“I really do not want my pictures in your offices because the president is not an icon, an idol, or a portrait. Hang your kids’ photos instead and look at them each time you make decisions affecting their future.”
This was President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine in his Inaugural Address on 20 May 2019.
The former anti-establishment TV comic who evolved into a political neophyte, the novice who won Ukraine’s presidential election with 73% of the vote, has since found his way into the annals of history as arguably the most effective wartime leader of our times.
Several leaders and commentators have categorized him with Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874 –1965).
How come when the war has not yet been won?
No one expected Ukraine to fend off Russians from Kyiv for too long. Before Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the war, all the money was on Russians overrunning Ukraine, conquering Kyiv, and overthrowing Zelenskyy in a week or so.
A blitzkrieg is what everyone outside Ukraine was anticipating.
By the way, these expectations were not preposterous. As of mid-February 2021, a nearly 200,000 strong Russian Army literally armed to the teeth was lurking on Ukraine’s northern and eastern borders, guns locked on Ukraine and like an angry cobra, ready to strike.
To put things in context, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), Ukraine had 196,600 active military personnel at the start of the invasion. It had a further 900,000 reservists available.
On the other hand, Russia had 900,000 active military personnel across land, sea, and air and up to 2,000,000 reservists. Even excluding nuclear weapons, Russia’s military hardware dwarfs Ukraine’s firepower.
It is now evident that numbers of soldiers and possession of military hardware aren’t everything. More critical is the “software.” Putting it differently, the soul of the nation is the oft-overlooked glue in war. It is a transcendent force that can pump oxygen into sheep’s hearts and immediately imbue them with courage, bravery, and fortitude of lions ready and able to take on any enemy – big or small.
Ukrainians have this quality in President Zelenskyy.
Changing the subject, on 1 January of the same year that President Zelenskyy was elected, President Lazarus Chakwera, then opposition leader, made a solemn promise:
“Within the first two years of being president, I will change everything in how we run things. If I don’t change everything in two years, I will resign.”
With each passing second, minute, hour, day, week, and month, we are edging closer to Chakwera’s two-year mark. While the clock is not ticking fast enough for some, others wish they had Joshua’s rapport with God to convince Him to stop the clock.
Musicians are not remaining behind. Songs, as we speak, are being composed and released as melodic reminders for President Chakwera that from the multi-billion Kwacha State House 2022/23 budget, priority should be on a single piece of paper and a pen.
You’re asking for what? Where do you expect him to scribble the resignation? Think man, think ahead!
The way I see it, in the unlikely event that those who sabotage funding for the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) add the State House onto their black-list, there will be no shortage of donors for dozens of pens and reams of paper. If the president asks, our Diaspora corps can raise millions in minutes for pens and stationery.
Because like the Ukrainians, we are at war. We have always been at war, and we’ve been losing badly. This is the war against corruption, cronyism, nepotism, and the looming specter of state capture.
That’s why when President Chakwera presented himself as a no-nonsense crusader against all these evils and reiterated the same at his inauguration, saying:
“Before we can begin to rebuild, we must clear the rubble of corruption, for it has left our taxes in ruins.”
We became pregnant with expectations and giddy in anticipation of a better and prosperous Malawi for all.
The premature joy was so overwhelming that Malawians would have overlooked other policy blunders even IF President Chakwera’s only success was defeating corruption. It is against these expectations, enabled and fed by his speeches, that his reign has been a total waste to date.
While it is true that corruption fights back, and fighting it is easier said than done, the prevailing sentiment is that unlike previous administrations, Chakwera’s administration has lost us the biggest ever opportunity to vanquish corruption.
Allow me to digress again.
Soon as it was revealed that Ukraine would be attacked, President Zelenskyy frantically lobbied for weapons. With many expecting Ukraine to fall sooner than later, the initial responses were tepid.
However, after seeing how bravely the Ukrainians – fired by their president – are fighting, more and more countries started chipping in and chipping in more potent weaponry.
Back to Malawi and our “war,” Chakwera – unlike Zelenskyy – did not even need to lift a finger. As mother luck would have it, Chakwera inherited a three-year investigation of one Zuneth Sattar, culminating in his arrest by Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA).
Let me rephrase: assistance that President Zelenskyy has to harangue other countries’ senates and parliaments literally for fell like manna in our case when the Brits nabbed Sattar.
All that Chakwera needed to do was oil the cooperation mechanism and fund the ACB so that all the implicated scum of the earth is prosecuted, convicted, and our billions recovered.
However, what is happening on the watch of the man who has finished pulpits preaching against corruption in Malawi, is the opposite.
State and party machinery seem to be fully “captured” and like one Vladimir Putin is doing in Mariupol City, are indiscriminately bombarding the ACB.
It is as if President Chakwera promised to incapacitate the ACB and not vice versa.
As icing for the cake vis-à-vis Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA)’s spadework, for once, in Madam Martha Chizuma, we have the most incorruptible ever anti-corruption Czar.
In other words, unlike Ukraine and Zelenskyy, who are facing tough odds in their war, for us under Chakwera, the assistance fell like manna; the odds are in our favour. However, absent is Churchillian Zelenskyy-like leadership at the top to pump oxygen into the hearts of sheep, imbue them with the courage, bravery, and fortitude of lions to take on any corrupt scoundrel, big or small, rich or poor.
If President Chakwera, unlike Ukraine’s President Zelensky, is allergic to making and leaving a legacy, then let all Malawians of goodwill adopt Dan Lu’s hit song as a temporary anthem until President Chakwera makes good of his 1 January 2019 pledge.
I will conclude by paraphrasing President Chakwera’s 6 July 2020 Inaugural Address signoff: we have a country to build and not a moment to waste, so either get to work or resign!