The element of surprise, a key ingredient in winning a war, is gone. In our various wars against hunger, poverty, Aids, corruption, etc, we are being led by a general who thinks being predictable is an advantage. So, anyone just sits on their laurels; the next move always predictable. Loyalists, in particular, can always count on their loyalty to serve them well. That is President Peter Mutharika’s style.
His most recent Cabinet reshuffle is a case in point, or one of several. Mutharika, unlike his brother and departed president Bingu wa Mutharika, who prided himself in being Mr. Unpredictable, is no rubble-rouser. We now know he will stick to this group of ministers through thick and thin precisely because they were there in his company when he was bereaved, when he saw the inside of a police celll, was paraded in court as a criminal and his dream of presidency dimed. He is comfortable around them. He trusts them.
While such loyalty, a rare currency to trade in the dirty game of politics,–an arena which can aptly be called a game of thorns; a game of backstabbing and dishonesty, —is highly commendable. Questions ought to be asked, however, at what’s the cost to the nation. This is public service after all. Friendships should matter less. The fact that several social services are crumbling and efficiency far from achieved, means Mutharika must sometimes trade continuity for new blood and fresh ideas.
The question that quickly comes to mind is whether this vote of confidence by the President is matched by any performance indicators. And again, perception matters a lot in politics. The prerogative to hire-and-fire should be used to shake up the cabinet in a manner that will demonstrate the President is leaving no stone unturned in a quest to beat the runaway economy and ease the myriad woes facing Malawians. Leaving the same people to do the same thing all the time, but expecting different results, is hardly inspiring.
By simply renaming Cabinet posts while leaving majority of underperforming members, Mutharika has failed to send a signal to his own team that he is expecting high deliverables from them. The President should seriously consider why Bingu loved the Mr. Unpredictable moniker and promptly disperse with deadwood. When Cabinet ministers look at their positions as an entitlement, vices like negligence or worst still corruption, easily creeps in—knowing fully the only censure that awaits them is a shift from one portfolio to another. n