It looks like the question of who should receive the petition from civil society organisations (CSOs) against government’s impunity and Executive arrogance is drawing more attention than the issues the petition wants government to address. This is understandable. But it vindicates CSOs’ fears that government does not take their petitions seriously when they received by other officials.
The CSOs earlier requested that President Peter Mutharika should personally receive the petition and not delegate the task to someone else. But State House rubbished the demand allegedly because the President is not party to the protests. Of course, the President cannot hold demonstrations against himself or his establishment!
State House is clearly missing the point on the objective of the protests and petition. It is CSOs which have the support of many Malawians that have organised the protests, and they are saying that if the President cares about their concerns, he should be the one to receive the petition. Fair enough. They are not asking for something that is impossible. The President is only supposed to act on the petition. All that they are saying is that personally receiving the petition will give it the importance and urgency to act upon its contents.
But by dismissing the request that the President should personally receive the petition, the message he is sending to the CSOs and the general public is that he does not care about what they want to communicate.
Maybe the President was concerned with the logistics associated with him personally receiving the petition. Maybe he was concerned with the cost of involving the whole government machinery and security. Maybe he did not want to be disturbed from his busy schedule. Maybe he felt by sparing time to meet the organisers, he would lose some inches of his importance. Maybe he just doesn’t believe the organisers have genuine issues that need to be addressed. Maybe it is just the same Executive arrogance and impunity that the petition wants.
But would it not have been to his advantage to show that he shares people’s concerns? That he will try to address them because he is equally concerned and wants to change the status quo at all costs for the good of all Malawians and indeed to his own advantage.
Should everything that is messy in this country be blamed on him? I don’t think so. If there is corruption in high places, would the President not want to be part of the solution to the problem? Is he the architect of all the poverty in this country? When two of his Cabinet members think they can cut the health budget with abandon and splurge the largesse to MPs who frustrated the Electoral Reforms Bills, on the pretext of swelling the CDF, should the President take all the flak? I don’t think so.
The President was aware of his Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) commitment many months ago. If I were him, I would have said I will receive the petition, knowing that on April 27, I won’t be available. And surely with that, I would have gained some political mileage.
The President is surrendering that advantage to his number two, who some in DPP already think he is better placed to be the party’s torch bearer in next year’s elections to get the limelight.
Now we know with certainty that the President will not personally receive the petition because he will still be outside the country on April 27. And so the organisers have said the one holding the fort should now receive the petition. If Saulos was to listen to my two tambala advice, I would say, go for it. After all even if government fails to address the concerns the CSOs raise in the petition, the buck does not stop at you. It’s not you who will get the flak. Don’t say the Bwana said he would not receive it and who am I to do so? It is the DPP youth who are pulling away the carpet off the Bwana’s feet. Not you.
So, go for it Saulos, go.