If you work as a commissioner of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) you may be wondering what non-governmental and civil society groups take you for. If you have been asking yourselves these questions but you did not come to an answer, I will help you. But if you have already come up with an answer, well, we can compare notes and see whether we have been thinking in the same way. The short of it is that the civil society and non-governmental organisations people, at least those who appear in newspapers and speak on radio this and that, do not rate you highly. They think that you do not deserve the posts which you hold, you have no bills to pay and all your children have completed education. They also believe that you should work as community volunteers and expect very little in terms of money in return. After all, you are already well paid, your job other than that of the chair of the commission who must be a High Court Judge, does not require stellar qualifications. That, puts you in the collision course with civil society, never mind some are the briefcase type, but still on that collision course.
Let me take you back to substantiate the answer I have given. President Peter Mutharika and some number of people travel to the United States for the United Nations General Assembly. Mutharika thinks, in 1993, Malawians were saying that they did not want “nkhuku ya Mikolongwe” (a derogatory term towards President Kamuzu Banda being described as a mikolongwe chicken meaning a battery cage chicken). Kamuzu rarely went out to regional or international meetings. He was incensed there was a lot of talking and no action. At the Southern African Coordinating Community (SADCC), the president would chastise apartheid South Africa while Kamuzu’s heart was with President Botha. So, in his wisdom, he would send Mr Kantogo Mwale to speak at the United Nations, Wadson Bini Deleza or Stanford Demba as his envoy. Thus, he was named “battery cage chicken” aka “nkhuku ya Mikolongwe”.
President Mutharika comes back from New York. We blame him for squandering a lot of money. Mutharika consults with Goodall Gondwe. Goodall confirms there is little money in the coffers. Mutharika speaks and indicates pay rises in the public service will be difficult to come by. People scream and accuses him of being insensitive. The cost of living has gone up so high. How dare you, to think that we do not deserve a pay rise? A massive one for that matter. Someone from State House clarifies the president’s speech. By the way, he did not say that. The more he clarifies, the more it looks like, in the words of Mr Dausi, “linguistic inexactitude.” So, MEC says, well let us have a pay rise, 170 percent. The screaming is deafening. Now the cost of living is not so high. Things are okay now. The MEC officers do only get an allowance. Allowances must never be raised. The thinking I suppose is: If it is you for a rise, it is ok, if it is MEC, no! Amangweetu? What kind? n