On Friday, I attended one of President Peter Mutharika’s last major speeches. He was at Parliament and already you could sense that this time, a political temperature is rising not only from the combative language Mutharika employed—against his perceived enemies—but also from the actions of those he relies on for a cheer.
Well, Mutharika is no orator. So it perhaps makes common sense that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) long devised a plan to make him look like one.
First, they hired a brilliant speech writer whose flair of language makes green writers like yours truly turn more green with envy. The next thing they did was to ensure an army of handclappers follow each line Mutharika delivers, especially when he is in Parliament surrounded by interrogative eyes of opposition, media, diplomats and other more critical watchers of his speech, with fake applause.
On Friday, those hoodlums for hire went a bit too far. In their eagerness to impress the President, by hiding his podium deficiencies, they started heckling his rivals who booed aspects of his speech. They inadvertently delivered to the nation the worst scenes we have ever seen in Parliament.
A president’s speech was interrupted by Speaker of the National Assembly as police and ruling DPP supporters scuffled in front of a President. It’s not the speech writer’s fault, nor is the hoodlum that they couldn’t mask the emptiness of what we heard on Friday.
The problem here is a President who can’t impress any audience because his record is very clear; unimpressive and needs a lot of spin and choreography to get exciting. For four years, he has done little to show for it.
But what is the alternative leadership?
As I walked around Parliament corridors, I strayed into a corridor used by the office of the Leader of the Opposition and immediately, I was turned off by one of his bodyguards. Later, as Chakwera passed, I saw an image I’ve seen repeatedly at Parliament: Chakwera’s bodyguards jumping up and down in front of him clearing the way so that he doesn’t come in any contact with anyone.
This man, shielded from facing people, can’t even push a door for himself is supposed to be a president in a democratic country. I am told he wants to be a servant leader. I think he will be a god.
In this 21st century, world leaders stumble in front of people just to appear to be down to earth. That Chakwera’s minders, still drunk on the hangover of a life presidency, still want to build another personality cult around a candidate who is supposed to be a change ticket, is telling.
Before that, earlier in this week, I interviewed former president Joyce Banda who is back in the country. Although she hasn’t admitted it yet, I reckon she still harbours presidential ambition. Yet, JB, after finding this place inhabitable is back just twelve months before the elections, too, is well past her sale date.
Let the country see other leaders. She belongs to a difficult past that also synonymous with the word Cashgate.
It’s such an unavailability of our candidates that leave many people perplexed ahead of the next elections.
In cities, where most people are educated and enlightened, people are increasingly voicing out such frustrations. But the most perplexing thing about the state of our politics is that the elections are decided in villages by the poor and uneducated. People whose standards for leadership is so low.
No wonder then our leaders have worked hard to make our governments dysfunctional so that the majority voters remain poor, uneducated and enlightened.
But this week, we celebrated World Press Freedom day. If ever there was a good time to be a journalist in this country, it’s now when there is a job to be done. The challenge facing the Malawian press today is to explain in very clear terms to all Malawians, not just consumers of newspapers, just how actions of their leaders are destroying the country; what solid concessions can we seek from our leaders now ahead of the 2019 elections and how do we end the exploitation of tribe, region, religion and ignorance by the elite, to continue defrauding the nation’s dreams. n