I am writing this article having watched and listened to the Presidentâ€™s press conference on the July 20, 2011 Commission of Inquiry report. Several things caught my attention, not least the fact that the commission was set by president Bingu wa Mutharika, who has since died. We will never know whether the findings of the commission would have been the same had Mutharika not died.
We will also never know whether there would have been a press conference on the findings of the commission were Mutharika and his DPP still in power.
The second thing that came to my mind is the conduct of the press conference itself. I found that the President struggled to read through the document. While I know that President Joyce Banda is an eloquent speaker, reading the press release was not something I would do if I were president. I would give that responsibility to Steve Nhlane or someone from the Office of President and Cabinet, but never myself. There should be appropriate distribution of responsibilities. Reading a statement is not a high value responsibility befitting a State President.
Because the President should not have been reading a press statement, she went on to make obvious mistakes. For example, as she read the relevant constitutional provisions and laws for commission of inquires, she pronounced CAP and “cap or cup” when is should have been chapter. The President knows the right way but she is just getting on to her plate too much activities.
By the way, I hear that someone has told the Ministry of Health that the President is committed to launching up to 150 maternity waiting houses. This is too much for any president, even younger than 77 years, even committed issues on maternal and child health and even in times of austerity. If I were a president, I would launch the programme, but never to follow up with groundbreaking ceremonies in all the constituencies.
I was pleased to note that the commission of inquiry mentioned the “Panga Boys” who intimidated Blantyre residents. I was, however, disappointed with the type of language that the Panga Boys were referred to. It was like “the Panga boys may have been supported by the DPP.” Yet, DPP regional governor for the South clearly identified the boys as his own boys. Secondly, I was dismayed that the President has asked the Attorney-General to study the findings and advise whether criminal activities may have been committed in the happenings surrounding the July 20 incident.
My foot! Up to this time, should we be waiting for the police to get advice from the Attorney-General that the law was breached? Should the police be not independent enough to investigate issues and deal with law and order without waiting for advice from a politician?
I was satisfied with the methods that the commission of inquiry used to dig deeper into the issue at hand. However, I have not been satisfied with the Cabinet sub-committees investigating MRAgate and the methods it used. The July 20 Commission of Inquiry appeared more genuine than the MRAgate inquiry.