Quest for first-class political leadership for a better Malawi

Malawi is one of the poorest countries and is within top ten of the poorest in the world and third in SADC just behind DR Congo and probably Zimbabwe. Just like she has been overtaken by Ethiopia, Mozambique, Angola etc because such countries were on war before, the country should expect to take the last position in SADC once Zimbabwe and DR Congo which are better off resource wise are to have stabilized political system, a very painful prospect for any patriotic Malawian.

However there is very high potential for moving the country forward even increasing the economy with more than tenfold within a very short period if there is maximum utilization of the many opportunities such as a fair share of valuable natural resources of water, rich soil, uranium, donor’s benevolence and the intelligent and hard working Malawians among many others that avail for exploitation and good management.

But this can only be done with first class political leadership especially the president and not leaders the country has had since independence who are bent on exploitation, unpatriotic, corrupt, no morals and unprincipled. Just like all her predecessors, Joyce Banda is not doing any better as we will see, but before this let us quickly look at examples of first world class leadership for comparison sake.

New State House: One of the many official residences for the President

The first destination at world level is obviously America being the biggest economy in the world. The country has had three presidents who have stood out among 44 presidents since she got independent form Britain. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president is mostly put on first position because of his successful effort in keeping the country intact after the southern part wedged war with the aim of the becoming independent. The country is still one, enjoying economies of scale but unfortunately he got assassinated partly because of this. With no time to waste, lets us look George Washington, the first President of the country who personally and physically fought many battles for the independence of the country.

Upon winning and much as he came out as the obvious choice as president, he took it as privilege and accepted with the most humbleness of choosing to work without pay. The salary was forced on him so that it served as a norm especially for generations to come. Lastly in this same country, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the 32nd and only president to have served more than two normal terms since he served four terms, takes third or second position interchanging with George Washington. His legacy is leading the country during great depression with reforms such as Raw deal and wining the Second World War as part of the Allies.

Remember, we are looking at first class leaders and we are at a global level so that we can get the standards on what is expected of president. We also have to note of Mao Zedong of China, father and founder of the second biggest economy taking a position but his legacy is tainted with killings. We do not have to cover much of him as situation has changed and we are in the twenty-first century where we have gone further past human rights and now championing animal rights. But before we go to the third largest economy, Hitler of the fourth largest economy has space in the history of Germany.

Much as there were lots of killing of eleven to fourteen million people, including about six million Jews, he is accredited for reduction of unemployment substantially, from six million in 1932 to one million in 1936. He also oversaw one of the largest infrastructure improvement campaigns in German history, leading to the construction of dams, autobahns, railroads, and other civil works. Some historians agree that he should be given space as one of the great leaders of the world while some do not because of the killings done during his reign.  All the same, each one of us has a right to make independent opinion of this German of Austrian origin.

Before we forget our next stop is Japan, the third largest economy in the world and here we met Emperor Meiji or Emperor Mutsuhito, the 122nd Emperor according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 from the age of 14 until his death on 30th July 1912. He presided over a time of rapid change in Japan, as the nation rose from a feudal and closed state to become a world power. One will read that Japan was on the verge of bankruptcy during the time he took over the reign from his father, Emperor Komei, but through his Meiji Restoration or enlightment rule everything changed.

Among many reforms, he believed in empowerment young people, mostly graduates, to travel all over the world in order to gain knowledge in different areas for implementation into his country as part of technology transfer. He also embraced western education system, imported over 3000 technocrats from western countries into Japan to help in modernization and genuinely delegating his powers to ministers that led to the birth of Prime Minister, a position still in existence up to now. Yes, he encouraged young people as agents of change to travel all over the world unlike the obsession of all my presidents and ministers who are addicted to flying and for proof records are there from Joseph  Njobvuyalema MP as to how many countries the new president has visited so far.

Sorry for the diversion as this is another topic on another day. Continuing with Emperor Meiji, a detailed account of the state funeral of this great man, whose childhood name is Sachinomiya, or Prince Sachi, born at Gosho with Nakayama Yoshiko as the mother, was in the New York Times which concluded with an observation: “The contrast between that which preceded the funeral car and that which followed it was striking indeed. Before it went old Japan; after it came new Japan.

