One thing that will characterise APM’s rule is that he will be the most watched president because he has come at a time Malawians expect more from what their leaders are capable of doing to reverse the back-breaking poverty that affects millions of citizens.
For hand-clappers—and there are many of them in this country who range from ministers, lawmakers, party zealots and ordinary citizens, let me simply tell you: Keep your hands folded, time for handclapping for APM is not yet ripe.
There won’t even be the time to celebrate 100 years in office—because there won’t be anything to celebrate about. APM needs a lot of time to show what he is capable of doing.
All presidents in Malawi claim they inherit a messed up economy. APM charged that the economy was on the verge of collapsing.
All presidents inherit citizens afflicted by one of the worst poverty conditions on earth. They also inherit a very corrupt state and all vow to end this cancer or evil that retards development.
But not much is done to end corruption. Not much is done to end poverty and hunger. Not much is done to end the status-quo.
This is why I say time is not yet ripe to handclap for APM even though he chose the smallest cabinet since 1994. Do we know how much is being saved from having a cabinet of 20 unlike JB’s 34?
APM’s first task has been to reform the 170,000 strong civil service. Nobody in the past dared to tackle this sensitive issue, and yet the civil service has been operating on outdated regulations. Actually regulations of the Nyasaland government as run by the British colonists.
The civil service is the source of corruption, Cashgate, fraud, laziness, lack of transparency and accountability, lack of development, lack of drugs and who-cares- attitude. There could be reasons for this, but have we got a civil service that ticks? A civil service that can be trusted that it will keep funds from donors and from taxpayers away from thieves?
Can we have civil servants who will stop dancing and gyrating their bottoms for the president and instead work in the office to help develop the country? Can we have a government that will truly distinguish between party work and government work and not pay allowances, transport, and food to women civil servants to dance for them?
We have the least cabinet in years now. But is it a cabinet that can change things? Is it a cabinet that can approve better laws and not oppressive ones? Is it a cabinet that can tell a president he is wrong or right? Are the ministers ready to work for the benefit of the whole nation and not their districts or homes only as most of them come from the south, or are Lomwes, so to speak? Can the cabinet deliver for everyone from Chitipa to Nsanje?
For APM, his plate is full of problems to sort out. There is that civil service reform. How reformed can the civil service be? Are civil servants ready to be reformed? Will they not frustrate the process?
Then comes Cashgate. This one is make or break for APM because if the probe has to start from 2005, then it means he has to probe his late sibling Bingu, without fear or favour. Then the probe extends to the JB admin, without fear or favour. That might take years if the corruption trial of FP Bakili Muluzi is anything to go by.
Then APM has to see how best he can reduce poverty. Where does he start from? Can this happen within five years? One is for sure: APM will discover ending poverty is a mammoth task all because poverty is widespread in Malawi which is seen through shoddy standards in education, health, transport, infrastructure development, hunger and joblessness.
Until some of these things are done, then can we start clapping hands for APM. Otherwise, a big no, APM has nothing yet to show. Probably, let’s give him time.