“I knew this was going to end in tears,” an anonymous man who phoned this newspaper on Friday morning mourned. “Ultimately, all politicians are the same.”
This was a voice of a man who couldn’t bear it any more. He says he has been sick for two months, but on voting day, he drove his car for the first time in two months and voted for Tonse Alliance.
He now sounds desolate, broken and down. And he is not alone.
Try as you may, there is no defending the unequivocal wrong signal the composition of Lazarus Chakwera’s first Cabinet sends: Appeasement, family dynasties, payback, political, uninspiring, same old politics, and same old faces.
Too much conflict of interest. How can minister regulate his own radio or mine? The entire integrity.
It’s a huge falling down from the height of the promise and hope of the celebrated inauguration speech, when Chakwera dazzled and left us all dreaming, inspired and believing. This writer for one, was left gobsmacked.
But words alone, no matter how eloquent, don’t matter to a people desperate for real change. And after being sold one dummy after another, one false promise after another, witnessed one false dawn after another, for 26 years, Malawians know better.
A Cabinet full of people with a chequered past. One that elevates some families into dominants, one that hardly masks the fact that political considerations, payback for support during the campaign, was more important than merit, hardly inspires confidence.
And then, the President has conjured up conflict of interest in certain appointments in a bewildering manner: appointing a mine owner as minister of mines, a broadcasting house owner as Minister of Information!
The explanation that he will be vigilant and ensure they don’t abuse office doesn’t even wash when their mere presence in office is already conflict of interest.
In the end, the sixth President of the country has failed to show that he is going to be any different. And that, cannot be glossed over by words. You cannot put any spin on the fact a rich couple, a son of a former president who left office in disgrace due to the worst corruption scandal in living memory, siblings from a family a former dictator, have been shooed in a cabinet that was supposed to be revolutionary. You can’t!
It smacks of both nepotism and patronage. Yes the same patronage that has breaded the corruption and cronyism of the past which that inauguration speech promised will be history.
We are still shaking our heads here because we know the president means well and gets it. We see he had good intentions too and see that in the selection of non-career politicians like Felix Mlusu, Michael Usi, Titus Mvalo, Gospel Kazako, Vera Kamtukule, Timothy Mtambo and others—which ordinary could have pleased those of us longing for change.
But now we have a bloated Cabinet –renegading on the campaign promise of a lean Cabinet—and these shoddy formulations spoiling everything.
Malawians detested the Muluzi and Mutharika dynasty aspirations and loathe to see that after marching in the street, voting en masse, the replacement is ridden with family ties too. Just what is wrong with our politicians?
Try as one may, you cannot paint these families ties with a blush of merit, for Malawians there are more deserving Malawians out there who could have been considered.
Those defending the President has asked for time—for patience—but for a country that is restless because the carnage has been going for so long, and they see the same patterns again, it cannot afford to seat, watch and wait.
And this is not the generation to take platitudes.
In politics, perception is everything. The President might genuinely believe both Abida and Sidik Mia, for example, deserve Cabinet posts on merit, but on the street, that doesn’t wash. People sees, rightly so, a rich family being rewarded for for its role in the campaign at a time many realise that Cabinet is a policy shaping organ vital to the rebuilding process.
Chakwera cannot afford to squander all the goodwill so early. The country, too, cannot afford another presidency gone to waste.
Yet there is something to hearten us. The president, in spite of this goof, has demonstrated in his short time in office that he is committed to servant leadership. In his inauguration speech, he promised to be a listening President, too. We—the columnist and Malawians— have had our say, we pray he has heard us.