die.

We can no longer afford to remain in the comfort of reckless abandon that has featured in our character and attitude. Somehow we have managed to watch helplessly as one individual after another took everyone for granted to ransack our country.

Take it or leave it, at the in 2014, the biggest menace facing Malawi’s survival is it’s own president. Joyce Banda is dangerous to Malawi. I say this not out of hate for her personality or for any personal reasons, but because she is uncannily incompetent, selfish and unfeeling. She simply is not the kind of leader that can take Malawi on the path into the next 50 years. The two years that will end in 2014 are enough. Malawi needs a leader with an active brain as opposed to an active mouth.

Fellow Malawians, Oppositions and citizens, now is the time to unite to save our country!

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