09 April 2020
Last week, I said it here that Covid-19 may foment a dictatorship, or give birth to a revolution. As the novel coronavirus continues to take its toll globally, the effects on our social, economical and even political lives is very much evident at boot.
You can actually see that we are living in a public health crisis that will change so many lives in terms of nearly all aspects of our lives. But, it must be said, it is very unfair to use the calamity to score political points.
As a matter of fact, it is clear that there is a thin line separating politicians who are really talking from their hearts on what measures to take in the fight against spread of the virus. Just look at the political rhetoric and verbose from the pedestals!
Where President Peter Mutharika announces a drop in his Cabinet’s salaries, his vice and UTM Party leader Saulos Chilima commits 100 percent to the fight and urges Mutharika and his Cabinet to give up at least half their salaries.
Where the President declares 2 000 health workers have to be employed in face of the virus, Chilima sees that as not enough, more has to be done in as far as their safety, protection and equipment is concerned. One can go on and on about the jabs and uppercuts our leaders are treating each other to in these hard times. Moreover, the butts and rebuttals by the ruling and political leaders’ handclappers are so evident for all to see.
Apparently, it is not confined to the corona virus. We have seen the politicking in this Covid-19 era spreading to the issue of bloodsuckers, which has seen over 100 people arrested and more than 10 killed for being suspects in these savage attacks.
Mutharika said main opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera was inciting violence on the matter, saying that the MCP leader was instigating violence on ‘blood-suckers’ and those buying national IDs in a ploy to rig the fresh elections. On his part, Chakwera challenged Mutharika to come out with the damning evidence.
We have it all wrong here. There comes a time that our leaders, from both fronts were supposed to come together and sort out our problems in unity. We are in a crisis and I don’t think this is the right time for politics to divide us. Isn’t it the man in the village who will vote for these people into power who need to be protected from the virus and the threat of being killed for merely being a suspected bloodsucker or witch?
From primary school days, some cook up stories that bloodsuckers were somewhere near the school compounds to suck blood from students. That would be the end of classes as we would all go home. Never would you know a victim of such blood sucking.
It is most surprising that today our leaders are still struggling to deal with the blood-sucking myth. Why, for that matter, does this issue resurface every time elections are at the corner?
Talking of elections. The other day, Health Minister Jappie Mhango who is chairing the Cabinet Committee on the coronavirus, woke up with the feeling that the registration and verification of the voters’ roll should stop in view of the pandemic. For that matter, he went ahead to announce that all religious gatherings be banned.
Which is why I feel some are trying too hard to score political marks from this crisis. We all know the courts ruled that Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) should continue with the electoral process although the Supreme Court is yet to hear the appeal case on the Constitutional Court ruling on February 3. Where in the world did Jappie get the big idea that the committee he is leading—more as a politician and not an expert—can hold in ransom Malawians’ political rights by thwarting the electoral process is out of this world!
By giving an inflated view of his importance with the declaration to ban political gatherings, Mhango showed he is deliberately or inadvertently bent at overshadowing Mutharika. In a didact, Mutharika said public gatherings should not exceed 100 and members of the clergy have been complying to that. How Mhango chose to make that announcement without even consulting the Malawi Council of Churches and other stakeholders is, simply, baffling.
It is not very surprising then that shortly after Chilima called for information on Covid-19 to be conveyed by technocrats not politicians like Mhango, we saw Principal Secretary for Ministry of Health Dan Namarika giving us an update on the crisis.
Whether it will take APM to spread an olive branch to SKC and LC to come together and guide Malawians in the fight, or SKC and LC presenting themselves to Mutharika that they are ready to work with him in all this, remains to be seen.