Wise One: On why a presidential jet is something we do not need now

“A presidential plane is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It enhances the president’s ability to work effectively. It is a tool without which no chief executive can effectively execute his duties in the 21st Century. Yes, Malawi is poor. But we are also in the 21st century. And fate has called even the poor Malawian nation to operate within the 21st century with appropriate tools.” Dr Cedrick Ngalande

My good Facebook friend, the learned Dr Cedrick Ngalande,presented his case as to why, contrary to public opinion, procurement of a presidential jet for Malawi should be a priority within our priorities.

Travelling commercial: President Mutharika  on Malawian Airlines
Travelling commercial: President Mutharika on Malawian Airlines

His case springs from a photo that found its way onto social media, showing President Arthur Peter Mutharika patiently standing in a queue waiting for a plane, as if he is a mere human being.

This, Dr Ngalande eloquently argued, is haram.Skipping the politics of presidential planes, he went to townon arguments often raised against buying a presidential plane, and volunteered his own reasons why Malawi must buy a presidential jet.

His case revolved around the following issues:

  1. a) Popular misconception vis-à-vis planes;
  2. b) People equating presidential planes with lives of the poor dying for lack of medicine;
  3. c) The cost of time lost when the president spends days and hours in queues;
  4. d) Increased risk for leakage of confidential information;
  5. e) Security considerations and costs and
  6. f) A phenomenon which Dr Cedrick Ngalande terms “advertising poverty”.

Against the background, I want you to join me sifting the issues he has raised – one at a time.

  1. a) Popular misconception vis-à-vis planes:

Dr Cedrick Ngalande, on top of the many problems we have as Malawians (e.g. poverty, kusachedwa kuyiwala – identified by Atcheyaetc.), has diagnosed a new one.

Thisfresh problem, he says, is that we wrongly associate planes with luxury. As a result, he continues, when we hear about presidential planes,all we think about is the president living large.

The learned doctor then says medicine missing in our hospitals,potholes on our roads andlack of textbooks in our schools can wait because they will be there forever, but a presidential plane is something we cannot do without.

The insinuationsof the good doctor’s line of thought are very clear. First, he is implying that although missing drugs in hospital mean people dying from curable diseases, the lives needlessly lost are worth much less than having a presidential plane.

Secondly, he wants to convince you and me that although the pot-holes on our roads are just a symptom of the broken down infrastructure against which our airports are not spared; we must still prioritize the plane.

Where it will land, taxi and take off, matters less; that a plane needs a smooth and well maintained run-way; all these are to Dr Ngalande of secondary importance.

That to get to the airportin a manner that the president does not waste time needs roads that are free of potholes; is something – according to Dr Ngalande’s logic – we should worry about only when we have a presidential plane.

With respect to education, he seems to be asking: What after all is education – usually facilitated by availability of textbooks – compared to Malawi owning a presidential plane? Other than the infamous Boko Haraam, I have heard no-one else belittle education any better.

I should add that while I found Dr Cedrick Ngalande’s arguments on prioritizing a presidential jet over roads and drugs bizarre, his throwing to the back seat our nation’s education needs in preference ofa presidential plane is something I fail to understand; coming as it is from a PhD holder.

I expect clarification from him on this one, reconciling why he found it necessary to pursue PhD level education, when education can in fact, be tossed aside so that Malawi buys a presidential jet.

His second line of thought, that equating presidential planes with lives of the poor, who die for lack of medicine but who will die anyway, is comparing mangoes to apples, I agree.

Medicines are a matter of life and death, while presidential travels and jets arenot. Education is a matter of life and death, and presidential travel – on personal or chartered jet is definitely not.

Pothole-free networks of roads play an undisputable role in national development, while some (if not most of) presidential trips are quite pointless.

These are facts.

Therefore the supremacy of availability of medicines, the essentiality of textbooks in schools and the requisite need for pothole-free roads over procurement of a presidential jet is something that I should not even be debating, in the least with someone who ought to know better.

