Bingu slammed for ‘absenteeism’ amid economic crisis

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has been criticised for proceeding to a vacation when the country needs leadership in the middle of its worse ever economic crisis.

Mutharika left the country last week for Perth, Australia where he attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting but a week after the summit ended, he has not returned home. His spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba said he is “somewhere” on a “short holiday.”

The development has sparked speculations and criticism with popural column, Muckracking on Sundayby seasoned journalist Raphael Tenthani highlighiting the President’s “missing in action”.

Mutharika: Goes AWOL

Headlined ‘Where is my president?’, Tenthani in his column  which appears in the Sunday Times and also posted on Maravi Post, argues that the country need its President  to oversee “never-ending litany of queues.”

Writes Tenthani: “We are quite literally a nation of queues. Remember First Lady Callista told villagers in Mzimba the other day that they are too poor to worry about fuel or forex queues? Well, at least the villagers in Mzimba are not all that poor to escape these queues completely. Yes, they now have to queue for subsidised fertiliser that is never there. Yes, people are committing suicide after getting frustrated in these queues.”

The columnist says Mutharika is on “Absent Without Official Leave.”

He argues further, “does a CEO take a holiday when a company is about to go burst? During a crisis all employees are recalled back to work, whether they were on leave or attending a seminar.”

In his Muckracking on Sunday, Tenthani wonders whether President Mutharika that “the country is in disarray that is why he can afford to take a holiday now?”

“May be he needs another round of boos, jeers and heckles to be jostled back to reality like those graduating students successfully did the other day?”

He also attacked Ntaba for hiding the President’s whereabouts.

Ntaba said on a local radio: “I don’t think it’s important for people to know exactly or details of where the president is having his holiday. I think it’s enough for the people to know that the president is fine, he attended this official meeting on his way back he decided to take a few days off.”

But Tenthani wrote: “why  should an elected leader’s vacation itinerary be shrouded in mystery? Who is he hiding from? His own people?”

He argues that when the US president takes a brief  vacation, the Americans are informed his exact location .

Ntaba argued: “We don’t have to copy everything that other people or other countries do. I am not convinced that anybody has to know where the president is taking a few days leave; you know he is not doing any official duties there. Can you not allow the president some privacy.”

Nonetheless, Tenthani in his column wrote: “Why should ours play hard to get? Granted, we may be comparing mangoes and oranges here. But, wait a minute, why – when confronted with a negative occurrence in our midst – we rush to say: ‘But there are also hungry and homeless people even in the States’? Why is it OK to look at our social ills with the same lenses like the Americans but it suddenly becomes taboo to compare their functioning democratic values with our increasing autocracy?”

The writes says Mutharika should rush back home from “wherever he is hiding”, saying “this is no time to have an absentee president. Leadership by remote-control does not work.”

Malawi is currently suffering an economic turmoil from fuel and forex shortage. There have also been reported deaths of two women due to lack fo fuel and electricity blackout.

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