The recent announcement in the media that President Peter Mutharika has agreed to trim down his powers which is likely to include power of appointing various senior officers. This is a very welcome development to say the least. It is believed that this is the recommendation by the Public Service Reform committee headed by the Vice President Saulos Chilima. Meanwhile, one can only hope that government red tape will not delay the legalisation of the decision.
For a long time Malawians have been commenting on the negative side of some of the presidential appointments of senior public officers be it in government or parastatals. Unfortunately, time and again the response to this has been that those who query the appointments are just being jealousy. In addition the authorities would quash down the general belief that the appointments have been on appeasement basis despite being obviously so.
One of the most glaring examples of appeasement appointments has been in boards of parastatal organisations. With all due respect, some of the members have no clue about the duties of the organization they have been assigned to, let alone know what they are supposed to do. They cannot even read and understand the simplest document presented to them during board meetings.
If they are asked to say something at the meeting they irrelevantly just thank the appointing authority who is the State President. With such board membership should Malawians be wondering why parastatals seem not to progress?
Sometimes Presidential appointments seem to be a tool for punishment for reasons best known to the appointing authority. Time and again diplomatic staff are suddenly recalled even if they have been on their posts less than a year. This is usually the case when there is a change of government. What has been deliberatelyoverlooked is the fact that those in the diplomatic service do not represent the ruling party but the Malawi nation. Worse still some of the returnees from foreign service are left in suspense as if they had wronged government.
Even the way the army Commander General Odillo and his deputy John Msonthi were laid off before their contracts were finished gave a picture that they had done something wrong that the government could not wait. Their redeployment too as officers at Airport Development Ltd is as if the government is trying to make right the wrong.
To say the truth the position of an Army Commander is a very high and respectable position. Taking such a person to be just some officer at a parastatal organization is diluting the position. In fact they can be open to redicule and making fun of them. If this has been done in the past let it not continue because it is just like employing a former Head of State as a District Commissioner.
The other group which seem to have suffered silently from Presidential appointments to State house are journalists. Though the appointments look lucrative the hidden agenda seem to be silencing those who are very good at making critical comments on topical issues. One wonders whether or not the journalists themselves see this negative side of the appointment. It is sad to see them derailed in such a way that once their tour of duty is over or they have been dismissed, they end up no where and are not as powerful as they were before entering State House
It does not need a genius to know that a poor country like Malawi can benefit a lot from journalists who come up with thought provoking questions and comments to the authorities. These encourage debate on various issues in the country and can lead to finding solutions. Those in power should know that Malawi has already passed a stage of saying yes ‘bwana’ to whatever the leaders say. Therefore finding a way of silencing journalists is a disservice to the nation which is likely to backfire.
Lastly, one can only hope that the President should not be involved in appointing or firing chiefs. Their royal families know who should be next in line. Involving the President has just destroyed the genuine powers of the chiefs and createa lot of wrangles.
Let the appointing powers be reduced so that all Malawians can have equal opportunity
- Emily Mkamanga. [email protected]