By Mapwiya Muulupale
“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the questions, and only five minutes finding the answers,” – Albert Einstein
Before I delve into our discourse for this week, I want to reiterate that any assertion implying one can prosper in a country where the government is flying headless is wrong. Leadership, whether one likes it or not, is everything.
Visionary leadership facilitates good governance at all levels. It creates an enabling environment on a level playing field where honest hard workers like you and me enjoy the fruits of your labours and where lazy folks find the going hard.
Clueless leadership, on the other hand, skews the ground so severely that while people like you and me toil day and night without making any tangible progress; some, for instance, those women who were deployed the other day to insult the Secretary to the President and Cabinet, compose and sing songs of praise to the very same next to non-existent leadership.
That said, allow me to get started.
By the end of two or so years into former President Peter Mutharika’s reign, those who were expecting nothing good to emanate from his leadership had been proved right.
Why were they pessimistic? It is because they had seen a dearth of effective leadership qualities in him during his troubled times at the helm of the ministries of Justice, Education and Foreign Affairs.
In fact, it was as if he had a magnet that courted trouble. The first signs surfaced during his tenure as Minister of Justice. The spate of laws on his watch forced Hon Henry Phoya, at that time a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) backbencher, to call his own party’s legislation “bad laws”.
Secondly, when Mutharika was conveniently moved to the less contentious Ministry of Education, the Academic Freedom saga broke out and lingered longer than it should have under a competent minister.
His move to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did little to launder his now battered image and worrisome leadership prospects.
“Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather” (Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37) proved prophetic in his case because the moment he was installed Minister of Foreign Affairs, the diplomatic spat with the British government erupted.
Thrice tried and tested as a minister, thrice did Peter Mutharika fail to rise to the occasion each time.
On what grounds, therefore, would anyone have based optimism that he was the leader Malawians had been waiting for?
With Peter Mutharika‘s performance, most – at least 60% of Malawians going by the 2020 Fresh Presidential Elections, believed we had reached rock bottom and couldn’t sink any lower.
“Anyone taking over after Peter Mutharika,” went the talk, now proving wishful thinking, “will look good because having hit rock bottom, we cannot sink any lower”.
Wishful thinking indeed!
What has improved? What could potentially improve during the remainder of President Chakwera’s term?
• Servant leadership? Rhetorically, yes, of course. Excellent speeches with zero action.
• Uniting Malawi? Which hitherto divided elements have jelled under this mantra?
• Prospering together? Together with who? Family and friends? Perhaps. The masses? A big NO.
• Ending corruption? Let’s not even go there.
• Rule of law? Where a “civil war” amongst top law enforcement agency officials rages unabated? Mhhhh. Where women clad in ruling party colours are unleashed to insult the number one civil servant who is simply trying to do her work professionally? Some rule of law indeed!
In short: we are back on square one, if not on minus square one. The more things change, the more they remain the same if you’re lucky, and the more they regress if unlucky.
This is why we need to go back to the drawing board and review how we choose party leaders who eventually become Malawi leaders.
One painful fact is that because our presidents will always come from political parties, all Malawians of goodwill must rethink their sitting on the fence, hoping the political parties will sort themselves out and produce a worthwhile leader.
By the way, I chanced upon an interesting discussion the other day. There is a school of thought suggesting that one mistake we have been consistently making in Malawi is giving power to individuals whose financial problems and responsibilities outweigh whatever their worth is.
This school of thought argues that when such are elected, their top priority is eradicating their personal poverty at the expense of the masses. Hence the wasteful expenditures via allowances. Worse, soon as they discover that neither Mark Zuckerberg nor Bill Gates became billionaires through per diems, they switch to corruption. Some even before taking the oath of office, apparently, “unknowingly”.
I mean, here I am, minding my own business. Living within my means and generally finding the going tough, like everyone else. Then from blues comes this benefactor,
“Bwana Mwapiya Muulupale, would you want a vehicle?”
I respond in the affirmative.
“Perhaps a Hummer, a Merc or a Bima?” the dude asks.
I smile sheepishly because I know I can’t afford one, but on the other hand, one never knows, so I do not speak.
“No worries,” says the dude, “I like you, Maps. I like your style blah blah blah; I think you deserve a Merc and perhaps a Range Rover or a Lexus.”
Stunned, I stare at the dude, but before I can find the mouth with which to speak, the dude rambles on,
“I will buy one for you and one for your wife, with no strings attached.”
Now, because I am a “believer”, I loudly scream, “I receive!” and a few months later, lo and behold, I have a bill of lading and other customs documents attesting to the fact that I am now a proud owner of a Mercedes which the wifey will use when going to the market or saloon and a Range Rover for me since it is an off-road vehicle.
And I live happily ever after, with zero; I repeat, zero conflict of interest in the very likely and foreseeable event that my benefactor dude will one day want some “favours” from people I can strong-arm or indeed from a ministry or department under my charge.
Coming back to debate whether the future lies in electing affluent people, I will continue following and will weigh in soon.
For now, I want to share the first lesson taught to most researchers as encapsulated in the quotation above. In short: solving a problem starts by asking the right question(s).
In the jalopy scenario above;
• Is it accurate to say I have “received” because I am poor?
• Conversely, is it correct to assume and conclude that if I already had a Merc and a Range Rover and was already rich, I wouldn’t have exclaimed: “I receive”?