There is a ‘Bingu’ in President Joyce Banda. Almost all the finest words calling Mrs Banda to publicise her declared assets have been spoken.
They have been spoken by the revered men and women of the collar through the Public Affairs Committee (PAC). They have been spoken by reputable civil society organisations such as the Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR).
They have been spoken by the academia, the media and a number of senior citizens. And they have all been spoken with wisdom.
The wisdom is that publicising the assets is not a call for a president to obey the law on declaration of assets—a law which, in its current state, is silly and irrational.
Rather, it is a call for a president to live the spirit of accountability and transparency hidden between the lines of this poorly crafted law.
Unfortunately, the President has chosen to be clever, not wise. She has chosen to listen to a silly law than the voice of wisdom. She has chosen, as John Milton dramatises in the Lost Paradise, to “rather be a king in hell, than a slave in heaven.”
But what Mrs Banda and whoever is advising her should not forget is that Malawians have seen such dirty tactics of destroying democracy before.
Remember the dirty tactics Bingu wa Mutharika used when former Inspector General Peter Mukhito crossed the Rubicon and stifled academic freedom in the country?
Every sensible Malawian, including Mutharika himself, understood that Mukhito infringed on academic freedom when he summoned and interrogated a lecturer who was only doing his job.
Instead of ‘swallowing his pride’ and assure the academia of the freedom they demanded, Mutharika, just as we are seeing in Mrs Banda today, chose to be clever, not wise. He chose to listen to his ego than the voice of wisdom. He chose rather to be a king in hell than a slave in heaven.
Not only did Mutharika refuse to apologise and assure the academia of academic freedom. As the students loafed for close to a year without classes, Mutharika was all over calling the nation to debate the meaning of academic freedom. Imagine!
I cannot remember who, at the argument’s end, won the debate. But the academic freedom saga revealed to us more about who Bingu was: a leader with an arrogant heart.
And likewise, this is what the debate on assets is revealing to us today about Mrs Banda: a leader, just like Bingu, with an arrogant heart.
There was no point for the academic freedom saga to turn into a vendetta, disrupting the academic calendar close to a year.
It was something simple—just as the debate on assets today—that just needed a wise president to say a single word, just a word, and everything is history.
That is why I am surprised with Mrs Banda and everybody advising her. If there is nothing to hide, what is stopping the President from living the principles of democracy by directing Parliament to publicise her assets?
Mrs Banda should be reminded that there is more at risk to her 2014 dream in this asset debate than the spirit of accountability and transparency that the debate aims to guard. There is more on the political future of Mrs Banda in this debate than just the spirit of the law.
With the coming in of MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera, arguably a clean politician, Joyce Banda’s presidential dreams, with Peter Mutharika’s DPP still commanding some unwavering support, hangs in suspense. A great suspense, I should underline.
Surely, her chances of remaining in office are currently on slimming diet. They are getting thinner and thinner.
That is why the last thing she should do today is not to show arrogant traits similar to Bingu’s. With the history of how Malawians suffered due to Bingu’s arrogance, voting for her would mean giving her a platform or a blank cheque to fully flex her arrogance.
I rest my case.