I get surprised when our presidents appear troubled with leading a warm nation that is Malawi. I think it all stems from their failure to understand the people they lead.
My historical understanding of Malawians is that we are a people who get easily angered and pleased.
Just recall how angry we were with Bingu wa Mutharika’s election in 2004. We roared in rampage—so vile we were that, in trying to tame our rage, the police ended up shooting that little angel, Epiphania Bonjesi.
But that anger didn’t stay with us for long. In fact, we got pleased just after Mutharika had made his inaugural speech—imagine, just a speech. Our pleasure climaxed into ecstasy after he talked nice to the donors and also subsidised farm inputs.
Almost everybody—from the critical CSOs, through the academia to the donors—sang the Mutharika song. Joseph Nkasa captured it all in that song Mose Wa Lero. And the electorate expressed it all in a landslide 2009 victory.
The wisdom coming from this is that we are nation that knows what it wants. To mean, we easily get pleased when our leaders listen and we easily get angered when leaders go to the contrary.
This is why when Mutharika began to listen to himself after that landslide victory, we easily got angered. That anger stayed with us not because we are a nation that harbours anger. Rather, Mutharika could not take a moment to listen.
That is why Mutharika’s death was an instant pleasure to a number of people. It was pleasure not because of disdaining his death. It was pleasure because it represented a turn-around from Mutharika’s heinous and arrogant rule.
In fact, just after expressing words of renewal and forgiveness, Mrs Joyce Banda managed to please a number of Malawians. She spoke their language and everybody saw hope written on her face. They easily got pleased because they expected her to listen to what they want.
The public anger we are seeing today against Mrs Banda, the anger drawn from the looting at the Capital Hill, is a classic case of Malawians’ mettle. We easily get angered when a leader goes against our wishes.
But trust me, though some have started calling for her resignation, I don’t see this anger roaring wild unless Mrs Banda chooses to let it so.
I strongly believe there is a way out of this. I strongly believe she can pull through and win the hearts of Malawians. Don’t forget we easily get pleased.
But how can she go about it?
It is important for Mrs Banda to accept that her government is not looking good on the Capital Hill looting. She must understand that as President, she is the tallest tree in the forest. Not only that. Mrs Banda must not deny that, somehow, a number of senior government gurus, including her former ministers and senior party officials, have had the leading role in creating the mess.
As such, contrary to hollow tactics she showed during the press conference, Mrs Banda should own the mess.
Of course, dissolving the Cabinet may be a critical step towards beginning to clear the mess. However, it is not the end in itself.
What Malawians need now is not just coming up with a new Cabinet—however its look. If I were Mrs Banda, this is what I would do.
One, I would, in the first place, not just come up with a lean, 15-member Cabinet of proven technocrats. I would also see to it that all the ministers that served the UDF and then the DPP should not longer form part of my Cabinet.
Two, I would, after dealing with the Cabinet, reform the Treasury. I would fire the Secretary to the Treasury, the Accountant General, the Auditor General, the Chief Secretary and the Reserve Bank Governor. I would fire these people because they are the heart and soul of the country’s treasury system. Nothing without them can happen to the treasury. If it happens behind their watch then it tells you they are ‘incapable’ servants.
Three, I would swallow my pride and take a bow from resisting to publicise my declared assets. This is critical if Malawians are to believe her stand on corruption. I would, if I know there is nothing to hide, direct Speaker of Parliament to publicise my wealth.
I know it won’t be easy for her, as a politician eyeing 2014, to take such measures. The measures sound as a risk. But as the situation stands now—especially with the level of how unpopular she is becoming every passing day—it is imperative if she takes such a risk.
Taking such a risk, trust me, would please a number of Malawians she needs for 2014 votes. Because as it stands now, Malawians are still angry with her.