Of President Mutharika’s Vigil: Urgent matters to contemplate

Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika is on leave and it is my considered opinion that he deserves one. Any employee should go on leave once in a while; more so when things in the workplace are not well and his employers, the voters, are showing increasing disapproval and dissatisfaction.

But having said that, I am forced, by the sheer logic and force in the arguments put forward against, to agree with among others, the Muckraker that he ought to have gone about it more transparently and perhaps he ought to have had a better sense of timing, more so since in his workplace everything is in shambles.

And, to say that in President Bingu wa Mutharika’s workplace things are in shambles is a major understatement. Malawi is in a mess and it is kicking up a stink. Looking at the three arms of the Malawi Government, only one is functioning to people’s satisfaction.

The Executive: it might as well be a headless chicken, unless this leave of absence is used wisely by President Mutharika. The Legislature:it is at best a bazaar, a market place where women and men gather to legalize absurdities and debate about matters of little or no consequence. At worst, it only serves as a rubberstamp of draconian laws.

Mutharika: On holiday amid national crisis

Fortunately the Judiciary is, beyond reasonable doubt, on top of its game and it is the reason why Mutharika ought not get nightmares with the manner in which Colonel Ghadafi met his end. Whatever excesses the government indulges in, the Judiciary promptly remedies, hence instilling hope in the people. If the judiciary had joined the rampant impunity, one fears to even imagine what the popular outcry would have been.

Going a step down, no single government ministry can validly claim to be serving the people in a manner comparable to the Kamuzu Banda era. There is no efficiency, there is no compassion, and everyone, from messenger to the minister, is looking after number one. A truly dedicated and diligent civil servant is these days, as they say, as rare as hen’s teeth.

Against this background, it is not amazing that literally every key statutory body has either recently or not in the not so distant past, made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Topping the chart is the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM). The RBM is reportedly spending a fortune constructing a K43 million (about $257 485) to build a swimming pool at the governor’s official residence amidst Malawi’s economic woes. The RBM is Malawi’s gold reservoir and is supposed to hold the gold standard in as far as prudent financial management is concerned.

But on the contrary, through its officials, it is insulting the poverty of Malawians, by daring to justify this despicable act of decadence. Is a swimming pool for the bank governor’s residence a priority given the circumstances we are in? Only the Governor Perks Ligoya and perhaps Mr Ralph Tseka, can give us an answer; so let us move on.

The Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC)’s former CEO and his deputy are now on remand. Their charges? Corruption. Corruption unravelled by the gallant media that the president loves to hate. Commenting on this issue, which is sub judice, would make us liable of contempt; so we will leave it at that. We know for a fact, that our judiciary, will once again dispense justice.

Now let us scrutinize the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). MACRA is not only awarding dubious licences to a select and well connected few but it is shunning, for no clear reasons, youthful and innovative entrepreneurs like Gospel Kazako. Seeing that Charles Nsaliwa and Gospel Kazako are probably in the same age bracket; is it that Nsaliwa is simply playing pull him down (PHD) or is he acting under the spell of an unseen hand? Charles, in all fairness, owes Gospel and us all, an explanation.

Going beyond the licences and reviewing MACRA’s other ventures, gives one some insight to Nsaliwa. He has spearheaded the procurement of an expensive spying machine that has no place in country that is not a police state, contrary to free international professional advice and despite intense local protests. What is Nsaliwa up to or is he, again, acting under the spell of an unseen hand? These questions will be answered the day power changes hands. At that time, the chickens will come home to roost.

Moving on, one cannot talk of Malawi, in a zero deficit budget fiscal year without alluding to the tax authority. The Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), by now, should have had Mr Binton Kutsaira and Mr Noel Masangwi locked up at Maula and Chichiri respectively. Their crimes? 1) Smuggling 2) Tax evasion 3)  Intimidating MRA agents.

Can it be that MRA lacks witnesses? Or is it that the MRA is questioning and doubting the integrity of the man who blew the whistle on these two, the Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika? The professor has all the facts. He has said it and it is on record, that these two are gutter criminals.

What is the MRA waiting for; and what is it doing instead? Ironically, it is trying to tamper with the media market dynamics by reducing competition for Noel Masangwi’s new paper: Sky News. How? It wants to shut down the Blantyre Newspapers Limited – the forerunner of Malawi’s print media. Why the MRA opts to be in cahoots with a tax evader “smoking out” an institution that employs thousands, only the Commissioner General knows.

This takes us to the national broadcaster. Of the sad developments taking place at Bright Malopa’s Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), one cannot write without fighting back tears.

When the livelihood of hundreds of professionals is being messed up by a glaring incompetent, who surprisingly, has been given a carte blanche to ill-treat and torture the very staff that have been working hard to conceal the depravity of the current sick regime; and those in charge fail to discipline the wayward bungler, one starts to believe that the word gratitude is indeed non-existent in the president’s vocabulary.

