When he came to power, President Lazarus Chakwera said each member of his Cabinet would have to report and be assessed. In his words at the time, Chakwera said non-performers would be dropped.
Now Chakwera says the assessments can wait, given that we are in a Covid-19 crisis. How far that is true, is not for us to tell. However, he did not indicate anywhere that his executive management has stalled due to the novel virus. If it were so, he could not have presided over the launch of the Malawi Vision 2063.
There was hope that non-performers would be dropped. A Cabinet laden with inept members has little effect.
When they were appointed into the Cabinet, there was a litany of catwalks disguised as familiarity tours. It was as if the ministers would be judged by how many times they would appear on national TV.
If there is one ministry that in times of Covid-19 must have been seen to be ticking, it is the Ministry of Civic Education and National Unity (MoCENU) headed by Timothy Mtambo. Right now, there is just so much misinformation flying around that needed clearing.
In his six-month progress report in December, Mtambo said being a new portfolio, which was delinked from the Ministry of Information, he was primarily involved in the setting up of structures in the ministry and drawing up a five-year strategic plan.
The ministry launched a National Civic Education Policy on November 30 last year, which proposes the reintroduction of civics in primary schools and Pabwalo civic engagement, that would see engagement between the government and people, among other things.
Interestingly, in that report, Mtambo said his ministry was developing civic education material on Covid-19. Jingles, testimonies from survivors, brochures and leaflets would be developed on the Covid-19 awareness campaign. He indicated that 18 vehicles were depleted to cover the 28 districts in the country.
Yet, little is seen to be happening on the ground. As the Covid-19 continues to rear an ugly head, the efforts to enlighten Malawians on the virus are minimal.
It may be that the words Mtambo said when he was chairperson for the Human Rights Democratic Coalition (HRDC) that was putting pressure on the then Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government to stand down following a botched election is haunting him. At the height of the incessant demonstrations, Mtambo said: “Do not fake coronavirus cases to satisfy your selfish desires. I tell you today comrades, it will backfire.”
Now the words have backfired, and the cloud hungs on Mtambo’s head. With the pandemic hitting harder, Mtambo’s role has reversed and there is a colossal task before him on enlightment.
Out there, we have so much misinformation flying around.
First, you hear some claiming the hospitals are faking Covid-19 deaths. This routes from the fact that some of those succumbing to it have had other conditions like asthma, BP and diabetes. The word out there is that the medical practitioners are doing so because for each death there is a price.
This unfortunate misinformation has led some to repudiate preventive measures during burials. This poses the high risk of more infection.
The misinformation goes further to claim that the youth can’t be infected. It is claimed further those who have an attack once can’t suffer again.
Not so long ago, one worn and torn politician was on the ground spreading the senseless rumour about the vaccines that may come our way. In hushed tones, people are saying accepting the vaccine is saying yes to the apocalyptic 666. People are being told that when that time comes, they should not allow the jab.
The evidence that most people don’t have the correct information is clear. Look at what is happening in our markets. Even some religious leaders are misleading people that there is no Covid-19.
Yet, it appears Mtambo and people in his department of civic education are focusing on something else.