Last Tuesday, Vice-President Saulos Chilima had one of his rare outings when he visited a project in Nsanje.
He left for the Lower Shire district to inspect construction of dykes that would protect citizens from the perennial floods in the disaster-prone zone.
Based on what he said in Nsanje, if wishes were commands, one would have ordered Chilima to come out often.
In his typical no-nonsense business mindedness, he did what he joined the business of leadership for: getting things done in an accountable manner by holding service providers accountable.
The Second Citizen dutifully went to Nsanje expecting to see serious works. Considering that the project was bankrolled by the World Bank, the standards and scrutiny of the works were supposed to be high. The bankrollers’ thrust on supervision and project governance is generations ahead of local requirements which are watered down by a culture of kusolola (corruption).
Alas! What he found was fresh earth hastily heaped on a shambolic ridge purported to be a dyke. The whole affair was a disgrace, a prank that no one ought to have played on the business-minded Vice-President.
Unknown to the brains behind the substandard works, let’s not denigrate them, the Veep may be wrong as suspected by others, was the fact that the gentleman, fondly called SKC, is no dimwit.
Throughout his journey of leadership—from his humble beginnings as University of Malawi Students’ Union (Umsu) entertainment director and Alliance for Democracy (Aford) students’ wing president at Chancellor College to the helm of several corporate firms and the vice-presidency—he has never had time and patience for any monkey stories.
He is a goal-getter far too serious for time-wasters. The contractors must have known this if they were ready for the visit.
So, it turns out he told the contractors and all in attendance what must be said but is often never said: The money they are squandering by erecting substandard structures and inviting leaders to inspect or launch belongs to is taxpayers who sweat for it.
Most painfully, poor taxpayers surrender their hard-earned cash to Caeser and his tax collectors expecting that government put every penny to good use.
The least contractors were supposed to do was a decent and honest job.
They should have been a bit civilised and kept their Mickey Mouse jokes to themselves for April Fools’ Day instead of fooling the nation and its Veep.
Here is the enigmatic thriller: After Chilima condemned the shoddy dyke and demanded accountability for the benefit of Malawians, it is shocking that there is a backlash from some citizens seeking to create a political hurricane in teacups.
Claims are rising on social media that there is no problem with the dyke and that the VP is politically spin-doctoring to shore up the fortunes of some political quarters.
This is cheap and decadent propaganda that speaks of entities that are desperate, ignorant or heavily carried away by a sinister agenda.
It is in the character of Chilima to call a spade a spade. He has never been shy to admonish mediocrity when he sees it.
That’s who the Vice-President is: serious, focused and committed. His philosophy is simple: “failure is not an option”.
He preached this to some of us on January 5 2005 at the Old Mpira House in Nyambadwe when we were together in a task force to raise funds for the Football Association of Malawi (FAM)Cup.
Ever since, he has repeated the mantra at every occasion.
This is why those of us who have known him for a great while nicknamed him Chairman Mao.
For development’s sake, Malawi is safer if those who have no spine to call mediocrity by its name keep quiet and let those who the cap fits wear it.