One of the most enduring images of the year just ended came during it’s very last few days. Unusual for this country, the incumbent President visited his predecessor.
We do not know if they broke bread together, but the fact that a President of this country could visit his vanquished rival’s house, was inspiring enough. It also speaks volumes of the ethos that are governing the new ‘listening’ President. Truth be told, it shows that despite the faults of the new President—there are many—you can all be rest assured that we have a leadership that cares and that wishes the country well.
But whether this consultative approach to leadership will yield dividends than, say, blunt singlemindedness preferred by recent African transformative leadership and increasingly strongmen [see John Magufuli in Tanzania, Paul Kagame in Rwanda and to some extent Bingu wa Mutharika in his first term as Malawi president] is yet to be seen.
The complaint, so far, though, has been that Lazarus Chakwera’s administration has mostly been too slow in tackling the pressing issues facing the country. Unlike his predecessor, who was ranked out-of-touch with reality, disinterested and disoriented, Chakwera has been accused of, also, wasting precious time and political capital for being too consultative to a fault.
One reckons, how he’ll reconcile required sense of urgency and his preferred consensus building—to tap on as many minds as possible and ensuring national buy in to his transformative ideas—will be fundamental to the success of the President.
But the good talk and gestures, fundamentally, will never replace action on the ground. It will never prop up the image of the administration if gaffes such as the currently rogue fertiliser programme continue—a key campaign promise by any other name. Or jobs continue to get scarce when, again, ‘one million jobs’ was such a popular and unforgettable campaign mantra.
If corruption manifests itself, too, it will be exposed and the country will show this administration the same disdain that was thrown to its predecessors.
In a nutshell, its action that will convince Malawians that this government means business. For the President and his allies, in this regard, we wish them well. Truth be told, we are rooting for their success too for their success is the country’s success. After so many decades of pain and suffering, our country deserves better service delivery and opportunities.
But our job as newspapermen and women, in spite all this longing for the success of this administration, or any other before it or after, to paraphrase words of a certain editorial, is to keep our elected officials, including the President, on their toes and their feet on fire on behalf of the public. We do so, “not because we are mean or malicious, but because our country deserves better and can do better. “
So, it must not come as a shock that in its end-of- the-year statement, media watchdog, Misa Malawi, once again highlighted threats that journalists in the country are facing even at the hands of the Tonse Alliance which is supposed to be paragon of transparency and accountability.
Those cowardly threats must be stopped. They don’t represent, in any way, the aspirational ideas this administration’s campaign sold to Malawians. Nor are they in tandem with the spirit of constitutionalism that the world has come to know this country for.
As for me, the quest for ensuring the equilibrium of just society through public interest journalism, as the year closed, received an unexpected boast. Sort of unintended, too.
Four years after being stricken by a terrible stroke, the man who introduced me to newspapers, inspired and sponsored my induction into journalism passed on.
My father would be honoured to see me—hoping they do see us in heaven—do good journalism. Good journalism to him, and to many, is fair and objective. Good journalism would not treat Peter Mutharika differently to Chakwera, Nicholaus Dausi differently to Richard Chimwendo Banda.
So, if you stay on this page long enough in the year, I promise, you may occasionally see typos, grammatical errors, insufficient reasoning or facts, but you will see throughout, a genuine attempt to treat all subjects fairly and honestly. That will be because, firstly, I value your reading this column week in, week out; secondly, because it’s what good journalism demands, and thirdly, it’s the best way to honour my hero. Not big ask, but important. So long gentle giant!