And then we have the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (MERA). Preventing the occurrence of the fuel and electricity crises is why MERA was set up. Its mandate is to monitor the efficiency and performance of energy undertakings, having regard to the purpose for which they were established. On the contrary, it is taking measures that could potentially guarantee that the current fuel shortages become the norm in Malawi.

Let me take you back to 1994 to put things in context. On taking over the government, the then UDF government put its yellow, slimy and grabby fingers in the sugar industry, supply and availability of which had all along been fine.

There was Siku as transporters, and the Chipiku/Kandodo and McConnell/PTC groups as major distributors. These two had a tried and tested nationwide network, a solid supply chain and were selling the sugar at standard prices across the country.

Bakili Muluzi came in. Under one guise or another, he turned things upside down, and sugar quotas started being issued from Sanjika. Ntaja Trading, Kalaria Wholesalers and others became the distributors, the Chipiku/Kandodo and McConnell/PTC groups only got sugar far and in between as a result, we had to fight to buy a packet of sugar.

Thanks to Muluzi and the UDF, sugar, grown and produced at Nchalo and Dwangwa, became a rare commodity inMalawi. Distributorships were being allocated to politicians and businessmen friendly to Bakili Muluzi. Sugar had turned into a goldmine for Bakili and his cronies, at the expense of the poor.

And now MERA, which is partially to blame for the fuel crisis, has borrowed a leaf. It is reportedly awarding licenses to some dubious operators – rewarding some individuals for their blue-eyed loyalty it appears. In this way, it is creating fuel mafias, just like the UDF created sugar mafias.

These DPP fuel barons, like the UDF sugar barons before them, will be hoarding fuel. The fuel crisis will worsen, while some selected few, will make a killing at the expense of the poor. This will backfire in a big way and if it is not Bingu who will pay, Peter Mutharika, will settle the bill – in 2014 – at the polls.

Last but not least we have ESCOM – frequently interrupted power supply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through out the year. Need I write more? Water Boards – all of them should be rechristened dry tap boards (dtb).  The Tobacco Control Commission: is practically a club of the few benefitting from the tobacco industry despite the fact that the farmer is suffering.

The Malawi Posts Corporation (MPC)? I will give you a task: post a letter to yourself and see how long it will take to get back to you. That is the “revamped” for you.

The University Council? The council of “professors”! Professors! my foot, as if they are capable of solving anything. The UNIMA professors, if they were in  Isaac Newton’s shoes when the apple was falling, the whole concept of gravity would have remained a mystery to date.

Isaac Newton, upon seeing an apple fall, asked:

“Why did the apple fall downwards and not upwards?” and hence he went to the root of the matter and discovered in the process the concept of gravity.

Isaac Newton , seeing lecturers refuse to teach would have asked:

“Why is it that today these people are acting this way when they have been teaching all along?” and hence he would have gone to the root of the matter and would have discovered that:

1) Mukhito is playing dangerous games on campus and

2) in the process, would have saved the life of Robert Chasowa. Robert died because of Mukhito’s tinkering with campus politics and students – and nothing else!

The Council professors of ours, on the other hand, had they been  Newton , they would have said:

“An apple has fallen, therefore we will eat it, we will however send the biggest piece to Sanjika” – hence throwing away the opportunity to discover the force of gravity, and sending everybody back to the stone age, like they have with the delayed education and graduation of all Chanco students.

To conclude, all the men heading the institutions named above have striking similarities and one common denominator. Firstly, am sad to say that they are mostly the “younger” alternatives that people are agitating to take charge, and replace the seventy years olds. The question is: if these are the best we have, and if they were today to replace the aged Mutharikas and Tembos, would it take us anywhere?

Secondly, they mostly belong to one tribe and thirdly they are all appointees of President Bingu wa Mutharika. One hopes that during his ill-timed stay away, the president will use the time on his hands to reflect seriously on the goings on in Malawi. The president should ponder where he is taking the country to and what sort of legacy he will leave.

I want to urge him and encourage him to rethink his policies, or lack thereof, his appointments and perhaps start all over again. No one can deny the fact that President Bingu wa Mutharika has failed miserably in his second term of office.

And instead of heeding voices of reason, he has been heaping the blame on the wrong people and institutions. It is not the donors, the judiciary, the media, civil society, the Church or Nyasa Times that has been letting him and Malawi down.

It is the crop leading the institutions named above, his ministers, characters like Peter Mukhito and the other idiots he surrounds himself with that are letting us all down.

And therefore Ladies and Gentlemen, I beg you to join me as I wish his Excellency a reproductive vigil. It is sad that he did not invite Billy Mayaya, civil society players and all of us to join him.

We love vigils too and our harsh words are just the painful medicine that Richard Dictus has prescribed.  If Bingu does not come back wiser from this vigil it must be said, he is better off not coming back at all. Malawians have had enough.

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