Lazarus Chakwera’s inauguration address will, in a sense, always haunt him. The speech, obviously well-woven, set the bar just high on what this administration will have to achieve to be considered a success.
Toppling the kleptocracy of the DPP administration, apparently, will never been enough. There is a big task of getting the country and economy functioning again.
So, for now, Chakwera, save for the distraction of the not-so-convincing Cabinet appointments, has largely jumped on the job like water to duck.
He has made a lot sensible speeches, promised very progressive reforms, both legislatively and administratively. Majority of his appointments have been reasonable. He has, largely, respected the law but when he has goofed, he has quickly issued ‘mea culpa’ and reversed course.
That, after years of executive arrogance when the President and his henchmen spoke and act like they were above the law, or they were law into itself, has been refreshing.
But, that’s not all. Chakwera has gone on to declare his assets more thoroughly that it raises a specter on the moral bankruptcy of Mutharika and his henchmen who, truth be told, made a mockery of the law.
Chakwera has also, by our standards, run the most transparent government ever: the President’s diary of activities is revealed to the public on weekly basis by his spin doctors who have also taken the liberty to expose themselves to all manner of questioning.
To that extent, the President himself has also appeared in Parliament to answer questions from his rivals, outwitting them in responding to questions, in effect fulfilling a campaign pledge to ensure adherence to a constitutional requirement his predecessors had found a bit too much of an irritant.
Chakwera has also pledged to trim his powers, particularly on appointment of Director of Anti-Corruption Bureau and will give up chancellorship of public universities and his administration finally gazetted the Access to Information Law (although this week we heard that the government has given the effort to operationalise just some token funding).
The point really is, this President looks like he means business and has good intentions for the country.
This week, city authorities in Lilongwe and Blantyre chased illegal vending in a bid to bring sanity to the cities. A little more will have to get this country back on track but all these are right baby steps.
But while this is promising, there is, as they say in football commentary, nothing to write home about. Public sector reforms are still yet to be completely rolled out and register any gains; corruption is still endemic (check the ambulance saga if you thought all corruption will go with the blue vampires), economy remains on the tailspin thanks to years of negligent and Covid-19, and it’s not growing at a right pace to enable us end massive unemployment, improve infrastructure and achieve many other dreams.
Yet, Chakwera and Chilima cannot do it all on their own. We need right people in all crucial offices doing the right thing. They must be competent and qualified, too. Honest and patriotic.
This week, the Tonse administration unleashed tonnes of surrogates to help them run its transformative agenda through various boards of state enterprises.
Many on the list, they have for years provided grounded analysis of the state of the country and the panacea needed to heal it. Many were brave voices misrule and excesses of power in the past. It’s tempting and natural to give them benefit of doubt they will do a good job. No wonder then, contrary to the backlash of Chakwera’s Cabinet announcement, the boards have been welcomed as inspiring.
But the point is, the background of these people must not fool us. The proof of the pudding, as ancient wisdom teaches us, is in the eating. So, until we see a difference between the effectiveness of these “professional” boards in comparison to the previous band of party zealots and sycophantic chiefs and clergymen, there will be no reason to celebrate the painstaking work Chakwera and Chilima have undertaken in ensuring a balance between merit and politics in these appointments.
Each appointee must now stand up and demonstrate that they don’t consider these appointments as ‘our turn to eat’. They must show the same zeal in fighting corruption as they showed while outside.
And, for the rest of us, we must police these men and women with equally unquenchable gusto.
We are, basically, on our own. The good men are in government and the DPP tainted voices too discredited to provide credible voice. We must live as there are no activists to fight for us and become our own activists— because the activists are now in power.
Granted, Chakwera has showed so much promise. But we know power corrupts and Chakwera’s good intentions mustn’t be allowed to become a pavement of hell, as Shakespeare would have it. This country has suffered enough, we must coerce the good out of our government, by all means possible.