It is oftentimes said that modern governments live and die on their economic records. And as presidents retire to their homes after a job well – or poorly – done, they are judged by the economic performance of their regimes. In fact, we get interested to review governments’ economic performance even before such governments expire.
A government is never recognized as a vibrant one if its economic performance does not inspire its citizens. And, if you think Bingu wa Mutharika is a careful economist, you might either be a non-Malawian or you strive against your conscience to adore mediocre performers simply because you are connected to them in one way or another.
During the first five years of economic performance and subsequent analysis on the part of government by different analysts, it was universally observed that Malawi had performed quite well. But, it seems that is where things went wrong: the kind of reverence and adoration which Mutharika got from Malawians planted wings on his sides to the point where he thought he was the messiah who had come to save us.
In fact some musician – in his desire to join the bandwagon of praise – reached the point of calling Bingu today’s Moses. The real Moses who was being alluded to must have laid his heavenly duties and took some time to pity a generation that was busy adoring his very antithesis. He must have jammed his fists in his eyes at a job poorly done in according leaders their just allusions.
Well, perhaps this biblical Moses wished he could descend and warn us that the man we were worshipping was simply some trickster who wanted to drive us into a slumber while he strategised on how best to bring out his true traits. And indeed while we were still cerebrating his landslide victory in the 2009 elections, Mutharika was busy developing frameworks of how best to destroy his legacy. He was putting into place all procedures that would enable him ruin Malawi as much as he could.
He changed the national flag, compelled his DPP-dominated parliament to pass many unpopular bills, incarcerated anyone who mentioned his name in negative statements, fired from different positions – and even from the party – all those who held a single dissenting view. Yet, it was not over: wait, there is more.
In this second term, Malawians have become increasingly discontent with the economic progress and governance in the Mutharika administration. This discontent has been compounded by a series of events which have been happening in this country since 2009, the year we now curse. The diplomatic row with Britain has resulted in our former colonial masters suspending direct aid which they used to pump into our national budget. Well, the Brits are just very right: why should they aid a zero-deficit budget which by any implications is supposed to be funded domestically?
The shortage of fuel crisis and foreign exchange crisis, and suppression of academic freedom at the University of Malawi are some other problems ascribed to the Mutharika administration. And after failed initial attempts to engage the president in dialogue, Civil Society groups, NGOs and concerned citizens in Malawi decided to hold a mass peaceful protest which was marred by inexperienced police officers who seemed to doubt if a bullet indeed kills.
It was a few days later when the president decided that our fears should be allayed by a make-believe dialogue process which he couldn’t even trust even though one party of the team had been selected by himself.
It goes without saying that the austerity zero-deficit budget, which by any implication meant Malawians have to go poorer, was simply the president’s attempt to see whether such an imagination would work. The budget, which Finance Minister Ken Lipenga believes has no negative implications on the progress of our domestic economies, has to be funded by our exorbitant taxes, our unrealistic charges for basic services and minute traffic crimes.
Well, politicians have a way of righting every wrong they make, but this generation has suddenly metamorphosed into the European Enlightenment – this radical movement that advocated rationality as the sole criterion for establishing an authoritative system of ethics, aesthetics, and knowledge. Like the citizens of this 18th Century movement, Malawians of this age are now regarding themselves as courageous and enlightened, and they now view their purpose as leading their country towards progress.
Thus, Mutharika shouldn’t be deceived: he is leading a people that understands its purpose in the world more than ever before. It is an enlightened generation that will take its leaders to task where things are not working as expected. This is not a generation that will adore its leaders without a purpose.
Some presidents fail on the economic front only while performing quite impressively in other areas; but Mutharika is first failing in his area of expertise – if at all he is indeed an economic expert – and then his dismal performance has perforated other political areas.
One thing that should not be discounted about political performance is that a good political performer encompasses other dimensions as well which may seem not to be political in nature. These dimensions create the whole bundle of political performance as one thing. And in most instances, regardless of how many they are, if one of them flops, a regime’s political performance is in complete disarray.
Yet in Malawi, we have a leader whose political performance has been characterised by poor governance, abuse of human rights, intolerance, and many other autocratic tendencies which no democratic leader should assimilate with.
Everywhere in the world, with the priority of democratic states, citizens expect the government to maintain order, to resolve conflicts in peaceful manners, and to provide a peaceful and free climate where people can live without fear of being harmed or even killed. These are some other things that will determine the political performance of a government.
Put the Mutharika administration under a microscope and assess how it is performing in these aspects. The ruling DPP has become the formal agent of disorder after its members were inspired by the president himself who took a step further and accorded the party’s youth wing members the official and formal military rank of cadets.
Conflicts are not resolved in peaceful manners. The president takes himself to be always on the right side and anyone else who disagrees with him should either be hacked or have his property damaged. Even intra-party conflicts always have the disciplinary committee expelling people carelessly, obviously with the blessing of the president.
Citizens also expect their government to be able to formulate policies which will ultimately respond to their basic needs and problems. All these aspects are, at a lower level, supposed to be carried by legislators and cabinet ministers. Even if they did not vote for a particular candidate, citizens will still expect free and fair treatment by government authorities.
They also have all the trust that the authorities will use public resources for the defined purposes of government and not to satisfy their own interests, like constructing a Reserve Bank governor’s swimming pool at an amount that could easily provide drugs to more than ten hospitals in a country where drug shortage seems to be a song we must get used to.
Mutharika’s politics, perhaps, is the most archaic in the region as far as democratic states are concerned. His reasoning is governed more by emotions, pride and vengeance than by rational goodwill. Soon after his re-election, the president stumbled upon extolling the virtues of burying the hatchet and moving forward for the good of the masses. Yet, he has been on the forefront victimising all those who don’t agree with him.
In Malawi, it is now common that citizens expect the authorities to excel at being democratic, at safeguarding civil and political liberties, honouring the provisions of the constitution without tampering with it even if one side has a majority that would enable it to. Here is where the Mutharika administration was required to show citizens that these aspects were not upheld during the first five years because of lack of the political muscle due to minority of representation in the National Assembly.
At one point, it was entirely accepted that Mutharika is a great economist and a political performer. But now his performance is tragic, drawn from a self-inspired feeling of having some divine authority that ultimately mocks the president himself. He has perched himself on a mountain peak, where the desire to rule recklessly has seen the country plunge into a horrible mess.
Some may say the president has been intoxicated with the majority temptation. But, his isn’t necessarily the first political party in the world to have a majority of representation in the National Assembly. All the problems simply emanate from inherent autocratic tendencies where one man thinks he has no parallel; where one ‘Sir’ glories in the absurd reverence he receives from those that surround him.
Now Malawi is rolling in terrible moments. Mutharika’s government’s policies – which were censored many times by experts – are now back to haunt poor Malawians whose voices freeze within their homesteads. One law expert Henry Phoya warned that the Civil Procedures Bill would have immense social and political effects on Malawi, thereby producing a far-reaching loss of confidence from the populace.
The president and his party responded by stripping him of the parliamentary Legal Affairs Committee chairmanship position and by expelling him from the party. Now, the provision – which was one of the many items that forced the West to cut aid to Malawi – is on its way back to the Law Commission for any possible scrutiny. These types of mess could have been avoided if Bingu took himself as an ordinary human being who shouldn’t compare his actions to those of our Heavenly Father.
And look now what is happening. After his conceit has failed to pay him, the president is slowly applying on the reverse gear which is bound to address only very few messes, for much damage has already been done.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :