I laughed out loud this week when I saw pictures of the smiling President Joyce Banda receiving musical equipment from Japanese Ambassador Fujio Samukawa at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre. The equipment, totalling 222 pieces worth K11 (about $472 000)8 million, is a gift from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) to the Malawi Police Service (MPS) to help improve what Inspector General (IG) Lot Dzonzi said are the “diminishing standards” of music in the Malawi Police Band.
I profusely thank the Japs, our good oleâ€™ friends indeed and in need, for the gesture that I am sure will make our police more melodious and, hopefully, help soften their brutality as their souls are being soothed.
But excuse me, how did the whole President find time on her ever-busy schedule to accommodate such a small event? Of the main players at the function, she was the only one who had not driven all the way from Lilongwe to be there. Uladi â€˜Chenji Goloâ€™ Mussa, the energetic, foot-in-the-mouth Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister, was there, grinning from ear to ear.
He had run helter-skelter from the capital city to be there. The same was the case with the Ambassador, the IG and a few briefcase carriers who graced the musical occasion.
Common sense, which I understand is not so common, would have demanded that Mussa and the IG receive the equipment in Lilongwe at less expense while the President would have tried to clear her in-tray, especially when the other day she had presided over an economic symposium somewhere along the sandy beaches of the crystal clear Lake Malawi where, I hope, she crystallised some ideas into some sustainable plan.
I am not very optimistic though given the empty rhetoric and unsupported double-digit growth rates that she bundled around instead of restricting them to her dreams that, if truth be told, are in black and white since there is nothing technical about the colour they are envisioned in.
The point is that Mrs. Banda has a strategy, never mind that it is borrowed from a dead eccentric fellow. It is a plan she has embraced, but not one she must personally get involved in implementing. She has to let ministries, departments and agencies to do mundane things such as receiving equipment, opening conferences and any such incremental tasks.
Mrs. Banda must look at the bigger picture, standing at an elevated place to watch how execution of the plan is proceeding, picking out troubled areas, offering strategic guidance and occasional hand holding.
Only on rare, exceptional circumstances should she get bogged down in minute details. That is why she hired Cabinet ministers, principal secretaries and parastatal boards of directors and chief executive officers.
Mrs. Banda must always preserve, and jealously so, the institution of the presidency. It is a symbol of power and authority. It should not be reduced to a drive-in convenience store even as it remains a non-threatening public place. So, cut the travelling madam and get back to work.
If the President canâ€™t find work, I can help…
There is now a growing list of parastatals and other government agencies that the Bingu wa Mutharika Treasury raided, picking any coin and note, whether lying on the floor, locked up in drawers or in the safes at local commercial banks. There was nowhere to hide. It was a government on heat, getting all hot and bothered at the sight of an institution with money.
First, it was the Malawi Revenue Authority, then Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority and, most recently, Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority. Who else did the previous administration seduce?
Nation newspapers will continue to dig, but without the Access to Information Bill, our efforts will be limited.
With the exposes we have done on this subject so far, we have shown the way and that it can be managed much easier by those hired with taxpayersâ€™ money to earn their keep.
Mrs. Banda should set up a team of experts (not some commission of enquiries headed by some judge or a special Cabinet committee whose members are as tainted as the subject of investigation). I am talking about a team of eminent accountants, economists, lawyers, police officers and retired bankers, among other professionals, to investigate and compute all the money that government borrowed from parastatals; where that money went, the circumstances under which those loans were contracted; the legality of such decisions; how much the â€˜forcedâ€™ lenders lost in foregone returns had they invested that money.
In short, what was the economic cost of those chaffy decisions? Is there anyone who could be personally liable for those decisions so that we set an example?
You Excellency, Mrs. Joyce Banda, here is work for you. Maybe, just maybe, it could keep you busy enough to slow