22 August 2020
The Greek storyteller Aesop in a fable, The Miller, His Son and Their Son, goes all the way to show how difficult it is to please everyone. In trying to please everyone you end up pleasing no one.
In the story, a man and his son are taking their donkey to the market. On the way, some women laugh at them for not riding the donkey. The man puts his son on the donkey and they proceed.
But a while later, a group of men accuse the boy of being disrespectful for riding a donkey when his father was walking. So, the father gets on the donkey as the son walks. Somebody else wonders how the father could be on the ass when his son was walking!
They both decide to ride the donkey. They don’t go far, for someone suggest they are bound to kill the donkey. In the end, they decided to carry the donkey, a really comic sight!
Pofuna kusangalatsa onse, susangalatsa munthu.
The story comes to mind looking at President Lazarus Chakwera servant leadership and how at times, he appears to be ambivalent.
It may be too early to judge that but before he became president, you could see in him a man whose resolve was set and there were no two ways about it. Making a decision, bold ones, there was no turning back.
To resign from the Assemblies of God presidency to contest for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) as a newcomer showed his firmness. And on winning the position, he did what his predecessors John Tembo and Gwanda Chakuamba never attempted: Replace the Kamuzu portrait on the party cloth with his own.
Fast-track to the time the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) declared Peter Mutharika victor in the May 21 2019 polls, Chakwera was bold in a resolve that the election was botched. He was tenacious, at a time most of us thought he was wasting his time as, previously, poll challengers lost in court.
But on assuming office, it is apparent Chakwera may be taking the listening aspect of his presidency far. This roots from the fact that as he takes his baby steps in the presidency he is under too much pressure to please.
The other day, his administration gazzeted a set of regulations against Covid-19. Among those were the notion to limit the number of gatherings to 10. Members of the clergy raised hell, and the president reverted to the 100 people mark.
It is unclear what made the President see it wise to limit the gatherings to 10. What is clear is that he had information that the threat of surges of Covid-19 infections was outright. Given that tests in the country have not passed 50 000 in a population of 18 million, the threat that more Malawians are carrying the virus is real. The wonder, then, has that risk vanished because members of the clergy could not take the limit of congregants to 10?
The President brings in a bundle of contradictions to complicate the matter further when he alludes to the fact that schools would open in September. One would wonder how schools would limit the learner population to 10 in each class!
While we are at it, the feeling is so strong that many schools would not pass the test where protection is concerned. What comes to mind are the 6 300 public primary schools where students shoot to more than 100. Can these schools afford to provide soap, hand-washing equipment, sanitisers and maintain social distance?
Essentially, when the inspectors go to work, some private schools may pass the litmus test. That, in the end will create inequality, since the underpriviledged schools will not make it. The calendar will certainly be in a shambles.
Listening is not bad, but at times you may end up losing it all. Where the purpose is in good faith, leaders should not be swayed by every whisper.