There is growing alarm, whether justified or otherwise, among the critics of President Peter Mutharika that perhaps he is too laid back for our liking.
The accusation is that he takes time to roll up his sleeves and get dirty to confront the daily problems that are affecting Malawians.
The President’s address in Zomba on Saturday, during the consecration of Bishop Desmond Tambala of the Catholic Church, was, to many of us, a disappointment for the mere reason that apart from talking about Facebook and how it is damaging people’s reputations, Malawians expected him to address two key issues of concern at the moment: Food and the economy. He did not.
We were, however, to be placated on Wednesday when the President did address the nation about food and he put all the problems at the door step of one state institution and it is Admarc.
The President’s diagnosis seems to be that the acute food shortage in the country has been caused by unscrupulous Admarc officials who are conniving with equally crooked vendors to buy the maize in bulk and resell to desperate Malawians at an exorbitant price of K15, 000 per 50 kilogramme bag.
This is only to a point. By all standards, Admarc has grossly underperformed at a time the hungry masses needed it to perform. The institution has consistently claimed that it has enough stocks of maize to supply all its depots when the stark reality on the ground is to the contrary
Admarc might indeed have enough maize in its warehouses but it has hopelessly failed to bring it in enough quantities to all who need it across the length and breadth of this country and the President should have acknowledged this point in his address to us with a view to help the institution to do just that.
This is what is causing all these problems and the crooked vendors, as the President called them, have simply taken advantage of the situation to make a killing out of starving people’s misery just like any shrewd businessman would do.
To me, and I thought the President should have also acknowledged it, the plot was lost during planning. Did Admarc do enough planning? Did it have enough resources to transport the maize to all corners of the country in quantities needed?
On account of what is currently obtaining on the ground, the answer is a big no.
In a nutshell, it must have been reassuring to Malawians to hear their President talk about food shortage but somebody should also have told him the whole truth about the situation. Somebody should also have whispered to him that hopeless Malawians also needed reassurance that he would roll up his sleeves and fix the economy which has literally wild and this is putting it mildly.
There has been reassuring voices from both Minister of Finance, Goodall Gondwe, and Reserve Bank governor, Charles Chuka, this week that all will be well despite the kwacha taking a steep dive and that we should not panic.
But panic we will because we are living the nightmare and not all of us live on taxes. Those of us not having the luxury of living on taxes see ruin straight in the face if this economy does not improve.
It is just that bad. All indications at the moment are that this trouble will take a while to go away but the authorities are saying the opposite.
We await action but the bottom line is that the President must do more to get dirty and take us out of the present malaise.
- The article appeared in Malawi News under ‘Hitting the Nail’ column