With respect to time lost when the president spends days and hours in queues, I would have expected Dr Cedrick Ngalande to quantify and value this “lost time” before concluding that it is the ordinary citizens who lose out.

Look at it this way: Malawi has had presidents since 1964. Doing simple arithmetic, we have amassed 51 years or 612                months or 18360 days in terms of hours: 440640 hours of presidential man hours.

And looking at where Malawi is in all spheres of development, have these 446,760 hours delivered value for money, jet or no jet? And can anyone president, incumbent or ex-president, say that I failed to develop Malawi because I was spending days in transit on air-ports?

If your answer is “NO”; then should we really worry about a president losing a few hours or days in transit? In my view the 5 years or 60 months or 1800 days or 43200 hours, give or take even 30 days of travel time, that we give our presidents, are enough for a performer to deliver – even after spending time looking glum at an airport.

Come to think of it, even if a Malawian president spent two months queueing in airports, we could not get any poorer.

“Just to visit Lusaka, the president will need to set aside 2 days. Whereas, with his own plane, the journey would take a mere 45 minutes,” argues Dr Ngalande.

On this one, as a minimum, I expected Dr Ngalande to first,explain the benefit of visiting “Lusaka” before factoring it in as basis for buying a presidential jet. If the trip to Lusaka is yet another pointless trip that our roaming presidents make, then the issue is: should the trip take place at all?

It is not thatI believe that the presidential plane must be bought only when every soul has been fed and every pothole has been filled; no.

I, for one, believe that the president should show value for money before I decide that his time is indeed precious. So far, this is not evidence. I have not seen the promised business unusual yet.

And this being the case, I have no problem with the current or future presidents hanging around airports. In fact, I look forward to meeting them at airports, to ask when the government last brought medicines for rural hospitals, paid teachers and what they are doing to turn Malawi’s fortunes around.

With respect to security considerations and costs, if the current president cared any about these, he would have disbanded redundant and inefficient National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) for a start. Because it is not a secret that NIB is just draining our resources without contributing to anyone’s security.

Given that funds spent on security in transit are a drop in the ocean compared to the costs incurred to sustain NIB,if Dr Ngalande wants to have beef, he ought to have beef with the existence of NIB – which is a much bigger problem.

On the phenomenon Dr Cedrick Ngalande terms “advertising poverty to the world”; while I agree that we need to start making smart decisions; I do not think our lack of a presidential jet is advertising poverty.

Truth is: our poverty is so blatant, so obvious, and so impossible to hide that it needs no advertising at all. It speaks for itself – you just have to go to the townships, districts and villages and while you are at it, visit a rural primary school.

Even if we wished to, there is nothing we do could to advertise our poverty. It is just the stark reality, the sad truth about Malawi whose presidents love “chartered” or private jets.

To conclude: for presidents who work and deliver, and in those countries where leadership facilitates fast-growing GDP among other things, a presidential plane is worth considering.It could even be an asset IF it is actively used to increase their nations’affluence.

With respect to us, we do not fit the bill. If anything, availability of a presidential plane or one chartered by “well-wishers” just becomes a distraction which enticesour leaders to undertake mysterious and often useless trips, sneaking in and out of the country, with really nothing to show for their expeditions.

I rest my case.

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Concerned Citizen
7 years ago

My friend, if Malawi was a country that was working well viz-a-viz Rwanda, then you had a case. But we are failing in the most basic of the basics.

If you save time, then what do you invest it in?

We are in the current setting a very unproductive country, and hence the saving of a few hours with the status quo will not make a dent in our countries fortunes.

7 years ago

i wonder if the one posted above article did philosophy….to me logically this is not what the Dr meant for instance ,he didn’t mean life of people or patients are less as to compare with the current need of plane he meant to say that drugs in hospitals will be needed at all time whilst this plane once purchased we have closed the chapter of need ok….

