Even those that would support Peter Mutharika and the Democratic Progressive party (DPP) to the very last drop of their blood, know that the writing is on the wall, and that if something is not done and done in a hurry, the reign of Peter Mutharika, and more importantly that of their beloved party is doomed.
It is evident in the positioning that has already started taking place within the DPP, the almost palpable fear in the eyes of top DPP officials, the secret midnight meetings with opposition members, and the desperate attempts to make as much wealth as possible now before the ship sinks.
Peter’s cabinet is in a state of civil war, and everyone is a suspect. People are fighting to be the closest to the President, apparently so that the President may name them as heir. Thus they are crucifying and betraying each other to do so, with the result: a cabinet where everyone suspects everyone else. With the President clueless as to what is really going on, and who is really looking after his interests and whom he can trust, the cunning and the devious are taking advantage of him, and suggesting to him the changes in the operations of Government that are only to the benefit of themselves individually.
The reshuffle of principal secretaries at capital hill recently for example, is a case in point. One minister decided he had had enough of his principal secretary’s objections to looting scams, and decided to replace him with a yes-man. In order for this to happen without raising suspicion, though, he suggested to the President that there was a need to reshuffle principle secretaries to make the system more efficient and more responsive to the decline in popularity revealed by the recent by-election losses. The President, ever clueless and naïve, approved the changed.
After almost four years in power, what can now be observed clearly of the Peter Mutharika presidency is the familiar Mutharika curse that led to the decline and fall of his late brother’s otherwise purpose-filled presidency: failure to maintain the people’s hopes and expectations, and an over-reliance of individuals that are self-serving instead of turning to true patriots for help.
Anyone familiar with Malawi and the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s presidency, will testify to the fact that one of the issues that aroused the anger and disapproval of the late Bingu for many Malawians was his eagerness in allowing himself to be influenced by the Muhlakho wa Alomwe ethnic group. The invasion of this group into the affairs of State, especially the presidency, led to the kind of cronyism and nepotism that reminded people of Dr. Hastings Banda’s days in which the Chewa people had over 90% of the national cake. Such behaviour was certainly one of the reasons that late Bingu’s second term ended on a note of severe controversy.
Peter Mutharika should not be deluded into thinking that Malawians have forgotten the DPP low points under Bingu; the unjustified authoritarianism, the lack of essential political reforms, the governance challenges, the vain celebrations, and most of all, the Mulhako cronyism.
Although Peter Mutharika seems to have borne in mind that at one point in his late brother’s administration, about half of the cabinet was Lhomwe, he seems to have failed to recognise the danger of trusting too much in one or two confidants without proper justification.
Mutharika and the DPP’s current unpopularity, should remind thePresident that Malawians have long noticed that same trend is going on, and are already fed up. It will take some serious political surgery to regain a popularity that can keep the DPP alive in 2019.
When I speak to ministers andGovernment insiders, it is apparent that the country has never really been ruled by Peter Mutharika, but the power behind the power that has at one point been a clique of special assistants, bodyguards or valets, and now apparently one or two cabinet ministers who have so much influence as to order a reshuffle of principle secretaries and other senior government officials.
However, in spite of the eagerness we all have to heap the blame of the failures of the President and his administration squarely on the shoulders of his advisors, aides and assistants, it is important to remember that ultimately, these failures are, and must be seen as, Mutharika’s failures. If Mutharika cannot identify who the good advisors are, and cannot differentiate good advisors from bad, then when his administration is ousted from the Government, and the DPP as a party tumbles, the blame is, and must always remain squarely, Mutharika’s.
As a learned professor of Law, Peter Mutharika knows that Malawians gave a governing mandate to him, and not to any of his ministers and assistants.
This problem, through of relinquishing all his thinking and his administrative powers to his assistants and advisors, is the one that will spell his downfall and doom the DPP.
The relinquishing of his authority and administrative powers to individuals with private agendas, has isolated the President from governing realities, and placed him out of touch with the people’s concerns and expectations of his leadership. It has meant that for the whole of his term so far, there has been no direction to his presidency, and the so-called new and changed DPP, has been exposed to be simply in rhetoric only.
With elections only over a year away, it would be useful to remind the President that this is the time to save his presidency and his party.
Malawians have not forgotten certain clear leadership blunders: the misguided graffiti painting of Lumbadzi police cells, the seriously dubious asset declaration, the suspicious sale of MSB Bank, the failure to deal with corruption, and the total failure to solve the energy crisis, especially ESCOM, just to name a few.
Given the high intellectual respect, with which President Arthur Peter Mutharika is regarded in the country and internationally, I would like to think that the President would not like to go down in Malawian history as one of the worst presidents this country has ever had. I still believe that when he desired the presidency, he did so with good intentions, and would like to improve this country. It is also clear that President Mutharika listens to advice – probably this may actually be his Achilles’ heel, as sometimes a leader needs to get his ideas and agenda forward, and know which advisors to actually have around him.
Nevertheless, in the belief that thePresident listens to advice and takes it to heart, I will next week, in the second part of this article, offer my two-tambala advice to him on what he can do to perhaps save his legacy.
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