On Saturday, March 12th,, 2016 President Peter Mutharika threw himself to the dangerous deep end of Malawian politics. As he was laying the foundation stone for a project of a hospital in Lilongwe, he talked himself into a controversy which is failing to die down. As if the Ine Ndiribe pulobulemu remark three weeks ago in Blantyre was not enough, the Saturday’s one was worse and it further destroyed his image to the general public. Diverting from what he had been invited for, the President made an attack on the famous Nigerian television evangelist, Prophet T.B Joshua, for his prophecy that a Southern Africa leader will die while in office. This is not the first time the Prophet has said this. As referred by the President in his speech, in 2012 he also made a similar prophecy and months later, the former President Bingu wa Mutharika, a brother to the current President, died while in office.
The April 2012 death of President Bingu Mutharika drew mixed reactions from the general public. It created both losers and winners. His party, the Democratic Progressive Party, and those who politically served in his government, were the main losers as they had to endure a backlash from President Joyce Banda, the one who came after the dead leader. During that time of the Malawian history, President Bingu wa Mutharika was not in good relationship with most people. The economy was failing for his anti-western rhetoric which resulted into serious consequences like the withdrawing of Western aid.
Again, the President had gone arrogant and was not listening to suggestions from people and this added onto the unforgettable political death of a University of Malawi – Polytechnic student, Robert Chasowa, in September, 2011 and a violent crushing down of an anti-government demonstration in Mzuzu City, which resulted into the death of twenty people, the first of its kind in a democratic Malawi. When he died, the people celebrated. Time and space had dealt with him.
On Saturday, President Mutharika talked tough. He also said about the suggestions of a bill to trim down the presidential powers. He clearly said it that he was against that and should it come on his table to sign, he will send it back without his ink on it. Elected in May, 2014, and now two months to two years as the leader of Malawi, the President has started too early crossing against the Malawian population. There are three solid years before him, and at the rate he is going against the people’s favor, he will reach 2019 a tired, an exhausted, an angry, a frustrated and a failed man. Three years in politics is eternity. A lot is bound to happen and it is doubtful if he will be able to handle it should the people decide to hit on him head-on. When he became the President, he adopted the office kind of leadership, only coming out to the people when need be. Some sections of the society felt a power vacuum with his silence and urged him to come out and address the people on the prevailing issues.
Prevailing issues: That is where we need to dwell on. Malawi is going through tough times. The silence of the President was not helping at all. As a ship going through storms, the Captain needs to be with the people and be barking orders for the situation to be solved. But it was different with President Mutharika. His presence was not being felt at all. If he realized that and has chosen to stamp his position as the leader of Malawi, he is doing it in the wrong way. The President seems to have been advised by the usual Democratic Progressive Party advisors, the same ones who destroyed his brother, to start being tough. It is not wrong for a leader to assume toughness sometimes. Being that way helps in solving some situations.
But of all the problems Malawi is going through, being tough at someone who is miles away, a Prophet who will not even benefit Malawi, is both misplacing the strategy and wasting energy on a wrong battle. Mr. President, there is a poor public service delivery, the Kwacha continues to lose its value, electricity has once again started going off now and then, the albinos are living in fear in their own country, too much powers for the presidency, rapid population growth, high rate unemployment; the listing on the challenges Malawi is facing cannot be exhausted. They are just many. If you want to be tough, these are the things you need to be tough on. At the end of the day we will appreciate your leadership for being there for us.
*Wonderful Mkhutche is an author, a political scientist and a manuscript developer and editor