Dictators usually have a tendency of staying in power way beyond their tenure. Their explanation is that they want to develop their respective countries, because they see no one else capable enough.
But experience has shown that the main reason for extending their term of office is greed and abuse of public resources. This is their silent reason, but publicly, they claim that their programmes are not finished. Surprisingly, they show some ignorance that government is a continuous process and with the available records, one can take over and continue the programmes.
Meanwhile, the framers of the presidential terms in the Malawi Constitution knew very well that after a term, which is five years, the President would have delivered some progress in the country. In Malawi, two terms of five years each, which comes to 10 years, is the maximum tenure for a President. If he/she wants an extended term, the matter should go to Parliament for debate and approval.
President Bakili Muluzi once tried an open-term of office, he was rebuffed by Parliament. In fact, the majority of Malawians openly detested Muluzi’s suggestion, because they did not want to go through another version of dictatorship. People were already fed up with three decades of dictatorship under Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
So far, the late president John Pombe Magufuli of Tanzania has already proved beyond any doubt that five years in power is enough for a President to bring development to a country. He did it in Tanzania and has been, and will continue to be a hero on the continent. What is more amazing is that he did all the developments using money generated within the country. First of all, he dealt with corruption.
Any delay in delivering government contracts would be terminated. He sealed all outlets through which government money would be lost such as ghost workers. With the money saved here and there, plus tax money, he proceeded with his development plans. He extended Dar es Salaam port, built roads, bridges and houses. He introduced flyovers. Air Tanzania, which had one aeroplane, Magufuli increased the fleet to seven big planes. He also improved the water system. Indeed, Magufuli is a pride of Africa where in most countries corruption is indelible, but Magufuli removed it in Tanzania.
More importantly, African leaders must borrow a leaf from Magufuli that their countries have enough resources to take care of. Therefore, it does not make sense that the first task for the Head of State is to go abroad with a begging bowl.
As it were, after failing to develop a country in 10 years that is when leaders come with a cover up that the period is too short. The well-known socio-political commentator Prof Patrick Lumumba of Kenya was once quoted as saying: “Longevity in office is not a solution to problems in Africa”. One cannot agree more with him. Even the late president of Pakistan Zhia Ur Haq once said that after 10 years of leadership, presidents would know that people were just tolerating them as they seem to run short of ideas.
In Malawi—both President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima—have so far shown that they have the will and capacity to develop this country. But the drawback is what was left behind by the Peter Mutharika administration, especially for not doing anything on corruption.
Therefore, the Tonse Alliance administration has to first sort out past problems, and this is taking a lot of time and other resources which would have been used for development. Any sensible government must be able to leave behind a clean slate for the next government to start from without wasting time and resources.