Nyasa Times Editorial: Madam President, Why 100 Days?

Last Sunday, Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika drew a mammoth crowd to the ‘re-launch’ of DPP’s 2014 Project at Thyolo Community Centre Ground. What is significant is that this rally was conducted in peace and harmony, and there was no politically-induced police interference intended to prevent Arthur Peter and the DPP from holding the rally. We at the Nyasa Times, would like to commend the People’s Party (PP) government of acting with maturity, and demonstrating that a nation like ours can flourish if we allow the public sphere to be a space for contesting and challenging ideology and hegemony. The DPP should learn a lesson, should they form the next government in 2014, that there is no need to use the police and young unemployed youths to destabilise opposition gatherings.

Whilst we commend the PP government for this and other significant achievements (like bringing back foreign aid), we would like to challenge the President and the PP to seriously rethink a couple of issues, which we think are worrisome signs of the return to dictatorship. We at the Nyasa Times believe that dictatorship is a gradual process; it saliently scavenges the democratic constitutionalism through a number of public behaviours.

1.       Politically induced and unconstitutional firing of public officials deemed close to the late president.

We at the Nyasa Times are not necessarily sympathetic to the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) Director (Alex Nampota) nor the Clerk of Parliament (Maltilda Katopola), but what worries us is the collusion of the Executive, with the Chief Secretary to unconstitutionally remove competent people just because ‘you cannot work with them’. Do you mean to suggest that if a new government comes into power in 2014, the appointments you are currently making should be terminated?

Coming from the Lhomwe belt is not a sin, and we should let competent people do their job. If they fail to perform satisfactorily, constitutional procedures should be followed in terminating their contract. What worries us is that these two public officers were asked to resign voluntarily, and they refused, that is when all these corruption allegations emerged. What you are doing Madam President, is setting a bad precedent, that if you cannot work with anyone, then you need to fire them. This then is not the democracy Malawians wanted in 1993.

2.       The flip-flopping over security issues

Nyasa Times expresses its utter shock at the continued negligence by the PP government regarding the seriousness of the rapidly increasing levels of crime in the country. There is a continued perpetuation of a discourse of blame – that the DPP is in a way implicated in the organisation of such crimes. The public media is not a space for making unsubstantiated claims – this follows other public speeches in which the President has led her party in accusing very senior officials, a case in example being an interview in the foreign media, implicating the Chief Justice in a coup attempt – if ever there was one.

A presidential speech should not segregate certain sections of the population – a presidential speech should bring people together, make them feel they are part of a national family and conversation. A presidential speech should inspire people to want to do more  for their country. A presidential speech should calm the public during times of moral panic.

Emerging from some of the accusatory public speeches, the PP officials themselves seem to have become public flip-floppers themselves. A PP shadow MP for a certain constituency in Zomba recently told a rally that to combat crime, people should not travel at night! What we want to hear from senior PP officials is the clear strategies that the government is putting in place to combat crime, which if left unchecked as is the case, will ruin lives and also affect investor confidence in the country. Bad as Bingu wa Mutharika might have been, he at least ensured that internal security was assured. There were armed police presence in crime hotspots – and the police themselves dealt ruthlessly with any suspected hard core criminals. And this is the same Police Force that you have inherited. Something therefore has happened since you took over – and whatever that is, it has not been working. Go back to the basics, and draw on the expertise of people like Peter Mukhitho – who it must be said, apart from the blight of the 20th July massacre, he knew how to protect us. The visible differences between him and Loti Dzonzi are there for all the country to see.

3.       The holding of obscene 100 days celebration using public resources.

When we heard that this was going to happen, we thought it was a joke. What is even shocking is that the President herself told the nation that she would cut down on the dimension of the independence festivities in order to save public finances. How then, does it make sense to be using the same public finances to, of all things, celebrate the PP’s 100 days in government? Is there any political morality in denying the nation the opportunity to remember the sacrifices of John Chilembwe, Levi Ziliro Mumba, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Orton Chirwa, Kanyama Chiumye, Henry Masauko Chipembere and other freedom fighters just because you want to celebrate 100 days in government?

Or hard won freedom has a longer and bloody history that is meaningful to every Malawian who lives and breathes that land. The idea of 100 days in office demonstrates that the PP government is very sectarian and politically immature.

The PP government should stop functioning like an opposition party. It is the one in government – it can make and unmake policies. If the President and the party want to take credit for the good things that have occurred in the last 100 days, then they should be objective enough to take responsibility for the things that have gone wrong.

We might have access to the fuel or forex, but the people’s salaries have been hit hard by the devaluation – they can barely afford most commodities. There are ongoing salary strikes in the country; there is security breakdown. The President and her PP government should know that the public expects them to solve these challenges.

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