I am not saying government should purchase a presidential jet for President Peter Mutharika. What I am saying is that every Head of State needs a presidential jet to easily facilitate his or her travels. Hope this is clear, lest I get misunderstood.
Look here, fellow Malawians. We can agree or disagree based on our political affiliations.However, we cannot deny the complexities that come with the office of the presidency.
I know there is an argument that we should not treat our presidents differently fearing they might turn into dictators. Good argument!
But let us face it. The office of the presidency is not an ordinary one. The person occupying it can be ordinary, but the office, I repeat, is not an ordinary one. It is the top most office in the land. The moment you occupy it, you are subjected to situations—some quite delicate, that demand specific attention. This office needs to be protected and safeguarded and respected.
Because we are not as rich as South Africa, I do not find that plausible to move our president around in an affordable, second-hand Toyota Corolla shipped from Japan by Be Forward. Neither should that be the reason our presidents should be putting up in cheap hotels. Nor it should be the reason we cut their security motorcade. I believe in reasonable arguments that are driven by logic, as well as, common sense.
President Mutharika travelled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, recently on a commercial Ethiopian Airlines. Well, this could be an isolated case because it was just a one-off flight. Still, I was not amused.
As a regular flier, I know how boring commercial flights can be. There are all these unnecessary delays that impact heavily on such a busy person as a Head of State. Furthermore, you are always assured of insecurity in a commercial flight than in a private jet. The Head of State is somebody who needs tight security because, we all know, he belongs to the tallest tree in the forest. Besides, Heads of State receive regular briefings—some quite confidential. I doubt if that is plausible in a commercial flight.
Well, the list of the reasons are endless. But the underlining argument is that whenever we debate certain privileges of the Head of State, let us not look at the person occupying the office. We should look at the complexities that come with such an office.
If I may ask: What have we, today, benefitted as a nation with former President Joyce Banda’s decision to barter off the jet President Bingu Wa Mutharika purchased?
We only got donor’s clap, but not their budgetary support. We do not even know the whereabouts of the maize we bartered the plane with. We got nothing and we achieved nothing as a nation. Just emptiness almost.
Surely, as a country, we need to start this healthy debate on the presidential jet. Our presidents, no matter how we view them, need to travel in comfort deserving a Head of State.
Always the argument against the jet is that it is a luxury we can do without, especially looking at the capacity of our economy. Again, good argument.
But, look here. Are we saying there will be a time when Malawi will have it all? I don’t think so.
Further, it does not make sense to subject our presidents to difficult travels because we are still poor. Presidents are symbols of a nation. Their outlook matters—and that becomes image of our nation out there.
Please, let us debate soberly. I, hereby, submit that our Head of State needs a presidential jet. Again, I am not saying President Mutharika needs a jet. But our Head of State. n