The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), through its Secretary General, Dr. Jean Kalirani, issued a statement this week in which it claimed and expressed disappointment that President Joyce Banda uses (or used during recent trips) the same jet that her government sold.
According to the DPP, a situation where a President travels or flies on the same plane that his or her government sold, smacks of some clandestine activities, which places the taxpayer or the people of Malawi, in the final analysis, at the mercy of things.
Probably the following observations would help the DPP and people of the like mind to put things in perspective.
- It is not strange that the DPP loves to appoint itself the chief vendor of any kind of gossip, rumour and innuendo that it feels or assumes has the makings of staining the image and reputation of President Dr. Joyce Banda’s administration.
- The DPP has this unusual belief that in thinking up wrong doing against President Joyce Banda’s leadership and sniffing mischief off any activity she or her administration undertakes (purely because either her leadership style or the activities of her administration appear to be a departure from the norm hitherto), the party’s bruised ego will be massaged with some semblance of a healing consolation.
- Seduced by the false promise of such self-delusion, the DPP feels issuing statements that are clearly lacking in basis and substance the self-denial mode, in which it has remained since the turn of fate usurped its fortunes last year, will superstitiously mutate into a cradle of fortune that will facilitate the party’s return to power.
- Granted, the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi makes available freedoms to everyone in need to enjoy them. These freedoms include the rights to choice, and to hold and express opinions.
- The DPP is entitled to interpret things in the manner it chooses. But the DPP deserves reminding that to deliberately choose the right to believe that fiction can turn into reality and sordid falsehoods into rewarding truths and realities is the most successful exposition of irresponsibility and the vilest display of desperation.
- The political competition at hand is about who has better ideas and style for solving the problems that have held the people of Malawi hostage for a long time. This ransom can surely not be paid through peddling of falsehoods. It will be paid by realizing that the people of Malawi are not foolish to be misled by lies. Thus, what they must be hearing from their leaders are realistic plans of concrete action on how the challenges that affect their daily lives will be solved.
- The DPP has a right to choose to operate in the dire-straits of ignorance. But where facts can be had to clear the lack of knowledge, it is almost ridiculous, for lack of a better word, to remain in ignorance, and/or not to care to use it to foster or safeguard an argument. Ignorance should not be chosen even as there is a Constitutional right to choose it.
- The fact remains that the Joyce Banda administration sold the Presidential jet that it inherited. Details about the sale are available, they are public information and can easily be accessed by anybody who desires to know, values the importance operating and making decisions on the basis of knowledge.
- When President Joyce Banda announced the decision to sell the plane she paid careful attention to detail in her explanation. First, she noted that a Presidential jet is not a luxury in modern times.
- Therefore, government’s decision to sell the plane was not being made without realization of its importance. Second, President Banda explained that important as the plane was, all circumstances considered at the time the decision was made, it was unsustainable to keep the plane when the economy was in free fall. But she hastened to add the acquisition of a Presidential jet would be considered when things improved.
- In these facts, it is clear that President Joyce Banda’s administration did not decide to sell off the plane out of malice or hatred for late President Bingu wa Mutharika or the DPP whose administration bought it. It is also clear that President Joyce Banda’s administration did not decide to sell off the plane out of ignorance about its importance. Clear too is the fact that the President Joyce Banda’s administration sold the plane out of a pressing need to safeguard resources for pro-poor spending. Clear as well is the fact that the President Joyce Banda administration did not shut the door on the need to have a Presidential jet in future.
- That maintaining the Presidential jet during the economic turmoil that beset the nation when the President Joyce Banda came into office was unsustainable can only be unclear to pretenders and political renegades like the DPP and people of like mind. The DPP is the first to know that even when not in use, public money was being spent to meet maintenance costs for the plane and crew.
- That the government of Malawi has made a huge saving from the suspension of owning a Presidential jet, and that the resources saved have assisted in meeting some of the country’s social-economic challenges can only be ignored by the DPP out of sheer political malice.
- The DPP is the first to know that accusations, no matter how loaded and embellished, against the President with respect to the administration and actual transaction of the Presidential jet sale are misplaced. They are aware that a President of a country is never involved in such business. To think that a President would somehow be involved in a tendering process and selection of a successful bidder in a plane sale transaction is to belittle the office of the President. The DPP would not allow it in their time. It cannot be allowed now.
- The DPP are also the first to know that when a President is travelling, he or she is never involved in the logistical arrangements. They are aware that the President’s office is a very serious office to be involved in the small details of which plane to use and where it would be sourced. The President, during their administration, would not be phoning around looking for planes; and surely they do not expect President Joyce Banda to do anything less.
- The DPP are aware that the President would not be busy checking whether the jet she is using is the same one that her government sold out or not. What is significant to the President, in this regard, is whether means of transport have been arranged to take her for point A to point B within the space of time and security assurance expected. If petty clerical issues were the concern of the leader of the previous administration, let the DPP be assured that they are not the business of the current President.
- The DPP is aware that there is nothing wrong in well-wishers providing support to whoever they choose. If it were wrong, well-wishers would not have been allowed to construct the ‘Mpumulo wa Bata’ Mausoleum, for instance, where the former President late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika (may his soul rest in peace) is resting. If it were wrong, the DPP would not have accepted support from the DPP of Taiwan. Why should the support of well-wishers be wrong now? Is it being the recipient is not DPP? While at it, how much information has the DPP provided with regard to the support it has received and continues to receive from well-wishers?
- The point is worth repeating that no tax-payers money has been spent on hiring of Presidential jets to carry the President. For this reason, the DPP should be joining all well-meaning people in congratulating this administration for ensuring that the President can still operate and fulfill some of her obligations without using the public purse.
- But even in the event that need forces government to chatter a plane for the President where would be the policy contradiction? The President already conceded to the need for a President to have assured means of travel, only that circumstances do not allow us to maintain a Presidential jet. Does it need to explain the difference between chattering a Presidential jet and owning it? Does it beg for another explanation in terms of the differences in cost implications between the two?
- The DPP must accept that President Joyce Banda has gotten one better over them because she has managed to fulfill the Presidential mandate using modest and prudent logistical arrangements which the DPP could not brook.
In conclusion, it must be said that the Joyce Banda administration will safeguard the right of every citizen to express their opinions, regardless of whether those opinions are favourable or not. The only plea that ought to be made is that expression of rightful opinions goes along with the responsibility of ensuring that such opinions are honest and truthful.
To the DPP and other political parties, let the political competition be about ideas and strategies for helping the people of Malawi, not about who is better at coining convincing political fiction.