It’s no surprise that President Peter Mutharika is under fire for insinuating Malawians can live on mice and grasshoppers alone as hunger rages. Instantly, the free market of ideas, especially Facebook and WhatsApp, is awash with memes inspired by the ‘weird’ cuisine, with the four maize cobs in the ruling party’s logo being replaced with the edible pests.
Oh dear pests!
The president’s speech in Phalombe sounded like a sermon on diet diversification, a breakaway to an impoverishing obsession with maize.
However, government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati says the President was just joking.
She opines he has the right to crack jokes.
Not whatever way he feels. Not all the time. Not anywhere.
Indiscretion kills public image.
Forget the years of plenty!
These are lean years, leaner than any pharaoh of free Malawi has ever dreamt in the comforts of Kamuzu Palace or Sanjika.
Mutharika cannot continue joking like he sees no problem ruling a hungry population.
He needs to offer direction, compassion and hope to almost eight million Malawians in dire need for a bite.
Elsewhere, this is what leaders do.
Globally, presidents are no jokers.
It is serious business, said Atcheya, pulezidenti wopuma Bakili Muluzi.
Now, Malawians are not starving for laughs, but food.
When in need of comedy, we turn to the likes of Nigeria’s Mr Ibu as well as our own Winiko the underwear rights defender, Manganya the pint-sized big man, Mr Jokes the noisy traveller and Che Nkope the silencer of Nancy.
Not the president.
Mutharika cannot blame anybody for taking his jokes too seriously.
When a serious public servant quips about serious topics insensitively he cannot escape serious hearers cracking jokes about his misplaced sense of humour (if he has any).
The president has himself to discipline for stealing jobs entirely meant for artists.
Looking at multitudes of billboards dominated by his larger-than-life portraits, it is all over the place how his keeps robbing deserving models and celebrities of jobs. It’s like Malawi is another tyrannical Republic of Oceania, the setting of George Orwell’s once-censored novel April 1983, where an ominipresent voice screams: “Big Brother is watching you!”
By wasting time exploring his sense of humour as if that is what matters most in his line of duty, the president offers more ammunition to those who liken him to Mr Ibus of this world and unnecessarily renders his reign a ‘comedy of errors’.
Mutharika has the power to redeem himself by leaving to comedians what belongs to comedians and doing in the name of presidency what belongs to the presidency,
While the president was auditioning for Joker of the Year Oscars, two musicians were striving to change the world.
Remember Fredokiss, the ghetto rapper who launched a scholarship for orphaned and vulnerable Malawian children.
Thumbs up Patience Namadingo for paying tuition fees for a destitute Chancellor College student Dyson Billiati who sounded an SOS.
The article first appeared in The Nation newspaperFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :