That Malawi as a nation has completely lost direction as far as visionary leadership is concerned is no longer something to argue about. It is a fact. Half a dozen months have elapsed since the chaotic May 20 tripartite elections that re-ushered the controversial Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) into power, leading to the unceremonious exit of the clueless People’s Party (PP).
But, like it has been the case since time immemorial, Peter Mutharika’s government continues to offer no hope to the citizenry, particularly to the majority of the country’s youth if the current economic quagmire is anything to go by.
President Mutharika’s leadership is far from inspiring and seems clueless on fixing the economy and bailing out the majority of youth caught in grinding shackles of mortifying poverty. Truth be told; President Mutharika is technically in hiding. He seems to be only talking to his ‘not-so-clever’ buddies and an army of hopeless henchmen leaving the entire population wondering where their elected leadership is, in this economic crisis.
Despite clear leadership cluelessness and increased loss of control over state affairs, Mutharika seems unwilling and too naïve to embark on a comprehensive national dialogue process to boldly address the now precarious economic and governance stagnation. The leadership is talking to itself and cannot find any clue. Interestingly, Mutharika’s new fashionable tie with the public are memos of punitive and irrational hikes of user fees on public services such as on passports, driving licenses, resident permits, and education fees hugely impacting on country’s youth.
On the sidelines is a dangerous face of insecurity, open tribalism, complete shutdown of judiciary, striking teachers – ofcourse accompanied by shocking pockets of pupils’ protests. Shameless corruption scandals by Mutharika’s cronies at National Aids Commission (NAC), for example, and unpardonable staged bribery of journalists at Sanjika Palace are worst ‘best practices’ of the new administration. No one knows how the leadership will deal with current economic malaise. Donors’ unmoved aid position to Malawi and their hardballs on Mutharika’s government are unprecedented. I doubt if President Mutharika is working out any wonder to reverse the dangerous situation. He has completely lost trust in his quick-thrashed zero-aid budget. So, will Mutharika and his DPP deliver on campaign promises that sponsored their come-back to the country’s Capital Hill?
The worsening high cost of living due to skyrocketing inflation is a stern ambush against the majority jobless and working-poor young women and men. Youth poverty situation is each day worsening than yesterday. Despite all these challenges no one is talking to these young citizens. Where is the leadership to inspire hope to the young generation during these hopeless times? This is an opportune time for Mutharika to mobilize young people, share his strategic vision and inspire hope to move forward despite harsh struggles of our time.
Of course, it is only fair for citizens to bear with the fact that the new administration has no soft faculty to swiftly clean up the current economic governance quagmire in very short time. This could have been fairly the same with any new administration considering the infamous plunder of resources at the country’s treasury. It is inexcusable however for Mutharika not to share the direction of his administration with citizens and development partners. Young people of this nation just as all citizens have every right to know where their elected government is taking them to and how it is set to alleviate their long suffering in short and long term map. It is ill-timed for Mutharika to be in hiding when 65 percent of the population dearly needs his full captainship of the economy and state affairs. Undoubtedly, majority of Malawians are in darkness of Mutharika’s leadership direction.
President Mutharika must be kindly updated that young people are not for any cheap rhetoric from Capitol Hill as has been the case. He must think beyond the Community Colleges noise, and vigorously engage and enhance meaningful dialogue and action on gainful social and economic interventions for the youth. How does the DPP administration for instance plan to meaningfully support young farmers realising that 70 percent of working-poor youth in Malawi are engaged in the agricultural sector – the country’s largest economic powerhouse? How will he increase youth access to education bearing the hard fact that public university intake in Malawi remains below 10 percent? The first citizen seems too slow to domestically ignite dialogue with country’s youth and stakeholders to collectively battle poverty, youth unemployment, poor and inaccessible education, economic exploitation and the endless woes facing youth.
President Mutharika must be ashamed that under his watch only 1 % of the total 2014/15 budget was given to Ministry of Youth and Sports for youth development programs. This defiance and insult by Mutharika’s first budget awkwardly backed by some misguided and clueless senior Ministry of Youth officials and later by parliament, tells volume about government’s interest in youth affairs. One gets a picture that youth development is not among Mutharika’s priorities. Worse still, the youthful age of the Vice President, Saulos Chilima is yet to be translated into anything the youth can cut home. We are told he is busy fixing the Civil Service! We can only hope he will also help to fix the impotent National Youth Council of Malawi (NYCOM) whose obsoleteness to the Malawian youth has been well institutionalised. The Mutharika administration ought to deal with the despicable leadership incompetency and governance queries at NYCOM and gross inefficiencies at its Ministry of Youth, or stop making noise about youth development in this country.
So, besides bearing atrocious effects of a tanking economy, young people need Mutharika to provide a cut-clear strategic direction on how his DPP administration will deal with the wobbly economic governance woes whose impact on marginalised youth in urban and rural corners of Malawi is close-fisted. Young people cannot bear same old cheap policy surprises coupled with unaccountable and irresponsive political leadership.
President Mutharika should swiftly graduate himself from the current state of leadership denial and vigilantly embark on an open, comprehensive and inclusive national dialogue process in dealing with the economic struggles of our time. He cannot wait for the worst. As an experienced jurist and leader undoubtedly he realizes the significance of inclusive engagement in times of national crisis like this. Unless Mutharika finds any virtue in cerebrating uncultured code of executive arrogance and defiance, he cannot ridicule an inclusive national dialogue on the current state of economy and its future.
As national leader, has an obligation to facilitate and build national consensus on matters of national importance. It is not too late. After all, the current mess is well shared and not wholly of his making. So, come back from hiding Mr. President, young people are ready to walk with you in these hard times!
- Charles Kajoloweka is a Youth Rights Activist based in Mzuzu.
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