Malawi gone awry: Run for cover, President Banda already has!

The year 2014 has come to start on a low note for Malawi’s President Joyce Banda; her life is under threat. Realistically, it is common to learn of a president’s life being in danger. What is uncommon though is to hear a president telling the nation of this danger.

Many a time the citizens of cantankerous United States of America have learnt of the death threats their president—Barack Obama—faces, not just occasionally, but daily. And yet there have been no recordable instances that Obama rose to the occasion simply to announce to the American nation that his life is in danger.

It is true that Malawi might be immature democracy-wise, but, like seriously, not this immature as to hear the president announcing death threat aiming at her life to the public. The populace’s logical reaction to such an announcement would be almost choral: if the president’s life—with all the state of the art security apparatus, all the security personnel, and all the intelligence at her disposal—is in danger, how safe can the local man and woman be?

The President inspects a Guard of Honour by Malawi Defence Force
The President inspects a Guard of Honour by Malawi Defence Force

Interestingly, the president has beefed up her security team in an attempt to foil this threat. And one wonders if she has also beefed the security of the populace. The president has been widely condemned by analysts and academicians alike that death-threats public pronouncements will not only cause security discomforts among the citizens but will also induce a general state of uneasiness in the population.

Let’s assume, and this is simply an assumption, that the president made the public statement about the threats to her dear life with full knowledge of the resultant insecurity concerns from the citizens, then people would be required to find the real motive. To this end, one quick answer would be exactly what Rafik Hajat of the Institute for Policy Interaction said the other day; that President Joyce Banda is seeking sympathy vote.

Will she get that sympathy vote? Yes. “How so?”, you might be asking. She will certainly get the sympathy vote because most people, if not all at all, who realize that the president’s my-life-is-in-danger political gimmick is an calculated attempt to seek a sympathy vote rarely brace the tiredness that goes with queuing for voting.

Additionally, there are very great chances that very few Malawians read the newspapers either to failure to afford the paper or due to the fact that Malawians are strange bedfellows with reading.

Even if there is high likelihood that the president may succeed in getting the sympathy vote, still, the damage will have been done already. Yes, Malawians will have known that, for the past two years, they have been ruled by a president who runs scared by simply hearing of a rumor or two of some lunatic planning to steal her life. If head of households run around announcing rumors of this or that thief strategizing to rob their households this or that day, what would be of communities.

Imagine the restlessness of kids in the households, and the general uneasiness in the community. What chaos and uncertainty there will be!

Whilst the attempts to off the president might be real, there is no need for her to make a public announcement of the same. Under the circumstances, the president would have just upped her security details silently and carry on leading the nation as though there is nothing brewing up in her. Isn’t this why she has bodyguards all around her 24/7?

Now think about the reaction of a common man in the village hearing this news. Will such a villager ever trust the security apparatus in his community, or more generally, in the country?

Perhaps Malawians misunderstood the president. Or maybe she had a point. But could it be that the whole nation missed the point she was advancing in making such threats known to the public? Maybe yes, but most certainly no. The president is rightly being corrected on this one; her comments simply scare the nation.

The truth from all this is that Malawi is off-centre. Or put it more clearly, the Malawi nation has had its president is state of perpetual fear and cannot, consequently, discharge her duties as meticulously as you would expect someone in a state of freeness. Ultimately, the president has run for cover, and so should the citizens.

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