I found it mildly amusing the exasperation expressed by various leaders of opposition parties with President Peter Mutharika’s address to Parliament last week. Their major bone of contention lay with its length—delivered in 23 sweet, short minutes.
By the opposition’s reckoning, by virtue of the speech’s length, Mutharika had set out to insult the nation, largely because it skirted around or ignored matters close to the heart of the nation, such as the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme (Fisp), the K577 billion forensic audit, chaos in the health sector and his pessimistic statement on reliance of donor aid.
When Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera and People’s Party leader in Parliament UladiMussa delivered their scathing verdicts in Parliament on Monday, you would have expected Mutharika to slink into a hole to hide from the venom thrown his way and maybe throw in the towel.
It may not be all doom and gloom for APM, however. At least, he can afford to beat his chest that in the face of political and economic discontent all around him, at least leaders of opposition parties retain a semblance of expectation in him—they still care about and take seriously anything he says or does.
For a large number of disenfranchised Malawians, Mutharika’s brief speech was a breath of fresh air, a departure from his predecessors’ winding and tedious speeches laced with a liberal of lies. Would you rather have one hour and some of being lied to or 23 minutes of being told nothing? I don’t know about you, but I value the truth, and on that score, Mutharika scored high marks. He promised nothing and so he has nothing to be accountable for in the future.
I didn’t expect him to promise that granaries will be bursting at the seams with maize next year when Fisp is in disarray and people are so dependent on government’s largesse they cannot do anything on their own.
Indeed, I did not expect him to pledge that all suitable and available health workers would be employed by the government to address challenges faced by the sector and that drugs would be available in hospitals before the year’s end.
I little expected him to express his commitment to deal with Cashgate and pledge the political so that K557 billion forensic audit goes ahead as soon and is concluded as swiftly as possible.
Where I fault Mutharika’s speech is where he made a fleeting mention of Cashgate as one of the major causes of Malawi’s situation. If it is a joke, it is wearing thin. We have had almost two years to make good on the recommendations made to deal with Cashgate once and for all. Sadly, the few tentative steps we have made are pulled back by several mini-cashgates and reckless expenditure by all arms of the government.
Besides, reducing all our challenges to Cashgate seems like Mutharika is implicitly blaming today’s problem on the government past, which in itself is not a new tactic. Every government blames the one before it. Joyce Banda blamed Bingu wa Mutharika who faulted Bakili Muluzi who excoriated Kamuzu Banda who, himself, was critical of the colonial government for Malawi’s problem. And that was all because none of them, beyond self-enrichment, had a clue about how to solve the country’s problems.
The nation, meanwhile, remains rooted to a spot watching the whole world pass them by and wondering what curse befell them to deserve such clueless leaders.