Idriss Ali Nassah
Just the other day, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri threw a good K44 million of his own money down the drain. He donated it to the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) ostensibly to assist those perennial losers called the Flames, the national football team.
If it is winning that Bushiri was after, he may have to wait for a very long time.
I feel sorry for Malawians who have to keep on supporting the Flames because they are Malawian. It is the patriotic thing to do, and have no other choice. Maybe Bushiri was moved to throw his money down the pit because some of the players in that team seem like they are genuinely trying to win so there is always a bit of sympathy for them.
But the sorry state of Malawi’s national football team does not inspire much confidence, even to its most fervent supporters. Often, the team goes into matches without adequate preparations yet they hope to win.
Walter Nyamilandu, the FAM president, told the team before their last game against Guinea in March to “pray to God for spiritual guidance”. Malawi lost the game, making Algernon Sidney probably right: “God helps those who help themselves”.
Somewhere I heard of a pastor who sold “anointed pens” to students who were about to write national examinations, promising that they will pass excellently regardless of their preparations.
That’s the Malawian disease: love for handouts and miracles.
It is a national malaise discernible in our politics, in the workplace, the civil service and even the educational system.
The paradox is that Malawi is a nation that survives on handouts, but has leaders who live like kings.
President Peter Mutharika has refused to reduce his presidential powers, and with that, effectively refused to reduce his many perks.
Mutharika has State residences in Blantyre, Mangochi, Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Zomba. That means the taxpayer is paying for everything multiplied by the number of houses. This includes presidential beds, stoves, big flat screen TVs, household furniture and the list goes on. Maintaining this largess is hurting the poor people of Malawi, but I do not know if the President understands any of this, or even cares.
It should be obvious, you would think, that poor Malawi does not actually need six State houses for a president who spends most of his time in Lilongwe.
When I met Mutharika last July, he told me he was in it for the public good and that he was not going to live large and have a shindig at taxpayers’ expense.
If he is honest, Mr President will know that a turn-around would not come without sacrifices. One sacrifice he needs to make is to let go of the extravagance of unfettered power.
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) met with Mutharika three weeks ago, for what was billed as a bare-knuckle discussion about the direction the country was taking.
From the moment I learnt that the meeting was live on television, I knew it was going to be just hot air. TV is a contaminating variable, especially in a context where people are meant to be brutally honest to each other.
On live TV, people tend to pander to the whims of the viewing public and play to the gallery. Mutharika played that well, stating in front of the TV cameras that he was the President who does not take deadlines from anyone, effectively elevating his status to that above everyone else.
PAC should have insisted on a discussion that was not live on TV unless, of course, members of PAC also wanted their proverbial 15 minutes of fame.
That was yet another opportunity lost.