It would not be good if an analysis is not made on someone within Africa, and surprisingly, it is not Nelson Mandela, but Meles Zenawi, current Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Born at Adwa, in Tigray State, Northern Ethiopia, Meles fought the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam who is currently protected in Zimbabwe for obvious reasons. With no discovery of petroleum and minerals as would be expected by many especially on what the country is going through registering huge growth rate annually, the country still depends on Coffee as the main foreign exchange earner.

Just giving you a picture the premier has lead to reaching the target of having 33 state universities this year from the only one, University of Addis Ababa, that was there ten years ago as a way of generating local knowledge and supporting the growth of the country. There are currently massive expansions of existing universities, all of which is through use of local resources. The leadership also realized the importance of energy (electricity) in driving the economic agenda hence it is investing heavily in development of wind and hydro power stations. Cleverly and playing geopolitics of Nile River whose control was in the hands of Egypt when 85% of the river’s source is in Ethiopia, the resource potential of hydropower of the country had to be exploited in one way or the other. The country is to commission a whopping 5250 MW from the Millennium Dam in 2014 on top of other projects which will add to the existing capacity. As a contrast Malawi has overall generation capacity of 304 MW but doing nothing apart from talking. The country’s airline and the new project of having a high speed railway project that is to connect the major areas in all corners are some of the sweet talk of the country. With such projects mostly done with the locally generated resources is a very huge achievement mostly if you compare what is happening in Malawi.

Enough of other countries as this will do nothing good and it will be lack of patriotism if I do not come home and help to find the way forward for our country. We need to be reminded that our topic is about ‘quest of first class political leadership for a better Malawi, which the current president and all her predecessors are far away from it.

But, first, I was among the people who was happy to the fate or divine intervention considering that Bingu became so adamant on the first option of him changing his leadership style for the better especially knowing his potential in first term, then the option of him to call for a referendum for the people to legitimatize his odd way of leadership and lastly for him to resign.

However, Malawians are not any better with Joyce Banda’s leadership because it will not take the country any further and I would urge her to live to the actual meaning of the English word as per the salutation of “Her Excellency” with her chosen cabinet ministers being “Honourable”. I started getting disappointed from the word go and my first talk is on the presidential jet. I feel the presidential jet needed not even to be touched by the coming ‘first class’ president for three reasons; it was bought illegally as was not part of the budget even if the previous regime wanted to justify the action, was part of the demands of July 20 which led to 20 people dead hence morally has blood stains (only in Malawian context and not the one to buy it) and lastly is extravagancy of the highest order for a country like Malawi especially in the state it is. But what all of us saw was the president taking the jet and flying to South Africa, Liberia and Nigeria for reasons besetting the word “Excellency”.

This is because the expenses that went into the trip in the form of exorbitant jet fuel for round trip, allowances to Her Excellency and first gentleman, allowances to the first gentleman among all that made the trip, allowances for foreign pilots and the attendants, landing charges, logistics, food, accommodation of all in all three countries etc. which is in millions and in foreign currency does not come from the government but from poor people who contributes in the form of taxes. If you consider the benefit the tax payers got from the trip, this is extravagancy of the highest order and need not repeated.

The jet also went to Mozambique, a trip I am yet to believe as to what was the indeed reasons. If it is the electricity interconnection, it has to be noted that plans of connection under Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) have been there waiting for us to commit. It is included in the National Energy Policy of 2003 and MGDS 1 hence not new and did not need a trip. A lot of money from poor heavily taxed Malawians went and this is definitely not from first class president and not only the jet should be sold as soon as possible but the trips a president and the those of cabinet minister should make economic sense, and I see millions being generated and saved here. By the way the taxpayers will buy a jet for the president if the country has attained GDP per capita of say not less than US$3000.

The extravagancy is not stopping here as our taxes are not for the payment of recurrent expenditure and projects for the development of the country but satisfying the luxury and extravagancy of the executive and legislature at the expense of everything else. The office of the president gets the lion’s share in servicing six state residences most of which the president has never spent an hour for over a year. The wonder is that if this was the norm, how many state residencies would Russia, USA, China, Ethiopia, RSA have. Or lets be direct, how many days/nights or part of it has the president spent at Chikoko Bay in Mangochi, Mzuzu State Lodge, Zomba State Lodge, Sanjika, Mtunthama and then New (call it old) State house and how much of our taxes is spent for utilities, security, workers on all of them without a purpose. Or what can become of the president if there is only one state house?

