In retrospect, the disaster that was the meeting last week between President Peter Mutharika and the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) should never have taken place, if the quasi-religious body had heeded counsel from some quarters.
With the wisdom of hindsight, PAC should perhaps have released the resolutions of the Fifth All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference at the venue in Blantyre in February than seek out APM for an audience to deliver it. It tanked badly.
For a start, the conference was never about Mutharika and the government. But it turned into a platform for chronicling the ills and the shortcomings of government, without looking at other aspects of the society that have woefully gone astray. Men are hacking their wives limbs without batting an eyelid; people living with albinism are wary of ‘human hunters’ who are after them, opposition parties are in a leadership crisis—these are issues that barely got a mention, if at all. Yet they matter.
My understanding, which may be wide of the mark, was that the conference would be exhaustive and was supposed to tackle a wide range of issues at the end of which PAC was supposed to issue a communiqué. It has done so in the past. PAC, however, opted to be different when it opted to deliver the resolutions to Mutharika. Did PAC expect the President to give weight to resolutions simply because it was hand-delivered?
Given an open opportunity to address the President, PAC—an institution that stubbornly remains almost an exclusive men’s club—usurped the roles of councillors and members of Parliament to demand of APM such mundane things that only served self-interests than the national issues they tasked themselves with to deliver. The conference discussed neither teachers’ training colleges nor demands for bridges or roads, but these were the strange requests the men of God took to Mutharika. It may have been a subtle indictment of the failures of MPs and councillors to articulate development needs of their areas. But why the men of the collar felt they could succeed where MPs and councillors have failed beats me.
Get me right, asking for a road or a TTC or a bridge may not be such trivia, but it was never PAC’s remit to hold court with the President and ask for such trivialities. Theirs was to go to the President—misadvised as it was—to deliver the larger picture and leave requests for bridges and roads to councillors and MPs.
As purported emissaries of such heavy news, APM should have been pinching himself listening to such venerated men of the collar reducing themselves to ward councillors. It is little wonder he dared them that he takes no deadlines from anyone. Teaches them right seeking the audience of a man who struggled to hide his contempt for them and the message they bore!
Speaking of Mutharika and his refusal to be tied to a deadline, I would be surprised if he responds at all, which would be a shame. He needs to respond, if only to assure PAC (and the people) that he is walking with them.
Besides, PAC has posed questions of sorts and you cannot promise people an open-ended answer as if they are waiting for the Second Coming. We all operate on deadlines and timelines by which we must abide, or else we run the risk of falling into chaos.
Isn’t it ironical that while Mutharika despises deadlines, a few weeks ago in Salima he issued an ultimatum to water boards to present to him their plans about diversifying into irrigation when their remit does not provide for that? If the water boards take a cue from him and tell him off, heads would surely roll.
Few people like deadlines. Deadlines help people in planning their day ahead and if we take away, little to no work would be done. It does not take away APM’s importance nor does it demean his office to commit himself to a working deadline. n