It seems that President Peter Mutharika’s idea of running away from tough questions is by throwing a tantrum, complete with hitting tables and saying ng’wi ng’wi ng’wi at citizens whose only crime is to caution against reckless use of government resources.
By his own admission our country is broke. The zero-aid budget is turning into a colossal failure.
But no, as a country, we should be prepared to let people die so that our President should travel in greatest comfort.
The President went on a trip to New York. It was an important trip, no doubt, as he had to attend the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
But Malawians wanted to know whether all the 106 people who went had any business there. A lot of money was spent on air travel and allowances. Initially we were told that the United Nations had sponsored everyone else except 20 people. But as more credible information emerged, stories began to change. We were instead told that “sponsors” had paid for the rest of the people. As to who the sponsors were our government would not say.
And so we, the people, expected to see our leader explain to us in a cool and reasonable voice why the whole crowd had to go to New York.
But there was our President, showing fury uncalled for, boasting that he is a millionaire and that he came from the US with a lot of money.
He, who says does not need our money was mentioned at the heart of that Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) scandal in which he bought a house for a song, in a deal that seemed as dubious as they come.
He, instead, says he wants to help us. Is this help going to come at so exorbitant a price? Are we going to let people die due to unrepaired medical equipment just so our President can travel like a king? Such help cannot be forced on us. We do not need it.
If, however, the President is willing to save money by travelling commercial to US, India and Britain, then we are happy to have his help. If he is willing not to be shouting at Malawians as if they are little children, then we’re happy to have his help.
If he is willing not to take hangers-on on his international trips, then we’re happy to have his help.
The job of president requires a person with a thick skin.
Shouting at Malawians will never be a plausible way of solving our problems. Malawians deserve respect. And respect is a two-way street. If the President wants to be respected, he has to learn to respect Malawians first. Respect is earned, not demanded.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says our extended credit facility programme is off-track. It says we are not spending wisely. It says our wage bill is unsustainable.
Donors long turned their backs on us because of the Cashgate.
One would have hoped, therefore, to see this government do all it can to make sure that we stay on track in the extended credit facility programme, because when the IMF is happy other donors feel comfortable to come on board.
But it seems the mantra of this government is “it is our time to eat,” like the title of that book by Michaela Wrong.
That Malawi is a thin cow seems to be of no consequence to our President. We asked for it, assuming, of course, that elections were not stolen. This is not an easy thing to assume, if you ask me. n