Anyone who becomes the President of the Republic of Malawi ought to know that she or he stands a grave risk of getting very bad advice from people around them. That is the main occupational hazard of this job. Obama’s responsibility as POTUS (President of the United States) is nothing compared to being president of Malawi. If you do not agree with me, that is OK, but I will explain what I mean.
Firstly, let me say that it will be irresponsible for any of us to believe, just as Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe was quoted as saying “there is nothing we can do” after the EU said that they will not give us budgetary support. That there is nothing we can do is missing the boat. In fact, it justifies some of the clamour I have heard that the best gift that Malawi can have is the retirement of Gondwe.
My understanding will not emerge because of the age issue as some have argued. For me, the dangerousness of Gondwe is that he has no doubt whatsoever in his own wisdom. He believes, I think, that he has all the wisdom that there is in this country. Despite the advice and evidence that Fisp [Farm Input Subsidy Programme] is a train wreck, Gondwe believes his government must not dispense with it.
Despite the proposal to modify the Cement and Malata Subsidy Programme, Gondwe believes the programme is great the way it is. And then the EU withholds its purse, and we say: “We don’t know why they are behaving that way”? The EU knows, just like many of us, that the logistic costs of Fisp, while oiling the party system, is not worth it.
The EU knows that without a strong Access to Information Act (ATI), only a fool can give budgetary support to Malawi. We were warned, were we not? The EU had said unless we passed this bill, we were not getting a dime from them. We punched holes in the Bill. We gave the excuse that we were not prepared to provide access to information, and all information from times of the Akafula in 1300s. So, we shelved the ATI and then tempted the EU by asking for budgetary support? It does not work like that.
Let me go back to the thesis that Obama’s job is lighter than that of APM. Obama is not president of a largely illiterate society that worships him. He does not have a group of Cabinet ministers criss-crossing the country opening this and that, school blocks or planting trees, and on MBCtv. These are dangerous things to have. They tell you most of which you want to hear and what we want to hear is not always helpful. Obama may have the native American tribal leaders, but not the thousands of traditional leaders that are here in Malawi who suck the system dry. Obama does not have the hunger that visits Malawi every year. He does not have to defend a K577 billion Cashgate neither does he need the IMF to prop up his accounts. n