Not even President Peter Mutharika’s newfound love for laying foundation stones for various projects can suppress the blatant truth that in four years of his presidency, all campaign promises made by the DPP have not been fulfilled. The truth remains that after four years, he is failing to point at any single thing he has done to improve the lives of Malawians.
This is why even though he is a lawyer by training, instead of directing the attention of the electorate to the evidence of his competence and suitability to lead, Peter Mutharika is trying to convince the Malawian court of public opinion that the evidence that supports his bid to continue leading Malawi lies in the future; in foundation stones that he is relentlessly setting down for future projects.
Unfortunately, here too Mutharika unwittingly is standing on shaky ground. The foundation stone that is now gathering moss at the proposed site for Mombera University was laid with the same flamboyance and fanfare as those being laid now for two lane highways and shopping malls in Blantyre. The moss on that stone testifies to the fact that even when it comes to building projects, Mutharika does not have the drive. Four years, and not one brick has been laid for the Mombera University. If he has failed to fulfil the promises made by various foundation stones in the past four years, how can he have the audacity to request another term on the basis of foundation stones?
To add insult to injury these foundation stones are being laid on the backdrop of other so many unfulfilled campaign promises which, it seems, Mutharika is hoping and praying that the electorate has forgotten. With an election looming, the DPP has concluded that all that Malawians need is hope given to them through more promises of greatness even though the past four years of Mutharika have demonstrated that there never is any commitment to fulfil any promises that they make to the electorate.
Now, every politician knows that the key to winning elections is to make great promises. Campaigners promise to cure the ills of society including taxes, poverty, government corruption, and pollution. If elected, they claim, they will bring about vast improvements in education, employment, infrastructure, and the economy.
When you are an incumbent leader, however, and there are promises you made that you have totally failed to fulfil, the task can be trickier. So instead of making more promises, you change gear and decide to plant project foundation stations across the country instead as proof of your vision and relevance as leader.
When the broken promises are as serious and fundamental as the ones made and broken by Peter Mutharika and the DPP, this kind of trickery only demonstrates the contempt and disdain with which you behold the citizenry.
In order to drive this point home, it is important to outline in summary the promises the DPP made to Malawians four years ago, long before their game switched to setting foundation stones.
Some of the key promises highlighted in the Executive Summary of DPP 2014 Manifesto were as follows:
- We aim to double exports in the next five years.
- We will re-establish food security for all Malawians.
- The DPP government commits to sustain fertilizer subsidy for the poor in Malawi.
- The DPP government will pursue Zero Tolerance on Corruption, Bribery, Fraud, and Theft of government resources.
- We will introduce Health Insurance for all public servants.
- We will prioritize Education and aim to eliminate illiteracy by 2019.
- No child should have to walk more than five kilometres to attend school.
- A special Child and Youth Rehabilitation Fund will be developed to enable the children and youth from impoverished families have access to vocational training so as to equip them to become self-reliant.
- The Teaching profession will be upgraded and make it an attractive service in Malawi.
- The DPP government will provide “Total Security” to both persons and businesses in Malawi.
- We will pass and implement a number of laws including a Law on Handouts, and a Law that will prevent sitting Members of Parliament from benefiting from increasing their own salaries and benefits.
- The DPP government will reduce the concentration of power in the presidency.
- Appointment and removal of the Governor of the RBM, Director of the ACB, the Audit General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Clerk of Parliament, Malawi Human Rights Commission Executive Secretary, the Malawi Law Commissioner, the Director General of the MBC, MACRA Director General, and the leaders of other accountability institutions shall be appointed on MERIT through a SPECIAL PUBLIC APPOINTMENTS COMMITTEE.
- We will pass and implement the Access to Information bill.
- The DPP government will pass and implement the recommendations by the Malawi Law commission
In many ways, voters are the eternal optimists who can’t learn from experience. I am rather surprised that in spite of the indisputable reality that Peter Mutharika and the DPP have failed to fulfil even one of the promises listed here – zeroo out of fifteen – we still want to believe that our good old Peter and the DPP have our best interests at heart and will improve our lives.
What bothers me the most, though, is that the very poor women and youth whose lives Peter and the DPP have desperately failed to improve are the ones that wear the party cloth and the party T shirt to cheer loudly as the new ruse of laying foundation stones that will never really see the projects are being laid.
Isn’t it unrealistic and rather foolish that some still want to put their faith and hope in Mutharika and the DPP, believing that somehow “this time,” the outcome would be different?
Well, actually it is not foolish and it certainly is not unrealistic. Those that support the DPP now know that they will benefit personally if the DPP is victorious. They are thinking of their personal interests and not that of the nation. And therein lies the root cause of this country’s undoing.
As a people, we, Malawians need to understand that a politician’s glaring inconsistencies, failures and incompetence’s must have a price. We should not follow parties and politicians the way we follow football teams.
The question that needs to be pursued, then, is a simple one: Are we going to ignore clear evidence of broken promises and obvious failures simply because of the promise breaker is laying foundation stones of apparently future projects? Can a leader’s mandate be purchased with foundation stones?
If we want our politicians ever to be able to lead with integrity and to keep their promises, we must make them understand and be afraid of the consequences of breaking the trust and betraying the confidence of the people. It is the responsibility of every Malawian to let Peter Mutharika know that he cannot heal years of corruption, nepotism, failure and indifference with just a few foundation stone stunts.
Elections should serve to put an end to the complacency and the contempt with which these politicians hold and use their power. If as a nation we have to learn to trust the democratic process again, we must first recognise our responsibility to purge it of the elements that pollute it.
Great leadership requires not only the ability to take bold action, but the willingness of citizens to hold them to account and make them walk on the straight and narrow. If a leader stupidly makes wild and unrealistic promises he cannot deliver, he must pay for it. If a leader makes good useful promises that could transform the nation then decides to totally ignore them once in office, then he also must pay for it.
When a leader runs out of ideas, takes Malawians for granted and starts laying foundation stones as the hallmark of his presidency, boot him out.
Allan Ntata’s Column is posted Every Sunday on The Maravi Post