Talking Blues: From bad leadership, expect nothing good


“In His name and after His example, I come not to be served but to serve.” King Charles III, at his Coronation.


The Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Colleen Zamba was scheduled to appear before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (Pac) in Lilongwe this past week to answer queries regarding the poor performance of our civil service.

The Daily Times was made to believe that Pac had lined up several issues, including audit queries and her plans to discipline civil servants who continue to disregard laid-down public expenditure procedures. The committee is generally concerned with Zamba’s failure to implement several parliamentary recommendations.

She didn’t show up. Again.

Typical of the hide-and-seek game the SPC has opted to play with Pac, according to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) Chief Communications Officer Robert Kalindiza, the OPC had already communicated to the committee through the Principal Secretary for Administration that Zamba would not be available.

Why? In her keenness to ensure that everything at King Charles III’s coronation goes according to plan, she was in London, United Kingdom, where President Lazarus Chakwera was also scheduled to attend the coronation. Essentially tell us that as far as the OPC is concerned, royal coronations supersede our domestic challenges.

At any rate, the Pac Chair, Hon Mark Botomani, insists there was no communication from OPC that the SPC would not make it and added that he was vexed with Ms Zamba’s appetite for hide and seek.

”The committee has been doing this from time immemorial, and I recall that we met the immediate past SPC Zanga-zanga Chikhosi three times. Why is the current SPC not showing up?” wondered Botomani.

On the agenda, according to Botomani, were the MDA’s failure to follow laid down procedures on various issues, including procurement, stores, fuel and vehicle usage, people that retired a long time ago still appearing on the payroll in the civil service, and the performance audit of some institutions such as the Malawi Police Service.”

Check this: this is not the first time Zamba has snubbed summons to face Parliament. In March this year, members of Parliament, especially from the opposition benches, threatened not to approve the K19.8 billion OPC budget allocation due to the SPC’s failure to appear before Parliament on accountability issues.

In November 2022, she failed to meet Parliament to respond to allegations of bulldozing former National Oil Company of Malawi acting chief executive officer Helen Buluma to dubiously award fuel contracts to a shady character Zamba reverently kept referring to as “Chief”.

Given that the SPC reports directly to the President, this behaviour is concerning on many levels. First, isn’t the OPC supposed to lead by example? Secondly, isn’t Ms Zamba being encouraged to refuse accountability by her boss? Because one would expect the President to chastise her if she was misbehaving of her own accord.

Thirdly, if you followed the coronation on TV, the quote above – by King Charles III – is pregnant with lessons.

These leadership positions, often held in trust, are about service. As a servant of Malawians, the minimum expected of the Zambas of our land is to tame their self-importance, exorcise their delusions of grandeur and respect Malawians who mandated Parliament to check and balance the borrowed powers held by those in the Executive.

If I had my way, I would have told the OPC and everyone in it that this nonsense must stop. But that is not my business; I leave it to voters.

Talking about voters, my brothers and sisters in pens, aka Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter members, elected investigative journalist Golden Matonga as Misa-Malawi’s new chairperson.

I wish Mr Matonga and his team all the best and congratulate my fellow media corps on the wise choice. Unlike other people elected into high offices elsewhere, I am sure that Mr Matonga and company’s hearts are in the right places and will deliver what they promised. Should they need help, they only have to ask.

Congratulations thus dispensed with, let me return to reality. Our fuel woes are back. As we speak, businesses, consumers, transporters, and commuters are feeling the pinch.

Let me tell you something: as I am writing, I am holding back a strong urge to tell everyone complaining to shut up.

If you remember, we went through the same jazz last year, reportedly due to dwindling foreign exchange reserves that stifled fuel imports into the country, forcing some oil marketing companies to ration diesel and petrol.

I am saying “reportedly” because the real issue – as far as I am concerned – is not the lack of forex.

It is the stink around the scam of how we import fuel. If those at the OPC were doing their job and not prioritising “Chiefs” and royal coronations, if those tasked with a supervisory role at the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera) were acting in our best interests and if NOCMA’s priority was not fattening bank accounts of you know who in Dubai and elsewhere, we would neither experience nor suffer fuel shortages.

In addition, you may recall that under the wise leadership of the former minister of agriculture, we were scammed US$543 750 (about K563 million) in a botched K750 million Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) deal.

We needed this forex to resolve the fuel and other forex-funded needs.

But not us; we must give our much-needed forex to a butcher. Now after this patently stupid act of “generosity”, to come and scapegoat the fuel scarcity on “lack of forex” is adding foolishness to the utter stupidity already amply demonstrated.

Therefore, the underlying issue causing fuel shortages is not forex or lack thereof.

It is the irredeemable incompetence of those elected to appoint and hire competent people to manage our affairs. Last time I checked, we have only one appointing authority around here.

Find that person, tell them to change or, better still, change them and

  • the fuel shortages,
  • low forex reserves, and
  • prioritising gulliver’s travels when our people need compassionate and caring leadership

will end. We have an alternative: we can continue tolerating these self-serving types. But then, we shouldn’t incessantly rumble, mumble and grumble because our pain is self-inflicted.

To sum up, Malawi needs leaders who come not to be served but to serve.

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