Hon Folks, the one thing Kamuzu Banda, Bingu wa Mutharika, Bakili Muluzi and Joyce Banda enjoyed at the beginning of their presidential tenure of office was public goodwill.
Peter Mutharika started in 2014 more like Bingu did in 2004—rejected by over 60 percent of the electorate. But Bingu rebranded right on his inauguration, ditching the sponsoring party, UDF, and embracing an agenda that endeared him to the majority who had denied him the vote.
The zero-tolerance for corruption pledge, good economic governance and other positive changes earned Bingu the goodwill of both the donor community and the majority of the electorate who had denied him their vote in 2004.
Bingu’s statesmanship bore fruit in 2009 when DPP whacked a combined force of two major opposition parties—MCP and UDF—garnering nearly 66 percent of votes, a record unmatched by any other presidential candidate in the 22 years we have been in a multiparty system of government.
Half way through APM’s first term, the political temperature is, however, more akin to Bingu’s tumultuous second-term which ended tragically on April 5 2012 when he succumbed to cardiac arrest, completely devoid of goodwill.
The President and Malawians are not talking and listening to each other. Theirs is a relationship already in a tit-for-tat mode, just like was the case when Malawians got fed up with the intransigence that characterised Bingu’s second term.
On 20th July 2011 an extremely powerful Bingu, with agents of the State at his beck and call, met the disgruntled folks he had voluntarily committed to serve on the street and 20 citizens were gunned down by trigger-happy police officers whose brutality reportedly earned allowances for that day’s job that surpassed their monthly net pay.
But the heavy-handedness simply rendered relations between APM and the people, as poet Dennis Brutus puts it, “unlovely and unlovable.”
Coincidentally, Bingu’s turbulent but short second term marked APM’s initiation into active politics. The people APM surrounded himself with when he became President are mostly the same people who applauded as Bingu messed up his legacy.
These folks regard DPP as a home party and consider themselves the rightful beneficiaries of the trappings of power their party wields in our multiparty dispensation. We’re yet to see how they benefitted from the K236 billion Cashgate of 2009 to 2014.
However, their averse to any change to the status quo is an effort at protecting their comfort zone. But as a Malawi leader, APM can only ignore what the over 60 percent majority that denied the vote want at his own peril.
Our country profile isn’t good. Malawi is the poorest in the world by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. Corruption is rampant and growing, scaring away both donors and investors besides eroding 30 percent of public revenue every year.
Consequently, our miserable incomes are taxed heavily, but public service delivery is getting poorer by the day—erratic utility supplies, shut down public universities, drug shortage in public health facilities, declining standards of education, disgruntled public sector workers, unprecedented level of hunger affecting half the population of 17 million.
We need financial and technical support to move from subsistence and start producing for export yet even traditional donors fear giving us aid via Account No.1, which is so porous as ACB and other watchdog institutions are deliberately kept on a short leash by a government only good at being a control freak.
Frustration over these and many other woes becomes an impediment to meaningful dialogue I bet APM could not have done what Joyce Banda did on assuming office in 2012—devaluing the kwacha by 49 percent and floating it at the same time—without sparking off protests. Why? JB had the people’s goodwill APM doesn’t.
Yet APM needs it more because his own success hinges on change which can happen if he has change agents within the 60 percent majority who denied him their votes.
If such bridges aren’t built, he alone in DPP will take the stress and a broken legacy. His cronies will do what they do best—ditch him and pledge their allegiance to whoever will be the next president. I bet even MBC will walk out on him! n