7 years ago

Again, a very patriotic piece The Wise One. Left to me, I would not buy this useless man even a toy plane. Real planes are for productive individuals, this indolent is not, has never been and will never be productive!

Bambo atuwiri
7 years ago

Muzamudziwa iyeyo weniweni. Presidential jet ndi ya office ya president osati Peter. Ife sitizalola Chakwela kuzamayenda pakabanza monga achitira wanuyu. 2014 chakwera bomaaaa! Mcp yagwira nsewu as the journey continues

The Patriot
The Patriot
7 years ago

The message from Malawians is loud and clear, sitikufuna kuti ofesi ya President igule ndege! APM and his army of advisors should get this message loud and clear. Inu a DPP or Mulakho or whatever, osazitengela hard nkhaniyi. Its not about APM, or Chaponda or Mwanamveka, its about the economy! Even if it was Chakwera or Amai ruling, Malawians wouod have opposed buying a Presidential jet!

7 years ago

I dnt knw what you mean by that.its as if you are someone from outside who doesnt know or care about this beloved nation.stop being political and analyse things as they are knowing that every single rubbish you spit will only but besmirch the good name we have always been known with..you are a wise one i guess,though i see nothing worth pointing as coming from a wise folk..it will be cool if stay neutral,and will definately have you as a lad from mama Malawi..

Cedrick Ngalande
Cedrick Ngalande
7 years ago

I have always enjoyed reading thoughtful articles by my good friend ‘Wise Man From The East’. He has not disappointed with this article either. He has raised very good points. Folks, I am not trying to minimize the importance of medicine, roads or education in Malawi. All I am saying is that a presidential plane can help us solve these problems permanently. How? You see, our traditional donors are gone. They may not be coming back. They have given all sorts of reasons as to why they cannot support us. That is only partially true. The real reason is that… Read more »

Wise One from the East
Wise One from the East
7 years ago

Hello Dr Ngalande, Just to chip in, 1) If the president has none of the dreams you are talking about (enticing Silicon entrepreneurs to invest in Malawi for example) – having proved visionless this far, I fail to see how a plane will help Malawi. 2) At the CHOGM, and on other trips he has made, he has had opportunities to meet donors and investors – without having a plane. What value would having a plane have added to those meetings? And did he make the meetings count? This far we have yet to see. 3) Medicine shortages are a… Read more »

mwana mulopwana
mwana mulopwana
7 years ago

I think the wise one didn’t get the article right, all the arguments he has written are off points and may be the wiseman has never travelled at all, All points that have been raised by the wiseone are very invalid and ridiculous, Malawi could have saved a lot if the President bought a presidential jet, firstly you need to understand that First class and Business class are double or sometimes 3 times cost of economy class, and you need to count all the bodyguards who normally go with President to be in Business class, This type of thinking are… Read more »

7 years ago

Does this man, (hope his is a man) know what he is talking about? Does he know how much it costs to maintain a jet whether flying or idle? And when it flies, does he know how much fuel it uses? Assuming we had a jet at the time UNGA was held, is he telling the readers that the 100 plus delegates APM took would have fitted in the jet thereby saving huge sums that would have been spent on air tickets? With the jet, the government will have to employ the cabin crew which has to be paid whether… Read more »

Mpumulo wa Bata wayandikila
Mpumulo wa Bata wayandikila
7 years ago

No one can argue with this analysis. Great job Wise one. If and when Mathanyula shows up and performs I will personally buy him a jet but he has to prove to the nation that he deserves one, so far he has failed miserably.

7 years ago

Dear Wise one from the east,
Your wisdom has been poured out and is flowing steadily on this drainage (ngalande). This means that he will never listen to you or he will despise your wisdom. Cedric Ngalande, Nakoma, Luther Mambala, Kondwani Nankumwa and mammoth blind followers of the DPP are just useless noise makers earning a living and are on our hard-earned tax payroll for defending mediocrity. Most of the commentators on this forum are either beneficiaries or hardcore obvious brutes from the south.

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