There is a saying that is attributed to the America president Abraham Lincoln and at other times to his countryman writer, Mark Twain, who gave the world The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
It says: It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.
Not to steal the thunder from Honest Abe and Sir Twain, but this tidbit of wisdom has its source in the book of Proverbs in the Bible, where no words are minced, ‘Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent and discerning if he holds his tongue.’
Someone at State House should point President Peter Mutharika to these words, especially as the campaign fever quickly grips the nation, thanks to United Transformation Movement (UTM) upsetting the tables.
Unlucky for APM, Vice-President Saulos Chilima did not launch his UTM this past weekend and all the attention was on the 10-minute address that the President made to people gathered at Katoto Freedom Park in Mzuzu.
APM’s speech defect should come as no surprise to Malawians. Nothing has changed since his Cabinet appointments started when he returned to Malawi after some 40 odd years in the diaspora.
But lately, it has gone beyond not saying the appropriate words but threatening terror and violence on those who hold dissenting views.
It seems a week does not go by without seeing glimpses of the brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, who did not stop at verbal threats but went on to suppress rights and freedoms of Malawians through the use of archaic laws and tampering with pieces of legislation—Section 46 of the Penal Code quickly comes to mind.
As professor at law, credited with having contributed to the drafting of the post-one party era Constitution, APM should know better than to threaten citizens with an old law like the Names and Emblems Act.
True, there are laws in this country that stop citizens from criticising the President, and every one of them including Bakili Muluzi, the democrat that he was, have not made attempts to scrap these laws for this exact reason; to bring it out when it suits them.
It is not an insult to describe the president as clueless. It is not an insult to say he is not in control.
It is a fact that APM is old. A 78-year-old man is neither a youth nor middle-aged. He is a near geriatric. Much as youth or old age comes with its benefits, there is also recklessness that goes with it.
If APM had demonstrated that age was nothing but a number, from when his brother started dropping Cabinet appointments on his lap, to the past four years, those in UTM would have no cause to link his age to poor leadership.
Instead of dredging up the past and reminding us of treasonous role that he played in Bingu’s death, APM should have been extending an olive branch to Callista, like the loving brother-in-law that he promised to be as his brother’s remains were interred.
APM might not like what Callista or anyone in UTM says about his deficiencies as a leader—attributed to age and living outside Malawi for over 40 years—but unfortunately that does not erase her marriage to late Bingu or the fact that she is a widow bearing her late husband’s name.
It is too soon to be tired of the nonsense that grips a country in the run up to the elections. But as a politician in election time, APM needs to man up and take whatever is said on the podium by the chin.
Threatening to annihilate people with tonnes of bricks will not earn the DPP much needed votes in 2019. It is best to be silent and not be a fool, it really is wise.