On a scale of one to 10, I am caught in sixes and sevens about which is the most mind-numbing and insensitive between Minister of Information Kondwani Nankhumwa’s suggestion that Malawi should buy a presidential jet once the economy improves and Malawi Congress Party’s decision to celebrate the life of Dr Kamuzu Banda and honour its veterans.
For starters, Nankhumwa’s suggestion is ridiculous and a colossal insult to the time we live in. I will take him on his word that every country in the world may have a presidential jet but I am certain they buy them with their own resources and without hurting the poorest. Such is the state of Malawi’s economy that, if it were not for vanity, we should ill-afford to buy those fuel-guzzling monsters that make the presidential convoy, let alone a jet. So pessimistic am I that I just do not see the economy picking up that enough resources can be aside for that vanity project without hurting the poor.
For the President to jump on commercials airlines may not make economic sense — what with the time lost, the inconvenience of waiting in airport terminals, the ignominy of rubbing shoulders with riffraff and, need I add, the loss of his otherness and respect — but if we must buy our own presidential jet, we should desist from dipping our hand into donors’ funds: “economy improving” suspiciously sounds like a euphemism for “when we receive donor funds”.
The last time we bought a presidential jet, the deal started so badly it had to end in similarly. From the British throwing a fit over abuse of their resources to fund the luxury purchase to its diabolical sale by the Joyce Banda administration, it was doomed from start to finish. We are yet to regain the goodwill of the British in the form of budgetary support. And government’s Account Number One is yet to receive a single penny from that transaction.
It was one scandal too many and the least the country needs at this point, when we must all put our collective shoulder to the wheel, is a repeat.
Now to MCP. The quest by the party to rekindle a non-existent idyllic past under Dr Kamuzu Banda knows no bounds. According to MCP, Malawians ought to remember Kamuzu for such achievements as “roads, hospitals, universities and airports, among others.”
Sure, we should, but when will MCP organise a national event to mourn the lives of men and women cut down needlessly by Kamuzu’s agents, thousands who were driven into involuntary exile for fear of death, hundreds of thousands who suffered one way or the other at the hands of the man whose birthday will be celebrated on May 14?
If they cannot do that, they are well advised to keep news of the celebration in-house. Kamuzu was not everyone’s cup of tea. This announcement is like dancing on the grave of the man you have killed as his relations look on helplessly.
Somehow, I feel a colossal mistake was made after the referendum in 1993. Much like what happened to the Nazi in Germany after the Second World War, MCP should have been banned for eternity, if only to curb the cultism that has followed since Kamuzu’s death.
MCP did enough damage to the psyche of Malawians to last a lifetime. What Kamuzu did in terms of development has actually damaged subsequent leaders who have adopted the same minimalist attitude.
Bakili Muluzi spent an entire 10 years yelling about how he had freed Malawi from the jaws of autocracy and dolling out K50 to poverty-stricken Malawians and he termed it empowerment. His supporters wept a great deal when Bingu wa Mutharika swept into town, who complained with bitterness how Muluzi had reduced him to 2-minute man and built ports where there were no ships.
Joyce Banda spent two years in office doing nothing of substance but distributing goats. It must be remembered, throughout his 30 year rule, Kamuzu insulted the people of Mwanza and Neno and reminded us how he had freed us from the ‘stupid’ federation, as if that fight was a one man show. That’s the legacy Kamuzu left for his successors, who have played by the book.
As we leave MCP to their follies and plans to “honour [its] party veterans from the North, Central, South and the East”, perhaps they should also reflect on Kamuzu Banda’s victims or relations “from the north, central, south and the east” who could really do with an arm around them. Maybe it is only me, but I find the whole idea honouring Kamuzu with a day a tad scandalous and insensitive. Or even mausoleum and the statue, which are a daily mockery to his victims. But that is only me.