Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister Goodall Gondwe yesterday said running the President’s office and government affairs is serious business that requires old people who have experience and not ‘babies’ who are novices in State matters.
Gondwe, who will clock 82 this year, has since laughed off suggestions that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should replace President Peter Mutharika with a ‘baby’ during the 2019 polls because he is aging.
While opening a meeting of senior DPP officials attended by over 200 party members in the Northern Region at Katoto Secondary School Hall in Mzuzu on Wednesday, Gondwe emphasised that government is not for babies.
His remarks follow what former first lady Callista Mutharika said last week that Mutharika, at 79, would be too old to carry on as President as he would be 84 years old at the time of leaving office in 2024 if re-elected next year.
The former first lady argues that it is normal that thinking capacity levels deteriorate as one gets older, and, therefore, favours Vice-President Saulos Chilima, 45, to lead the DPP in the 2019 elections.
Callista has been supported by DPP’s national youth director Louis Ngalande who on Wednesday cautioned Mutharika to tread carefully on representing the party in the 2019 polls, stating that he is too old for the job.
Said Gondwe: “I want you aspirants to tell people the truth that this government, led by His Excellency Professor Aurthur Peter Mutharika, has done a lot more than anybody else in the North since independence.
“So, I hear some people are saying they want Peter out of the Presidency because he is old? He is not old. Actually, Peter is younger than me! I know that some people also want me to leave office, but I know that youths do well in other things, but concerning affairs of government, it is the old who do well.”
As he said this, jubilant supporters in the hall sang songs rebuking main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera while praising Mutharika as a true and great leader whom the country still needs.
“Kamuzu Banda used to say that government is not for babies, and now you say you want to replace Mutharika with a baby? That is not right!
“Government is not for babies, government is for people with experience, and Peter is a man of experience, education, and above all, a person who behaves better and well to everyone.
“Peter has never insulted us like these others, and you are here allowing your leader to be insulted? We will not allow that for long! I know the newspapers tomorrow will say Gondwe said this. I am going to repeat, you can push around Peter for some time and we will be quiet and observe, but we will not allow it for long, next time, we will be able to speak our minds,” added Gondwe.
After this, Gondwe accused some political party he did not mention of soliciting money from some ‘Amwenye’ [Asians] for campaign.
He said Malawi, particularly the North, is not for sale, and that votes will not be given because someone has more money.
“Even Kamuzu Banda said Malawi needs to be run by Malawians, and even the skin must be black. He said those other people must not even join parties. Was it us who said that? Now they are breaking their own rules, we will just watch them?”
Among the notable DPP members at the meeting were secretary general Greselder Jeffrey, her deputy Grace Chiumia, who is also Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Attorney General Charles Mhango and North Region governor Kenneth Sanga.
While Gondwe seems not willing to listen to dissenting views from within DPP, Professor Thandika Mkandawire, a Swedish economist of Malawian descent, recently said on social media that the time for Mutharika and Gondwe is gone.
Mkandawire said he was together with Mutharika during both the struggle for independence and democratisation, which he argued are enough contributions from him.
“I still can’t figure out why he [Mutharika] believes he has the energy and capacity for the incredibly arduous and complex struggle for developing Malawi. The most successful presidents in the last 20 years—the Meles [Zenawi] of Ethiopia, Rwandan President [Paul] Kagame have been young with huge amounts of energy.
“In addition, we can’t have a Minister of Finance [Gondwe] in the 80s. It makes no sense and this is beginning to show in some of the confusion in fiscal policy. And it is a joke among both donors and investors.
“We, the old should sit on the side, doling out our wisdom when demanded. But running a State or economy? No,” he said.
He said having such old guards was not fair to a population that is so young and so full of dreams and energy.
A youth activist Charles Kajoloweka, whose orgnasition Youth and Society recently launched the Youth Decide 2019 campaign to mobilise and deepen youth’s voice and action in setting and advancing youth development agenda ahead of the 2019 Tripartite Elections, described Gondwe’s remarks as unfortunate.
“That reasoning is really worrisome. Much as we appreciate that we need seasoned and experienced people like him, everyone has an exit point. We are not just saying every young person must come in, but competent young people,” he said in an interview.
“He is talking about the old, but not all of them are competent. They have done their part, no one can be a public servant for life! So let them occupy a different role of advisers while the youth, competent ones take over leadership,” he said.
Yesterday, Mulanje South Parliamentarian Bon Kalindo [DPP] told Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) Callista Mutharika’s call for change of leadership was a true reflection on the ground.
“Some people that have surrounded the President are fooling him, they are telling him that everything is rosy, but that is not right. He has been surrounded by crocodiles in the party and at State House who want to satisfy their potbellies. People are leaving us on the ground, so we need to field an energetic candidate in the name of Saulos Chilima,” said Kalindo.
Earlier, presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalilani told our sister newspaper Weekend Nation that Mutharika will lead the DPP in the elections.
“I do not have a comment, apart from reiterating that President Mutharika will lead the DPP,” he said. n