It is easy to analyse a presidency and conclude that it is a failure.
President Peter Mutharika’s presidency, for instance, having taken the road of list resistance and failed to deliver on any of the many promises that he made in his manifesto and campaign speeches in 2014, is an easy victim of such conclusions.
Such a simplistic analysis, however, is incomplete, as it fails to address the question why such an accomplished academic, a constitutional lawyer with an impeccable professional record can fail so miserably to lead and manage a country as small as Malawi to the point of later resorting to rigging elections and betraying the legal profession that he had represented so well for so many years.
In analysing the political and policy decisions that ultimately have ended up being the cause of the controversy surrounding Mutharika’s presidency, it is important to investigate the “why” and to glean some lessons from his presidency that could be learned by future leaders and aspiring leaders. The real question is not so much one of discussing whether Mutharika has been a success or not, but rather why his presidency has been such a disappointment.
Upon close investigation, it becomes clear that it is Peter Mutharika’s detached approach to national leadershipand power and the attitude and advice of those who have been close to him that have conspired, perhaps inadvertently, to give him a Siege Mentality.
This siege mentality has then been carefully and deliberately maintained by those around the president (advisors, party cadets, supporters) because it secures their positions of influence and affluence and gives them some hope of continuity for the future.
A siege mentality is that state of mind or perception of an individual or a group that people or forces outside the group have intentions to do wrong or inflict harm on the individual or on the group.
In the case of Mutharika and the DPP, as soon as Joyce Banda took over the presidency upon the demise of late Bingu wa Mutharika, those close to the president, particularly those that had acquired affluence and become powerful and influential because of the rise to prominence of the infamous Mulhako wa Alhomwe grouping, particularly that clique within it that had the acquisition of wealth at any cost as its agenda, began to give him the wrong advice; advice meant to perpetuate their affluence and influence, and not the advice he actually needed to be given- the advice that was good for the country.
While originally Peter Mutharika, having arrived on the Malawian political scene with a United Mindset where he had spent most of his adult life, was more open to facts and dialogue,as DPP president he soon discarded this approach to leadership and politics in preference to Malawi’s prevailing politics of secrecy and innuendo.
While initially as Minister in his brother’s cabinet Mutharika was more willing to close his ears to gossip and rumour and to listen only to professionals and technocrats that gave valuable advice on how to implement his economic and development policies, Mutharika as leader of DPP relied began to rely heavily on rumours brought to him by his personal assistant and his valet as the basis for making important decisions.
Mutharika the cabinet minister in his brother’s cabinet wanted so much to perform and succeed that he was prepared at times to disagree with his brother, occasions that created rows and sometimes caused him to leave the country for the USA in anger to cool down his spirits. As a minister in his brother’s cabinet, and in spite of the many challenges he faced as a minister because of his being a novice politician, Peter Mutharika was so determined to help the country move forward that he entertained all kinds of dialogue and different views, and was willing to get expert help from many specialists in various issues that he encountered.
After winning the national presidency in 2014 however, everything changed.He started to relax. The siege mentality with its accompanying paranoia set in. And instead of pointing the president to the narrowness of the margin with which he had won the presidency and urging him to perform his duty as president in a way that would win the hearts and the minds of the nation and set him up nicely for a second term election, his advisers found it personally expedient to keep him focussed entirely and only on the siege mentality so that Mutharika as president has no focus and no grip of what the country’s problems were, why about 70 per cent of Malawians didn’t vote for him and what he could to do win their support. Instead of concentrating on the economic or development issues, he was and has been concerned only with the politics. The underlying reason for
Mutharika’s failure as president, therefore, is not that difficult to identify once a careful analysis is made. Mutharika has failed as president because instead of indulging rumour and gossip of succession plots and stories about those that are apparently jealous of his presidency and want to bring him down.
For Peter Mutharika, the ascendancy into power has brought upon him a paranoia that has completely blinded him to important leadership realities and caused him to make questionable leadership decisions. The reason why the DPP cadets notoriously known as “ana a adadi” have been allowed to terrorise political opponents and go unpunished, and sometimes even awarded with employment positions in jobs for which that are not qualified is the president’s belief that as he is under siege from political opponents, these are the soldiers protecting his presidential tenure.
The same reasoning explains why corrupt ministers, advisors and other officials accused of various acts of impunity have been allowed to remain in his government and in his administration.
In Mutharika’s state of siege, even the Inspector General of Police and the Army Commander must be appointed only on the basis of their willingness to protect his and his party’s political interests and not to do the jobs they were trained to do. The same, i submit, goes for all other influential appointments in government- heads of parastatals, government departments, and even parastatal boards.
The lesson to be learned is an important one for those aspiring to lead this country. Beware the siege mentality. It is the siege mentality that creates paranoia when one is in power, and causes a leader to protect wayward cadets and supporters instead of seeing the issues for what they really are and focusing on truly leading the nation to prosperity.
The siege mentality and the power paranoia it creates results in the establishment of party cadets and zealots that only work to make a president fail to govern, not succeed.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :