It has only been six months and the Peter Mutharika presidency appears to be heading south already—before it has even settled.
The administration is choking under the weight of scandals, gross incompetence and a shocking inability to lead.
The list of missteps and ineptness is getting longer every day. I will just sight a few.
There is no question whatsoever that it was a bone-headed decision for Mutharika’s wife, First Lady Gertrude, to squeeze HIV money from the National Aids Commission (NAC) to fatten her Beautify Malawi sanitation initiative that has nothing to do with the HIV and Aids pandemic.
I mean, NAC is fast running out of money to help sick people. It is, therefore, immoral for anyone to grab cash from it, especially when the funds will be used for objectives that are not in line with the commission’s mission.
Even if NAC were to claim that it hoped to achieve some public relations objectives, which is questionable, spending K5 million on Beam’s launch for a few seconds of mention or visibility is not a very clever or cost-effective way of using fast dwindling resources.
It just does not make sense and I agree that the money must be returned.
To make matters worse, the public relations work from State House handlers on this matter has been so disastrous that you wonder what those folks with lofty titles and equally lofty laziness are being paid for.
And what were the National Intelligence Bureau and Muhlakho wa Alhomwe thinking when they dipped their dirty little fingers in the depleting NAC jar?
What’s more, all these three bodies are closely associated with the President, what does this say about Mutharika?
The very fact that the President has remained mute about the matter says volumes and the signals his silence is sending are also clear: He condones what happened. Otherwise, he would have ordered these folks to return the money, publicly rebuke them and distanced himself from the subterfuge.
Then there is the issue of a President dressed in Santa regalia and dishing out K50 000 visions to journalists right within the precincts of the presidential palace—the very symbol of power and moral leadership. The outcome was a mess and the fallout, again, handled without a clue.
The message was clear and damaging: The President is bribing journalists to silence them by buying their souls.
The fallout from that drama has damaged the Mutharika presidency in ways that maybe more far-reaching than he and his advisors might think.
Meanwhile, Blantyre, the commercial city is drying up with no water and consumers are spoiling for demonstrations to force Blantyre Water Board (BWB) to improve water supply. There is growing anger for the administration.
What’s more, one arm of government—the Judiciary—has been paralysed by a strike, meaning that only two-thirds of the government is operational at the moment.
Indications are that another arm—Parliament—could follow suit after the National Assembly employees this week rejected a salary hike they consider too small.
Should it come to that, it means that two important arms of government will not be taking part in the governance of the country, leaving just the Executive to make all the decisions.
In other words, only one third of what is called government will be functional. If this is not a constitutional crisis, then I do not know what is.
To make matters worse, even some parts of the Executive have also threatened to stop functioning over the same pay issues.
For example, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB)—one of the country’s most important governance institutions—may also be paralysed next week if its employees go on strike as per their seven-day notice.
As things stand now, it looks like the matter may not be resolved soon given the weight of their demands and the fiscal crisis at Capital Hill.
There is also trouble at the University of Malawi.
At the rate things are going, this country will become ungovernable. If that happens, will the President remain in hiding as seems to be the case at the moment?
I mean, I know that Mutharika is not very strong in the leadership department and I have made it clear before in this column based on his behaviour as a Cabinet Minister in his brother Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration.
But I did not know that even Peter could be this bad, this uninvolved; this clueless and this out-of-touch with what is going around him.
Make no mistake—things are falling apart for Peter Mutharika and it will not be easy to put them back together, if ever, if he keeps snoring in the middle of a storm.