I don’t know why, but we have a President who always appears to realise that something is wrong only when he loses—as is always the case with him—the public opinion battle.
When he does so, he desperately tries—and miserably fails—to claim the moral high ground.
It is always embarrassing to watch the poor fellow’s pathetic attempts at spin. Well, at least I get embarrassed on his behalf—I am that nice.
Take, for instance, the issue of raising his own salary, that of his Vice-President and members of his Cabinet.
Flashback: In August this year, President Peter Mutharika—through his press secretary Frederick Ndala—rejected a proposal to have minister’s terms and conditions of services revised amid concerns about money drought at Capital Hill.
Said Ndala at the time, obviously sounding very clever: “His Excellency President Mutharika finds it to be unethical to raise ministers’ salaries when the cost of living is not only high for them, but every Malawian. The President would rather focus on improving the standards of the civil servants than the ministers.
“Besides, we are passing through very difficult economic times as a country and as such his appeal to the ministers is to be good leaders and lead by example and forego the salary review, which was being
proposed. You might also wish to know that the last time the President’s salary was raised was on 1st July 2009 and President Mutharika has no intentions of raising his salary any time soon.”
How soon is ‘soon’? That was the question after Weekend Nation revealed that government has raised the salary of the President, his deputy Saulos Chilima and his 20 Cabinet ministers as well as
parliamentarians by hefty percentages with effect from October 1 2014.
The President’s salary had risen by about 80 percent from K1.5 million to K2.7 million per month.
That of his deputy also jumped by the same percentage to stand at K1.8 million per month from K1 million.
Now, the increases came less than two months after the President had earlier found it “unethical”.
They obviously thought, naively I must add, that they would keep the hikes quiet, except that Nation has the nosiest reporters in town and they smelt the blood money miles away soon after the deal was done,
sealed and delivered.
After the exposure, the President suddenly remembered that he was supposed to be ethical again, so lo and behold, he put off the hefty increase until God knows when. But if recent history is any guide, Mutharika could just reward himself again two months later, probably in January, who knows! This man is a respected flip-flopper.
The point is that the President had just reversed his earlier reversal then reversed it again.
Just this week, after his Chief Secretary to the Government and the Inspector General of Police sealed the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), claiming they were protecting sensitive documents and property, the
reversal mood was back. The President reversed the ACB closure a day later.
It is curious that when the initial salary increases for Cabinet were made, the President appeared not to have known about it, so a shocked Mutharika reversed it. When his salary was increased again under a
different Chief Secretary in October, he again appeared not to know about it, so driver Mutharika frantically engaged the reverse gear again.
When the whole ACB was being shut down, you also get the vibes that chauffer Mutharika had no clue. When he, apparently, learnt about it probably in the form of a fall out, he once again did what he knows
best when his fingers are burnt: reversed it. Now, what exactly does this President know, if ever there is anything? How is it possible that officials can make critical decisions without the Head of State’s
What does this say about the President’s ability to maintain his bearings? Is it possible that one day we will wake up to news that someone has shut down Capital Hill without the President’s knowledge,
forcing him the following day to scramble for yet another reversal?
What of the decision made is irreversible? What then, Mr. President?
Mutharika should get a grip or get a rest away from State House. A country with too many levers of power could easily descend into chaos.
It is the last thing we need right now.