For many Malawians that I know, the freedom to criticise the government of their country is not inspired by some nebulous self-righteous urge to “promote” a Western agenda, or even the more dubious desire to earn a trip to the United States.
The reasons have absolutely nothing with being pro-West. The reasons are largely pro-country, pro-good governance, pro-people, and pro-justice.
Quite simply, the Malawian criticisms of their government and their leaders is inspired by what inspired the gallant fight against colonialism and dictatorship-to fight for the rights of the underdog and not to allow the rich and powerful to trample on those rights with impunity.
I wonder if those who say it realise how utterly absurd the theory that is. President Peter Mutharika, having himself lived in the United States of America (USA) for most of his adult life, surely does not subscribe to the notion that Malawians cannot criticise their own leaders unless the British or the Americans have paid them to do so.
If I spoke to President Mutharika, I would tell him not to waste any of his time on this idle speculation.
Planting stories of an imagined coup gives you an accurate reading of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) mood right now; it is filthy, it is scared, it is out of ideas and it feels besieged.
Of course, there are many reasons for which Malawians should be rightly angry with this government, without anyone telling or paying them to be so. Economic output remains pitiable, President Mutharika seems disinterested, Financial Minister Goodall Gondwe seems clueless, the behaviour of the kwacha is problematic, the cost of living has gone through the roof and there does not seem to be a national action plan to fix things.
Recent unemployment figures suggest millions of the able-bodied population cannot find jobs, and there is no hope for them finding jobs in the future because there are no jobs being created.
The most disgusting part of that hatchet job was the shameless naming of people on the treason allegations, without any evidence of their wrongdoing. Many of the people named in that fanciful plot are decent, loyal, law-abiding citizens who dearly love their country. Only in vicious dictatorships and Banana Republics are citizens who exercise their democratic right to criticise their government called traitors and spuriously accused of plotting a coup.
Then you had the government spokesperson saying that those named should exonerate themselves. I was astonished. For heaven’s sake, how do you place innocent people in a web of imagined wrongdoing and then ask them to untangle themselves from that burden?
But in the greater scheme of things, crying “coup!” is a tactic of DPP and we have seen it used before, not once, but twice.
One of the previous allegations named a former president and serving Army generals who rightly sued, and were paid tens of millions of kwacha in compensation for their troubles. These allegations, as we all came to know, were as a result of the fatal flaws in Bingu wa Mutharika’s character as a leader-his intolerance to dissent, his ruthless reaction to adversity and his single-minded determination to bludgeon his critics into silence.
The conclusion is inescapable that, looked at soberly, this is just a paranoid regime making lots of angry sounds and fury, but ultimately signifying nothing, or very little. Talk of an imagined coup is unlikely to lower the price of essential commodities, which is another reason Malawians are angry and frustrated and looking at alternatives.
The idea that the American ambassador would call up a few people to sit around a table to plan an insurrection over a cup of cappuccino is entirely fanciful.
The National Intelligence Bureau, should have better intelligence than this. n