Creating personal greatness by using public funds in Malawi

It does not need a genius to know that government is about continuity from one administration to another. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that each administration should implement productive programs that can easily be continued if need be by the next government. First and foremost people should not condone programs whose main objective is to crate personal greatness of a Head of State or any leader.

Meanwhile, it goes without saying that with any change of government people have great expectations of new favourable policies to benefit all. So far, experience in Malawi has shown that some Heads of State are much more interested in leaving behind a track record of being great thinkers and planners for the country. There is nothing wrong with such ambitions if they are done in good faith without any hidden personal agendas. What is totally unacceptable is for a leader to want to be seen as visionary while is building his own importance by even coming up with projects that are difficult to continue or conclude.

President Dr Kamuzu Banda had great ambitions of developing Malawi. Indeed he left behind outstanding land marks of high quality infrastructure.  Not wanting to be outdone President Bingu wa Mutharika came with what seemed to be his greatest vision of all time. This was his establishing the Shire/Zambezi water way plus a world inland port at Nsanje. He bragged about this project at every twist and turn of his rule. He used to imagine publicly about Nsanje being a big city with countless skyscrapers, international airport, upmarket businesses while the Nsanje port was to be clogged with Ocean Liners delivering imports and collecting exports. It was very obvious that not much home work let alone feasibility study had been done on the project.

Malawi University of Science and Technology at Mutharika's Ndata land in Thyolo
Malawi University of Science and Technology at Mutharika’s Ndata land in Thyolo

Despite this, Mutharika went ahead and spend lots of money building the Nsanje jetty which was hurriedly opened with pomp as the Presidents of Zambia and Zimbabwe ( Lupiya Banda and Robert Mugabe respectively) witnessed the occasion.

As it were, Malawians had a lot of doubts about the Shire/Zambezi waterway and Nsanje port. One wonders which part of the world Mutharika had in mind which were to call at the port and for what purpose?  Furthermore, which ship company would let its ships to sail in Shire and face the problem of  running aground? Mutharika should have known better that Malawi’s exports are so dismal and the best mode of transport to the ocean is the railway which just needs to be improved.

Malawians doubts about  the waterway was vindicated in November 2012 when the first foreign ‘ship’ which was a very small Mozambican boat called Apollo 11 docked at Nsanje port. The boat’s maximum capacity was 45 people with some personal belongings. Disappointingly, on its maiden voyage, this boat was allegedly  caught with some smuggled bags of maize from Malawi.

It goes without saying that Mutharika spent a lot of tax payer’s money on the waterway project whose future looks bleak as there are reports that the Nsanje jetty is being vandalised. It is very sad that public money was not well spent just because Mutharika wanted a land mark to his credit. Thinking along the same lines he built University of Science and Technology at his own private land.

One cannot be completely wrong to suggest that may be his intention was to portray to unsuspecting people that he personally donated the university to the people of Malawi. Malawians can remember so well that he always painted a picture that the cost of building the university had nothing to do with tax payers but a donation from China to him.

Meanwhile, President Dr Joyce Banda seem to have problems on how to continue on both the Shire/Zambezi waterway project and the University of Science and Technology. She is right. These two projects seem to have been for creating Mutharika’s greatness and therefore the Joyce Banda administration has to tread carefully without wasting anymore taxpayer’s money on these projects until more home work is done on them.

Leaders in Malawi should know that it is people who can recognise the greatness of a leader. No leader can be great by building white elephants like the idle Nsanje jetty and more or less abandoned  the would be Nsanje city.

*EMILY  L   MKAMANGA -Nyasa Times columnist

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