Grace Chiumia entered politics on the expectation and belief that she was Malawi’s Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States (US) and first black president of the land of the free.
To her credit, when Chiumia announced her political ambitions ahead of the 2009 elections, at the time when the original Obama was heading to a historic win in the US, she probably did not envision what an ambitious feat she would have to surmount.
The nickname, which she has inexplicably adopted in official communications, came about because she was apparently the first woman to vie for the constituency contesting against eight men and winning in 2009.
But since then, it has transpired and become apparent that the original Obama’s attributes do not reside within her after all, what with too many scandals to mention and her surprising staying power within Peter Mutharika’s cabinet since 2014.
Her political career has been rife with strange happenings that are the norm with Malawian politicians although at times her actions are sometimes mystifying.
While an untamed tongue is the epitome of Malawian politicians, Chiumia has not failed on this front, following the likes of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regional governor Noel Masangwi who put his foot in his mouth when fate intervened to prove to him that Malawi could have a female president, albeit briefly.
Chiumia will be remembered for the unfortunate address of President Peter Mutharika as “life president” as erstwhile ago.
While she quickly apologised for the politically incorrect remarks, history has not erased this and it will continue to dog her political career.
Her ministerial work has not been without controversy. Her errant tongue once appealed to the Police officers to emulate dogs by being loyal and disciplined which did not go down well with the men in uniform.
As Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, she has come out unscathed when she told the media that she knew suspected Rwandan genocide suspect Vincent Murekezi as a ‘successful businessperson’ much to the shock and ire of the Rwandan government.
Before that controversy could die down, the ministry lost blank passports under her watch when her department, Immigration signed for a consignment of passports, minus 250 which it later transpired went missing in South Africa.
But of all her gaffes, this week’s incident takes the cake. Using non-existent powers as a Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, Chiumia ordered the arrest of registration officers whose only crime it seemed was to come together and discuss how to present their grievances to the officials ahead of the national registration exercise in the Northern Region.
It is no secret that there has been poor management of personnel carrying out the national registration exercise, its successes not withstanding.
This time around, the usual challenges dogging the registration such as payment of arrears and allowances to drivers and registration officers cropped up again.
Instead of swiftly resolving this issue, the minister thought the registration officers presenting their grievances was perhaps a personal affront to her—strange, considering that the exercise is a multi-sectoral activity.
Last time the nation checked, Chiumia was not a Police investigator or even Police officer for that matter.
That a minister charged with maintaining law and order could so easily forget the tenets of the Constitution which allow for freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
There are relevant labour laws and practices which allow for employees to present a united consensus to employers on any issues they might have and it seems the National Registration Bureau were doing just that.
How Chiumia became an intelligence officer and Police investigator and surmised that the meeting was organised for sinister motives speaks of a minister who is clearly fearing her own shadow.
After one gaffe too many, it is time action was taken to arrest Chiumia’s undemocratic tendencies before they escalate to uncontrolled levels.