If Malawians needed any proof on the poor quality of advice that President Joyce Banda is getting from those that have surrounded her, they do not have to go further than her now reversed decision of putting the Malawi Electoral Commission (EC) under Vice-President Khumbo Kachali.
Credit to her for seeing the folly of her ways but it is, however, inevitable that the matter has left a bitter after-taste.
The questions that linger are: What was the President trying to achieve by expressly putting EC under a minister in the name of her own deputy? Was it really for the sake of efficiency or there is justification behind the accusations made by opposition leaders and civil society commentators that she wanted to put EC under the armpit of Kachali with the view to rig elections come 2014?
It is clear that this was a dumb move as it is the first since Malawi attained multiparty democracy that a President has expressly put EC under a minister during a Cabinet reshuffle despite the existence of laws that the JB administration was citing to back the poor decision. The other question, therefore, should be: Who advised the President to do this and on what basis was the decision made?
Obviously, the President has once again embarrassed herself big time. She has once again portrayed herself as a flip-flopper who does not think through her decisions and that it takes a public outcry to show her the crookedness of her ways.
The President’s apologists would view criticism after she has put right what was obviously a wrong decision as an attempt to flog a dead horse, but in the interest of democracy, an inquest of how the President arrives at wrong choices is, all the same, necessary.
My take is very simple. This embarrassing flip-flopping simply shows that JB is getting crooked advice from some people surrounding her, who think that they are cleverer and smarter than the rest of us.
But the President must be wary of such people and realise that her decisions now when we are slowly itching towards 2014, with less than 18 months to go, will be put under the microscope against any attempt to give herself undue advantage in that election.
Take the promotion of 21 district commissioners at once, for example. While the Ministry of Local Government is at pains to explain that the move was long overdue and it is a culmination of problems in the ministry, the number is just too abnormal, considering that the country has 28 districts and that the few that have not benefitted from this largess is due to one reason or the other.
The question is: What were the criteria for the mass promotions? Was there a performance assessment and found that over 75 percent of our DCs are high performers deserving of mass promotions? Have we seen anything extra-ordinary in DCs offices these days warranting these mass promotions?
While I am happy for the DCs, some of whom are my friends, I cannot help wondering the timing of the move and that these will be returning officers during the 2014 elections. Would they not return the favour to the person that promoted them after rotting on the same position for many years?
I have no reason to question the integrity of any of them at the moment, but I also know that there is a maxim that says one good turn deserves another. If I were a presidential aspirant, I would get very worried about these promotions just like the rest of us should get bothered with the process of decision-making in the Joyce Banda administration.
Do have a Merry Christmas.