Marie Antoinette, wife of the French King, Louis XVI, is alleged to have said “Let them eat cake” when it was reported to her that the peasants of France were starving because they had no bread to eat.
Antoinette might have not made the “Let them eat cake” remark, but her political opponents used it to incite so much hatred against her during the French Revolution of 1789.
In the end, she was convicted of treason and executed by guillotine in 1793.
Similarly, a former Ghanaian Information minister Asamoah Boateng is reported to have said on a radio station that his constituents complaining because they could no longer afford to eat fufu, should “eat konkote”!
But in the Akan areas of Ghana, where Boateng’s constituency is situated, cassava products such as konkote are ranked a poor fourth, after the staples—plantain, yam and cocoyam—by way of dishes of choice.
Therefore, this was immediately interpreted as a snobbish and insensitive reaction to his constituents’ complaints.
History has a flurry of such individuals who have committed classic cases of verbal diarrhoea that at times is a product of ‘creativity’ or ‘wisdom’ that runs amok.
And the aftermath has always been disastrous.
Majority Malawians are currently firing shots at the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration over what unverified reports say is a 121-member taxpayer-funded entourage to the United Nations General Assembly (Unga).
But director of information in the Ministry of Information and Civic Education Dr Bright Molande while playing down the issue is quoted in The Daily Times, saying: “Do you want Malawi to be labelled a selfish nation? We must accept that at the end of the day our President must attend the UN General Assembly, Commonwealth meetings. Let us look at the benefits of these meetings whether they are useless or not instead of focusing on numbers.”
Now, if he did say this, then Molande is a very poor government official/politician.
Carl Jung, the pioneer psychiatrist who proved the deepest workings of the human psyche, said: “We must not pretend to understand the world only by intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feelings.”
That the DPP government is struggling to meet its obligations is no longer a hidden case. With each passing day, the signs are increasingly becoming so obvious.
An average Malawian family in the present scorching economic weather is struggling to put food on the table.
And they will struggle more to educate their children after government has, without much thought, come up with a third option to taxation and borrowing to raise money needed for it to do a few things here and there for the sake of legitimacy and to pay its less productive civil service: education fees introduction and hiking, and abolition of whatever it can dream about.
So, Molande should know that people are touchy about the economic challenges they face, and it hurts them a lot if they think you are—let alone a government official—looking down upon them.
In this dot.com era, the public’s demand for accountability cannot be wished away by some ‘lecture-theatre’ utterances.
That aside, if Molande knew the DPP government’s history well, he would remember that once Bingu wa Muthrika and his other disciples committed such what Mrs Hillary Clinton called a “misspoken” indiscretion, and the public jumped on them and never allowed them to live the remarks down. The rest is history as they say.
Whether it is ‘creativity’ or ‘infallible wisdom’, uttering lines such as Molande’s, therefore, looks risky even to a brainless automaton and suggests that government has lost passionate emotional feeling to the plight of its populace.