Well, I, too, know how governments develop and sell bad ideas.
It only takes an arrogant president surrounded by a bunch of sycophants to develop. And to sell it, is nothing difficult: You only need resources, which government always has, and then a loud, overzealous and unsuspecting Minister of Information to be used, abused and then dumped. Basi (that’s all).
Not too many years behind us, former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, in his dream, saw that Malawi, under his ‘wise and dynamic leadership’, has developed immensely requiring changing of the national flag.
We cannot debate here if changing the flag was a bad or a good idea. It was a bad idea because, one, the development Bingu wanted the flag to reflect was his nightmare, and two, you do not just wake up, in a democracy, and start changing national emblems.
Leckford Thoto was the lamb. He packed Bingu’s bad idea of changing the flag in his travelling bag and, heavily funded by taxpayer’s money, he toured the corners of the republic meeting unsuspecting and carefully selected chiefs, in the name of consultations, to defend the move.
We all knew Thoto was cruising dangerously. The idea he was told to sell was a bad one. And history tells us that when bad ideas backfire, the casualty, often, is the one sent to sell it. I am not sure if Thoto was aware of this.
After successfully selling the bad idea, the flag was changed.
With a job well-done, we expected Bingu to reward Thoto. Yes, he did by firing him.
Now how on earth would a boss fire a servant whom, after sent on an errand, comes back with greater tidings? The answer, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call ‘politics’ or ‘ndale’ in Chichewa.
Bingu knew that, in politics, you need some people to use and fire. Thoto, yes, was used; but there is a good reason he was fired. Bingu knew that changing a flag was a bad idea. Thoto, in selling the idea, became its symbol. Knowing too well that despite the change of the flag there were still millions against it, Bingu’s immediate means of saving his face was through destroying symbols of flag change. In doing that, he was pushing the blame away from him to Thoto. It was as if Bingu was saying: “Look Leckford, you misled me on flag change; so get away from me now’.
But why I am talking about Thoto today? It is all because of Jappie Mhango, the man, today, holding the office Thoto held and, interestingly, failing to read and learn from history.
You see, some heads in the Executive, recently, sat down and developed a bad idea of making all of us believe that Parliament is abusing our taxes.
Let us not be fooled Malawians: Stories coming from the Executive that Parliament blew K300 million ($535,714) in buying vehicles for the Leader of Opposition and the three Speakers is nothing but pure propaganda.
We all know that it is the Executive, not Parliament, which—through Treasury and the Office of the Director of Public Procurement (ODPP)—manages public procurement in a civilised democracy like ours.
To me, it is the Executive, not Parliament, which bought those vehicles. It is the Executive, not Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which bought those vehicles. I am saying it is the Executive, not Lazarus Chakwera and Richard Msowoya, which bought those vehicles.
In fact, where an official is entitled to an official vehicle it is the office that buys not the individual.
What we could have been doing, today, is actually to question why ODPP and Treasury processed the payment because Parliament only did what was in their budget. You see, I am not sure if the said government directive on spending was expected to go beyond civil service to include other branches of government. I am sure if it did, the directive could be problematic looking at the legal framework of Parliament.
Unfortunately, the DPP-controlled Executive appears poised with its bad idea of dirtening the MCP-controlled Parliament. And who is the new Thoto in this project? Honourable Jappie Mhango. Instead of being truthful on Access to Information Bill, he has become the poster boy of selling the bad idea of Parliament vehicle procurement. Take care Mhango, or ask Thoto for wisdom. Thanks. n