The definitive sentiment underlining the DPP leadership philosophy under President Peter Mutharika is summarised in the sentiments that I heard top DPP officials express soon after the DPP electoral victory. It was May 2014 and the victory euphoria was in the air. I had come into the country from the United Kingdom on a consultancy with Transparency International, which coincided with the change of leadership. This was before I wrote the document that was to cause great consternation within the DPP. At that time I was still regarded as a friend and solid sympathiser.
As I listened to people that are now cabinet ministers and top advisors and aides to the President, the dominant point of discussion was not how to help the President implement policies that would ensure the development of the country. DPP big shots were unanimous in the notion that now that they were back in government, it was time to ensure that should , God forbid, anything happen to Peter Mutharika similar to what happened to his late brother Bingu, these people should ensure that they are financially well off to “never have to fear poverty again”.
The dominant thinking was that once in government, all effort should be directed first towards personal enrichment to ensure lasting riches, and secondly, all advice to the President should follow a succession plan that would ensure that in the day of adversity, the vice president never does what Vice President Joyce Banda did to Bingu.
It was that conversation with top DPP officials that revealed to me that if nothing were done to change the mentality of these people that I then regarded as my friends, the country would be ruined within six months. It turned out that I was right. We now have had almost two years of a Peter Mutharika government and even a cursory analysis reveals that the DPP top brass have been true to their intention.
Under Peter Mutharika, Malawi has become a country rocked with unprecedented economic cluelessness, a country ravaged by hunger, extreme poverty and a runaway inflation. Malawi is a country that is failing to put medicine in hospitals, failing to provide continuous water and electricity in Malawian homes, and a country threatened with bankruptcy. Yet all those that work in this administration are seeing their wealth increase with leaps and bounds.
For example, the head of intelligence Nicholous Dausi inexplicably is suddenly a very wealthy man. Cabinet ministers, presidential aides and all those working close to the administration have unexplained wealth in a country where the average person cannot afford to buy a bag of maize.
In my governance notes to Peter Mutharika in May 2014, I pointed out that in order to avoid losing popularity and descending to the depths of corruption and impunity that had marked late Bingu’s last days, it would be crucial for Mutharika and the DPP carefully to consider what it was that had made late Bingu wa Mutharika so unpopular in his second term.
Having served Bingu in that ill-fated second term, I had witnessed with my own eyes and ears as people like George Chaponda, Nicolas Dausi, and others of the Mulakho disposition exert the wrong influence on Bingu and push for decisions that eventually let the nation down the garden path. I had spoken out against it then, and now, with Peter Mutharika forming his new government, I pointed out that there were certain elements in the DPP top hierarchy whose influence and role in the new government needed to be scrutinised very carefully, and that if such scrutiny were not done, they would bring the same self-centred, destructive and nationally retrogressive ideas and attitudes to his new administration and this would ensure nothing but a very quick slide into a government parallel to that of Bingu’s last days, where at the death of the President, the nation rejoiced instead of mourning.
That document, which I entitled “Governance Challenges facing the DPP 2014-2019”, was passed around the party and inevitably caused me to be blacklisted in the minds of those party members that were determined to enrich themselves through Peter Mutharika’s administration.
Vindication was not far, however, for we now have all seen how Peter Mutharika has become nothing but a puppet of the very people that had ruined his late brother’s administration.
Thus instead of a solid development agenda, the prognosis of what we have seen and can continue to expect from the DPP between now and 2019 is ominous. We will continue to see a very selective fight against corruption that stays clear of those in government who clearly have unexplained wealth, and some of whom are even firmly mentioned in the cashgate reports- both the Baker Tilly report and the one prepared by GTZ and the national audit office.
We should continue to see aimless and spineless public service reforms that stay clear of transforming Malawi’s leaking financial management system, and especially staying clear of curtailing the vast presidential powers that remove independence from such important government organs as the ACB, the Law Commission, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and even Parliament and other important institutions as ESCOM, MACRA, MBC and other parastatals.
Indeed regarding the public service reforms, we should remember that this is the government that brought back George Mkondiwa from retirement to make him chief secretary as though there is no other, younger, Malawian who can fill the position. Surely such thinking cannot be trusted to understand the importance of reforming the public service so that it accommodates and favours younger, fresher brains rather than geriatric has-beens that only milk the system rather than help it perform.
The evidence of current DPP governance is that this party’s mind-set is not one that is interested in finding solutions to the problems that are facing the nation. It is a mind-set that is unconcerned about the issues of national development and visible signs of progress nationally.
The only language, it seems, understandable to the DPP mind-set is that of individual enrichment. This seems to me the only true forecast that an honest observer can make about Peter Mutharika and his administration. Affirming this observation, Peter Mutharika recently in an interview with Mgeme Kalirani of MBC declared to the nation his standards of performance when he stated, “we have paid people on time, have performed state functions, [and] have done our part”. This was in response to the question of how Peter Mutharika felt he had performed in the 18 months of his presidency.
Given this kind of a pathetic and rather incompetent leadership, the idea of universal suffrage and rule of law become concepts that create problems for a country rather than solve governance matters. In medicine, diseases need to be treated as early as possible after they are discovered, because there comes a time when a disease has been left untreated for so long that no medical specialist or specialised medicine can treat it, and inevitably the patient dies. In economics, it is equally possible for an economic situation of an entity to become so dire that no economist or business expert of whatever ability can rescue that entity. This is the reason failing businesses that fail to implement recovery measures and strategies in time eventually face bankruptcy and liquidation.
It is my considered opinion that at the rate that Peter Mutharika and the DPP administration are destroying the economic fabric of the country, by 2019 the country will be in such a ravaged condition that no economist, governance expert or politician will be able to bring it back to a path of positive development. It is this forecast that leads me to the conclusion that the country’s biggest challenge then, is the constitution that gives 5 year terms to our leaders without any consideration of what the remedy should be when a leader is demonstrably failing to perform positively within a year of his ascendance to power and whose popularity reaches rock bottom within 18 months.
More importantly, what should the citizens do when it is as clear as day that 3 or 4 more years of a leadership will do nothing but empty government coffers, bankrupt the nation and leave it so ravaged that the next administration will have nowhere to begin and no hope of reviving a country practically left for dead?
In the next article, I will be presenting my suggestions as to the avenues available for all Malawians who are determined not to stand by and watch the rape of our beloved country.
- Allan Ntata is governance activist, a former presidential legal advisor of late Bingu wa Mutharika.