Rumours and Futures: Free advice to new Malawi leadership

First, can I thank you for keeping us in the dark.

Second, could you please remember that we elected you? And we elected you constitutionally. We therefore expect that the constitution will be followed during this time when the president has become incapacitated.

Already there are worrisome rumours: meetings at Goodall Gondwe’s house; rumours of a Parliament sitting to change the constitution; the MBC not informing its people… At least one good thing has come out of this; Madame Kaliati has kept her mouth shut for 24 hours and H Ntaba has avoided the temptation to spout garbage.

There is more. Up to yesterday, the kitchen cabinet seems to have been running the country with senior ministers meeting at Gondwe’s house. Why has the constitutionally elected person, the VP, not been involved? With the President unconscious, who is making the decisions? The cabinet secretary? Peter Mutharika? Kaliati?

Malawi leader Joyce Banda

Could we, beginning from today 6/4/12, see the VP meeting the Police and Army top brass, the Cabinet Secretary, senior civil servants and opposition leaders for briefings and to bring her up to date? We are reassured that the Army top brass despatched a platoon to guard the VP as soon as news of the president’s incapacity reached the army.

Could we see an end to the self-interested partisan politicking which has brought Malawi to its sorry state? And it should be said that it is this self-interest that, in my humble view, contributed to the stress that brought on this cardiac arrest.

Of course the president may recover and resume his duties, a very unlikely scenario. Cardiac arrest implies that some brain damage has taken place. If he recovers he will need to be medically examined to ensure that he is fit to rule. In the meantime, unconscious as we are told he is, he cannot rule.

Advice to the new transitional president

Mrs Joyce Banda looks set to become Malawi’s first female president. Let us hope that she will bring that motherly humanity which some critics assume was missing from previous presidents. But to achieve this she will need to surround herself with good advisers.

First, she will need to remember that we have two years to go to 2014. If she makes the mistake of choosing the wrong people, she could end up with the shortest reign of any president because by 2014 her people will be disillusioned with her rule. Remember, she will need to overcome the ‘forex, fertiliser, Fanta, fuel, factories’ problems. That should be her priorities. Selfish advisers will be advising her on how to use government money to build the PP. Malawians are not stupid.

Second, Joyce Banda should choose the best ministers – not any PP recycled politicians for payback (she can do that in 2014, not now). Any ministers from the present who can deliver, she can leave in post, any new blood who can deliver she can bring in, any opposition politicians who can deliver she can bring in… It is not a government of national unity. It is NOT a PP government; it is a transitional government. But we do not want to see the likes of Kaliati, Ntaba or Dausi. Or her old friends from MCP or UDF just because they were friends. Indeed please avoid the temptation to bring in old crocodiles from the past. Take it from me; they do not impress the masses. Adzangoti: Mwaziona, zomwe zija!

And to be direct:

Madam VP, there should be no place for appeasement or ethnic balancing or trying to make members join your party. Do the best for Malawi. Look at DPP: one day so strong, next day in tatters.

Third, Malawians want accurate information. You have suffered from the MBC propaganda. You have a chance to stop this: and remember if you do not do the right thing you may be in opposition come 2014 and suffer again from MBC! Put an end to media harassment and censorship.

Fourth, please put an end to political trials. Pardon Muluzi and Chilumpha (these waste money and we knew Mutharika would really never take Muluzi to real court) and enable the Director of Public Prosecutions – or the Police to put an end to all the political charges, like Kasambara et al. We have seen you visiting and sympathising with those who suffered from political injuries and deaths, now please publish the results. But those thugs and officials who killed or maimed should be taken to court.

Fifth, please depoliticise the Civil service, Police and Army. As a transitional administration you have the power to do this.

Six, and perhaps more crucial: please revive the economy. Reviving the economy does not just need words. It needs deeds.

  • Malawi needs power to power the economy. Energy saving bulbs are not going to suffice. We need more generating capacity. Please permit your finance minister to get us power from Cabora Basa and to start building generators now. No electricity means no growth and more deforestation and the suffering of your people in 2016!
  • With power we can bring more jobs and development. And we can be more self-assertive about giving our natural resources away cheaply.
  • Malawi needs donors in the short-term. We need them to support our infrastructure development, health sector (HIV/AIDS etc), education capital projects etc.
  • Malawi needs a genuine reduction in corruption, not just chasing politically convenient cases. Corruption reduces inwards investment.
  • Malawi needs an investment policy: we seem to have an influx of Chinese, Pakistan, Indian, Burundi, Nigerian and other nationals doing labouring jobs that can be done by rural Malawians. This is a recipe for future stability. Investors, like Bhakresa, bring factories, farms.
  • Madam, you will need to ensure that your PP colleagues do not replace your former DPP colleagues as economic bullies, muscling out others instead from an insular parochial pond, instead of looking outwards as Malawians together.
  • Madam, ensure that academic freedom and freedom of speech thrive. Out of these come ideas that shape our nation for better.
  • Malawians need security: please get all those policemen and women terrorising motorists on the roads. One road block between Zomba and Blantyre is sufficient; please get your next Inspector general to put the rest where they are really needed: in towns and rural areas policing against rising crime.
  • Malawians need food security, not handouts or speeches or advertising claims of president who have abolished hunger. Malawians are not blind.

Finally, like a mother who loves her children, let Malawians be their smiling selves yet again.

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