Soon after the presidential elections, a friend of mine sent me an email declaring that DPP will be in power for the next 20 years. Today 7 months later the outlook could not be more different.
The Kwacha is sliding and sinking like a stone in the sea. Hospitals cannot even afford gloves for surgical operations. Life is tough and civil servants are demanding massive salary increases which government can barely afford.
Yet, the powers that be have chosen such a time as this to announce a massive increase of salaries for the president and members of parliament. The most bizarre aspect to this is that nobody knows who those powers are. Everybody from the president to the leader of opposition has since gone on record to refuse the salary increases. The issue was never even debated in parliament. So, who decided and authorized the salary increases?
Government disorganization is not only limited to the issue of presidential salaries. Recent appointments to boards and embassies are said to be made and announced without first consulting the appointees. As far as governments are concerned, it is so unprecedented and perhaps unheard of for governments to make appointments without consulting and interviewing the appointees.
Perceptions of corruption abound. The First Lady’s charity, BEAM, and the famous Mulakho wa Alhomwe have just benefited from large grants from the National Aids Commission (NAC). NAC is a body that gets its funding exclusively from donors for purpose of fighting HIV/AIDS in the country. NAC is mandated to distribute money to HIV/AIDS causes through a rigorous open solicitation process. While NAC may not have committed any wrong doing in donating money to BEAM and Mulhakho, the ethics of these organizations getting such money without first submitting proper proposals is very questionable.
In another embarrassing move, government invited members of the press to a State House function and secretly gave them fat envelopes containing massive cash. To date, government has not given any good explanation for the generous offer or its source. Unconfirmed rumors seem to point to the same NAC as the source of this money.
What has been so frustrating to many Malawians, especially those sympathetic to the DPP, has been the government’s inability to inform the public, explain its decisions, refute allegations or level with the public.
Mutharika won a resounding victory. He is still very popular at the grassroots. If elections were to be held today, he could still win with a resounding victory. But he cannot afford to take the electorate for granted. Things seem to be spiralling down very fast. The President needs to clean house. And those around him should start taking their advisory roles seriously.
Somebody should have pointed out the folly of using National Aids Commision -NAC funds; somebody should have pointed out the insensitivity of increasing presidential salaries at this point in time; somebody should have questioned the ethics of giving money to journalists.
Unless these reforms are made, my friend’s dream of having DPP in power for the next 20 years will likely be met with a crashing blow in 2019. Administrations only have the first few years to prove that they deserve another term. It is very difficult to counter a negative narrative close to the election period.