Every year on July 20, memories resurface of the negative consequences of a leader displaying arrogance and showing disdain for his people that appeal to him to lend them an ear.
As thousands of Malawians went to the street in protest of the deteriorating governance and human rights atmosphere in the country that cold July morning in 2011, a time when the cost of living was rising to umanageable levels, then president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika organised for his supporters and himself a public lecture.
The public lecture—a long winding beating of the chest about what a brilliant leader he was certainly—was not in keeping with the growing discontent in many parts of the country.
As Bingu delivered his lecture, with the advice of aides and Cabinet members desperately clutching at straws, Police failed to manage the huge turnout at the demonstrations across the country and 19 people died in one day.
Such behaviour has been seen in the country’s leadership on several occasions, leaders so removed from reality that they believe words, and sometimes a lecture, solves everything.
On his return from the United Nations General Assembly (Unga) this week, President Peter Mutharika sauntered out of the taxpayer-chartered jet after a three week absence and proceeded to pour scorn at the organisers of the September 21 demonstrations.
As a man touted with participating in the drafting of the Constitution of Malawi, post 1993, one would expect a trained lawyer to understand that holding peaceful demonstrations is a Constitutional right.
It must be disheartening for the 36.4 percent of Malawians who voted in a leader with such disrespect for the dictates of the Constitution, an instrument he swore to defend.
At what point during the two hour flight to Malawi did some misguided advisor inform him that of all the issues that have happened in the country, the matter of the September 21 demonstrations deserved his attention the most on that red carpet?
There is a way that APM can react to the CSOs and their petition and it does not involve mocking their efforts at representing the people of this country.
The same approach that the government took with Public Affairs Committee, not the time that they neutralised the demonstrations, but the contact and dialogue is the way to go.
CSOs have shown that ambushing them as representatives of the people at the eleventh hour with a mockery of an attempt at contact and dialogue could not, and will not be tolerated in future.
It does not hurt the president or even lower his importance in the eyes of those who voted for him by giving an audience to a handful of representatives of the majority of Malawi. In fact, he would gain some respect by lending them an ear, even once.
But the Executive arrogance that he has shown, as displayed by his servants who proudly declare that the president does not take ultimatums, could be his undoing in the long run.
But one thing that APM can be sure of going forward is this: No, this will not be the last time that Malawians exercise their right to assemble and voice their dissatisfaction.
No, this ‘attitude’ of a citizenry that demands accountability will not come to an end and it will not stop as long the country’s Constitution, which he supposedly took part in drafting, is in effect.
Much as it might have been 90 people or 220 carrying placards, President Peter Mutharika should surely know this was one person too many. Malawi does not need a leader who shows such blatant disaffection to the concerns of his own people.