Great political truths always begin as blasphemy.
So blasphemous, then, is to say that when presidents want to dust off weighty words against those close to them they rarely use their mouths.
They use the loud mouths of small podium-friendly party boys. These are briefcase boys with little political influence apart from being uncritical medium of the President’s darker moves.
Bakili Muluzi had a number of them. Do you remember who went public when Muluzi started plotting the darker Third and Open term moves? It was Davis Kapito. In fact, Kapito did not go flat out about it. He craftily revealed Muluzi’s inner motives by describing his potential successors as madeya.
How disdaining the words were to honourable men such as Friday Jumbe, Justin Malewezi and George Mtafu salivating to succeed Muluzi?
But at least we knew that Muluzi wanted to succeed himself, and, if that fails, he will settle for a stranger. In fact, to prove that it was Muluzi speaking through Kapito’s loud mouth, he never even once condemned Kapito’s outbursts.
That is why the plot came to pass. That is why Muluzi, after failing to succeed himself, settled for a stranger, not madeya.
And it was the same with Bingu wa Mutharika, the stranger who succeeded Muluzi. When Mutharika started to plot Joyce Banda’s political downfall as part of clearing a political path for his brother, Peter, we did not know much. In fact, Mutharika never used his mouth about it.
He used Noel Masangwi, who, in drumming up support for Peter, went public and, without a touch of conscience, blurted that Malawi is not ready for a female president.
But why did Masangwi utter such a controversial statement? The suspicious thing is that Mutharika, the one who chose Joyce Banda to be his deputy and also to show his commitment to gender equality in leadership, never spoke a word condemning Masangwi’s controversial statement. In fact, Masangwi was not even fired from the party.
Was he not sent? Well, it did not take a year before Malawians heard of Joyce Banda being fired from DPP and Bingu going public endorsing his brother as his successor.
It is in the same vein that I was quite cautious with the speech Brian Banda, presidential press officer, made on Thursday when the President, as usual, was distributing cows somewhere in Malawi.
The gruffly-voiced Banda, while closing the ceremony, addressed the three present Cabinet ministers and I quote: “I WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU HONOURABLE MINISTERS FOR COMING. SOME MINISTERS DO NOT COME TO PRESIDENTIAL FUNCTIONS LIKE THESE ONES.”
So Mr Banda is expecting every Cabinet minister to attend the President’s endless travels?
I am not trying to develop a storm in the cup. But I am just curious because Mr Brian Banda is a presidential press officer. Why did the presidential press officer utter such words? Was he trying to put across a message from his superiors or he was just overzealous on the microphone?
I am not sure whether Banda was overzealous. I want to believe he is quite a learned person and qualified for the job. In fact, he tactfully uttered the statement at the very end not just of his speech but the ceremony itself. In my little communication studies, which Mr Banda studied as well, we learnt that in a speech, the last word is the most critical. It sends the listeners home with a message—a powerful one.
So what message, then, was the presidential press officer sending to the absent ministers? Do you appreciate those you perceive to have done well by speaking ill of those you perceive to have not?
I am not sure about Banda’s intention. But I understand that the statement did not spring out of the blue. It springs from history and leadership philosophy.
Frankly speaking, the President is always on the road. Do we really expect every minister, even that of Sports and Finance, to accompany her on endless travels as she distributes one cow per family?
But why, I should ask again, did the presidential press officer utter such words, on record, for the entire nation not just to hear but also to refer to when in doubt?
Perhaps, I should end where I began. Great political truths, let’s not forget, always begin as blasphemy.
So blasphemous it is always that when Presidents want to dust off weighty words against those close to them—for instance sending warning shots to Cabinet ministers they despise, they rarely use their mouths.
They use the loud mouths of small podium-friendly party boys. These are briefcase boys with little political influence apart from being uncritical medium of President’s darker moves.
We saw it with the Kapitos and the Masangwis revealing inner plots of succession brewing in their respective parties.
I am not sure, of course, with PP. Koma timva. Pompano.