By the way Meres Zenawi of Ethiopia, which is ten times the area our country, spent his time at the private Axum Hotel during the national celebrations of Ethiopia which took place in Mekelle, 700km north of his base, Addis Ababa, but he is still the prime minister of the second fastest growing economy in Africa. If I were to have a say Mzuzu state lodge would have been given to Mzuzu University, Zomba to University of Malawi, Chikoko Bay and Mtunthama sold. Sanjika with its big area would have been a site for a new University of Blantyre replacing Poly and MCA. Of course these would have been done after thorough consultation. Before I forget, the country has presidential villas when we only have one president. What for and when are we using them? However, the country does not have the first class president and the extravagancy is not seen here as it is business as usual.

The country needs money not only for stabilization of the economy but for development and we have just seen some of the sources through savings and generation. Just for comparison sake bigger economies such as USA with 313 million people and ninety times our land size has 23 secretaries, Britain with 60 million people and about two times our land size has 23 ministers, Ethiopia with 84 million people and ten times our land size has 20 ministers. The size of cabinet shows some ministers are doing nothing and that the economy is so small hence should be able to do with maximum of 15 people, making huge savings.

Development should not be expected when all the money generated from us poor people goes to paying ministers’ luxury of a VX, a Mercedes benz, a twin cab for errands at the house of minister, whopping tax-free salary, allowances, trips abroad, fuel allowances, utility allowances etc. How much savings if can we make if the country can have 15 cabinet ministers and go on taxing them just like everyone else, reduce number of vehicles given with only VX which can do all. The first class president would not only implement all the above but choose ministers on merit, but also come up with legislation for all the above so as to guide future presidents who could be extravagant. I should repeat here that money for all these extravagancies does not belong to government but from ordinary people and here is an abuse of trust of managing people’s finances. Even donors and cooperating partners are giving their money to people of Malawi, with the only role of the executive branch as custodian hence no wonder there had been continuation even after change of regime. By the way, is there sympathy for the poverty of the people in Sigerege, Nkhorongo and Chigwiri etc who travel long distances daily to their work places and contribute their money through exorbitant VAT, PAYE etc, the money carelessly spent?

The first class president will not only to declare her/his assets but enforce her appointed ministers to follow suit. It is clear that not declaring assets is showing the intent of kusolola poor people’s money which is ungodly, corrupt, unpatriotic and not sympathetic of the poor people of Malawi from whom the money comes from. The first class president will also not create useless positions such as Ambassador for Safe motherhood, Deputy Chief Secretary etc not have so many presidential advisors because there are a drain to the country. If these are not enough, there has been mistakes of appointing a linguistic academician, a law academician, a mere politician, a law novice, academic administrator for the key ministries of Finance, Energy and Mining, health, Economic Planning and agriculture respectively, which is a taboo to a first class president for such key ministries.

I say a first class president will put in place guidance or even legislation for the coming presidents who could be excited or intoxicated with power and do the unthinkable. He or she would also authorize the electoral commission to re-demarcate the constituencies so that the country has not less than 100 MPs, after all we see the benefit of funding such people. The shame part of all is to see within a cabinet of some people being called honourables or appointed to be called honourables, one having stolen a house, the other reporting onerous Mid-Year budget figures to the whole nation, the other one morally not cleared having stolen millions of kwacha in the ministry of education long time ago. I can go on and on, but this is undoubted failure hence straight 25% which is far away of the actual meanings of the English words ‘Excellency’ and ‘Honourable’.

The development of the country should start and owned by ourselves as Malawians with cooperating partners and donors complementing our effort. From this we see lots of areas for improvement but a huge share belongs to the president, whose office has been bestowed with so much power not as a mistake but for a purpose. Let us, especially the highest office of the president, feel for the poor people so that they can come out tomorrow smiling with a job and a changed life. Now that we have seen billions of money saved our next stop is on energy, to which the president is of the opinion that it will be solved by strategic partners while the finance ministers thinks will be solved by raising tariffs will attract for investors. What about raising contributions for university students as a means of expanding university education access?

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