It is easy to make a speech that sounds good. The task of making a speech is simplified even more exponentially when the speech has been written by someone else, especially when that someone else is an individual who will be standing very far away when the veracity of the speech is checked, when the consequences of the speech begin to unfold, or when the proverbial bad stuff hits the fan.
All of former president Joyce Banda’s speeches in parliament, for instance, sounded so good and appealing that the international community was typically mesmerized and spellbound. She became their beloved darling while Malawi was languishing in economic decline and the plight of wanton and merciless public coffers plunder.
Leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera’s speeches are equally charming and captivating. They easily make one forget the many shortcomings he has demonstrated as leader for his own party – the fact that there are so many questions regarding his respect of the Malawi Congress party Constitution and the lack of any substantive promise as regards definite solutions for a country in economic crisis.
President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation address in parliament sounded similarly good to a casual listener. To a critical listener, however, the speech avoided all the controversial and pertinent issues and made broad proclamations on issues all Malawians already know. It was a speech that seemed to have been written by someone else, from the safety of an office that will not bear any responsibility whatsoever for the failures of his boss.
The fact that Mutharika was happy to read it reminds me of Joyce Banda’s speeches. Those speeches that resonated with Martin Luther King-like dreams and visions which never came true. It also brought into sharp focus the fact that lately Mutharika seems to have contracted a JB virus.
Back in the JB days, President Banda went traveling and telling the international community that she was fighting corruption and was beloved of the poor people in Malawi. She also traversed the country distributing maize and cows in an apparent belief that the state of the nation was that people needed personally to be given bags of maize and cows and pigs. The idea that a much more macro-economic outlook to the problem was what was required seemed never to have been considered. In the end, it was the people – the voters – that made delivered that message to her.
From her speeches, it was clear that Joyce Banda was convinced that Malawians loved her. That was until elections revealed otherwise. Indeed she was so convinced that even when the elections results came, she couldn’t believe them. Judging from her current overtures as new elections loom on the horizon, it seems to me she remains convinced that the voiced opinion of Malawians through the ballot was a mistake that needs to be corrected at the next election. Amazing!
In his State of the Nation address, President Peter Mutharika refused to get anywhere near what the state of the nation really is. I would have thought that the true state of the nation is the one that was communicated to him though the demonstration that took place across the country on 27 April. In those demonstrations, the masses that marched in the streets spoke of the issues that the public is concerned about. President Mutharika was of course not even in the country at the time of the demonstrations. He was enjoying himself in a MK450,00 per day hotel in Scotland, talking to donors there that an eye clinic was a serious priority for Malawian healthcare, and duly getting pledges that the Scots will provide the country with one. Nevertheless, I would like to believe that he was informed of the protest marches and that on arrival back home, he received the petitions that were delivered.
Essentially then, in spite of a large body of factual evidence as to what the real state of the nation is, President Peter Mutharika prefers to go to parliament and present a State of the Nation address that ignores the true state of the nation and is simply demonstrably fallacious.
It is a delusion that was observed in former President Joyce Banda before him, and seems to be a common denominator with these elderly leaders.
The danger of the delusion, however, is not simply in the fact that the president will continue to lead believing that his leadership is being successful. The real danger is in the fact that he will then use this delusion as the basis for attempting to seek a fresh mandate from Malawians in 2019, and like Joyce Banda, will be left incredulous when the real state of the Malawian opinion about his leadership is voiced out.
Just as is was with Joyce Banda, there are those that are trying to open the eyes of President Mutharika as to the reality of the situation regarding his leadership and popularity. Sober minded Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) voices have pointed out that the president is not as popular as he believes (or is being led to believe), and that his determination to seek reelection is a misguided decision that will only end in defeat and the irreparable destruction of his and the party legacy. They have suggested that a fresh look at the party’s candidacy question is required. They have suggested the name of Vice President Saulos Chilima and a preferable candidate that will give the party a better chance of winning on the basis that this will be less delusional as far as the party is concerned and more in line with the state of national thinking and the reality on the ground. Instead of paying attention to these voices, it seems Mutharika is more concerned about what his praise-singers say.
There were voices that warned Joyce Banda not to think that international popularity automatically equated to popularity with the Malawian electorate. She was warned not to think that leadership was a matter of distributing maize and cows. She refused to listen. She lost the elections.
There are voices that are warning Peter Mutharika that what his speech-writers and cadets tell him is not the true state of the nation and that he is no longer popular with the Malawian Electorate. He is being warned to put his and his wife’s ego aside for the good of the party and the country and let Saulosi Chilima run for the presidency in 2019.
He is refusing to listen.