That hot and sticky kiss President Peter Mutharika affectionately, nay bravely, planted on First Lady Gertrude Mutharika’s cherry lips in public caused a stir.
Being a largely conservative society that Malawi is, it was not surprising that some branded the act as “unpresidential” while others went on to declare it as outright taboo.
But wait a minute: “unpresidential” and “taboo? What is “unpresidential” and “taboo” with a duly married couple displaying their love in public and particularly on Valentine’s Day?
Some of those calling it “unpresidential” made reference to Malawi’s former presidents, saying none of them could do such a ‘filthy’ act in public. They are talking about Kamuzu Banda, Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika and Joyce Banda.
But South Africa President Jacob Zuma (him who takes a shower immediately after having unprotected sex) once challenged those who asked him how he compared himself to the iconic statesman Nelson Mandela by bluntly pointing out that there cannot be more than one Nelson Mandela. And, rightly so, there shall never be another Madhiba.
In line with the gospel according to comrade Zuma (him who also laughed at our wretched roads the other day) and in as far as Malawi’s political landscape stands, there shall be only one authentic Ngwazi, Atcheya, Chitsulo cha Njanji, Amayi and, of course, APM.
n view of this assertion, APM’s kiss should not be judged within the context of how those presidents who ruled this country before him conducted themselves in public. Let APM be in his own class. It is simply called being original.
Of course, our eyes have ever before feasted on those exclusive photos of the Ngwazi dancing affectionately with Mama somewhere in the UK. We also salivated at those lovey-dovey photos of Atcheya tying the sanctified knot with Shanil and those of Bingu and Callista walking arm in arm on their nuptials day. As for Amayi and Richard, oh boy, did they not display some rare and unflinching presidential affection by trailing each other on almost each and every trip – be it local or abroad?
But let it be stated that this is not the first time a presidential public display of love has caused a sensation. In 2012, the international media published a photograph US President Barack Obama tweeted of him and his wife Michelle hugging upon his re-election. The Guardian reported then that the photo had set new records as the most liked and re-tweeted post in social media history.
Actually, the publication went on to declare that “Obama’s photo – which shows him hugging his wife, eyes closed, against a cloudy and even stormy backdrop – had set the standard for future presidential victors as it appeared to embody the core values of trust, manliness, loyalty and love of family, among others”.
So what APM did on Valentine’s Day this year is akin to that “Obama moment” for us, Malawians. Barack confessed that “she [Michelle] inspires me every day. She makes me a better man and a better president” while our own APM’s message read, in part, “thank you [Gertrude] for always being there for me through the frights and cold nights… you are an amazing wife”.
Here are two powerful men who publicly acknowledge the significance of women by publicly displaying their love for them. And what a way to make an equally powerful political statement on the inconspicuous role of women in society!
Of course, one may argue that hugs and kisses are cultural facets of the West where the Obamas belong but recently, during this same year’s ‘Valentine’s Month’, the BBC reported about how a hug made history in India when Delhi’s new leader tweeted a tribute to his wife with a picture of them hugging after his astounding victory in elections.
The story has it that one Arvind Kejriwal scored a surprising political victory by capturing almost all of Delhi’s assembly seats and when the scale of his win became clear, he tweeted out a picture of a hug with his wife. His wife, reports the BBC, looked coy and blushed.
Now, just like is the case in Malawi, in India top politicians are also not more relaxed about publicly expressing gestures of romance largely because society views such acts as taboo. Yet Kejriwal, just like Malawi’s APM, had to demystify the taboo, hence he attracted colossal praise from all and sundry for recognizing the worth of women in venerated men’s lives.
There is more good than harm for influential politicians to publicly show their love for their spouses. It is, in a way, an acknowledgement of the role women play in such men’s successful lives. It should not just be mere talk that behind every powerful man there is a woman.
Actually, this phenomena should also spill over to the showbiz circles where the existence of wives of celebrities (by the way, there has always been debate on whether we have celebrities at all in this country) is never acknowledged. Should we always wait until a public figure’s wife dies to be told that he loved her abundantly? No!
By the way, it was also quite refreshing to have a story of romance from State House, courtesy of that steamy presidential kiss. At least a break from politics, politics and more politics.
But, to cut a long story short, through that public display of affection, APM made some notable political and social statements: A statement of acknowledging his wife’s day-to-day contribution to his political career (which borders on managing State affairs) and a statement of promoting the essence of loving our wives in a country where a local newspaper reported that between January and October last year, about 722 divorce petitions were registered at two courts in Lilongwe alone.
So, Mr. President, kudos for that historic kiss. We need more of such presidential kisses please!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :