Trust in the LORD with all your heart; lean not upon your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your ways. Be not wise in your own eyes: fear the LORD and depart from evil. It shall be health to your navel and marrow to your bones. – Proverbs 3:5-8
Following a prayer session at Kamuzu Palace on Thursday, April 2, 2020, Malawi President, speaking for the first time to the nation on the global pandemic, announced that three people tested positive in the country. They are an Indian woman, who returned from India a relative in the house, and her housemaid.
The President announced that the three cases are being managed by health personnel. Mutharika, who has since declared through a press release, that the country is in a National Disaster, advises Malawians to adhere to preventive measures as the disease is preventable. He has called upon Malawians not to panic. While not declaring any measures of a lockdown Mutharika said he will be addressing the nation again in due course to announce further measures to prevent the spread of the disease.
After 26 years of democratic rule in Malawi, the soul of the Malawi nation cries out for genuine leadership. In the midst of the global pandemic that knows no border, spares none as it is not a respecter of any person (Lord excuse my indulgence), President Mutharika’s press release that declared the national disaster, swiftly led to a variety of preventative measures, including the closure of all schools and universities since March 23. As appreciable as the presidential directive in these challenging times were, Mutharika chose not to speak to the Malawi people on the deadly virus from the beginning of the scare in Malawi. The virus has no known treatment or vaccine. He had also not shown that he was taking part in any other directory function on the matter.
But as Bill Gates advises countries like those in “Southern Africa must act quickly” in finding measures to stop the spread of the virus in their countries. Gates was speaking in an interview with South African comedian Trevor Noah, who hosts the popular US late-night show, The Daily Show.
Getting prepared appears to many Malawians as jumping the gun, with many people taking matters with business as usual style, and a president that chose to hibernate from his people for two weeks since announcing the disaster; the figures of the coronavirus cases in the United States should rocket into space Malawi’s prep gears. On March 1, 2020, the US had an alarming 89 cases; at March 31, the cases scaled to a staggering 186,259 cases and 5,000+ dead, and by April 2, 2020, the US figures were243,134 cases with 5,864 deaths. The country has gone on auto-pilot lock-down with 45 states ordering the people to stay home, while medicines, medical equipment such as ventilators, protective gear (masks and gloves) are running low as bed space dwindles.
If one asks why the concern with the US when discussing the virus in Malawi that has three cases (be aware that only 29 people thus far have been tested), the response is that the leaders of these countries, with vastly wide margins of financial viabilities, appear to be playing from similar playbooks. Although to be fair, President Trump has been speaking to Americans since the first case in January, albeit while he dilly-dallies, politicks, and use the briefings to jab at his political opponents. Additionally, like Malawi, the US in 2020, has a Presidential election.
Thus, APM took time from his busy schedule of electioneering, to invite Malawians to prayers for the virus at Kamuzu Palace and then make his first televised briefly to the Malawi nation. Understandably members of the opposition, including Malawi Vice President Dr. Saulos Chilima and MCP President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi former President Dr. Joyce Banda and others did not attend.
As the nation waited in fear of the entry into its borders of the deadly virus, Mutharika has been sticking his tongue out at the Constitutional Court order, refusing to sign four Parliamentary bills, retaining what both the Court and Parliament labeled as incompetent, while rebuffing the citizens by refusing to fire the inept and fraudulent Malawi Electoral Commission machinery and appoints inapt people to the Malawi Registration Bureau. Allegedly, the MRB is registering minors.
One thinks perhaps the President’s all quiet on the hot seat is due to his having no mandate to be there. He has 150 days to hold elections (from February 3, 2020). But despite his bandwagon of election robbers at the Malawi Electoral Commission, being given votes of no confidence by two of the three arms of government (judiciary and the parliament), the President and his compromised MEC, continue in “business as usual” mode, with MEC setting an unrealistic election date that is too close to Malawi’s National Day (July 6).
Clearly, Bwana APM, with all the machinations spelled out in the letter Malawi youth wrote you this week, you are found lacking in characteristics of a true leader. Your mandate to govern Malawi ended in May 2019. As you locked yourself at Kamuzu’s Palace, a mighty dynamic duo has risen in Malawi: aka the MCP and the UTM, giving rise to the creation of an election alliance. Out of the two, will come a presidential candidate that will compete against you.
As I am an educator by nature (journalist or teacher, we are in the habit of supplying information and knowledge to educate), please permit a brief outline of what characteristically speaking, a true leader looks like.
1. He or she talks to the people. Often.
2. Speaks with authority. Conviction to govern with love mingled with heaps of integrity.
3. Speaks on all issues affecting the nation, not just what will keep him/her and cronies in office. A true nationalist at heart.
4. Fixes broken roads so people have safe paths to travel on, builds schools and hospitals. Love and empathy.
5. Protects the provisions of the constitution. Never ravaging or selfishly twisting it for self-service.
In the spirit of #BomaLathu, the governors lookout for the governed. Because the art of governing is a social contract, leadership positions are held in trust, and executed on behalf of stakeholders, aka voters or citizens. It is through an approved or highly regulated fundraising process, called levying taxes, from whence the leaders’ salaries, livelihoods, and government business is maintained. On behalf of the governed.
In APM’s government, the link between governed and governors is broken, irreparably.
Looking at the refreshing lineup in the MCP UTM Electoral Alliance, I see two Giants scooped from the Crème de la Crème of Leadership Circuits. In the wake of the pandemic, Chilima made a video demonstrating handwashing to prevent the spread of the virus; barely two days later, Chakwera held a televised press conference that spoke about almost everything that is preying on Malawians’ minds.
These ranged from the criminals that are stealing national IDs from Malawians in UTM and MCP strongholds in the central and northern regions; APM’s lack of respect for constitutional provisions and the ConCourt order or parliament, the use of foreigners to disrupt Malawi’s election process, State House spying on Malawians, failure to dismiss the MEC leadership, failure to protect Malawi borders from people from coronavirus-prone countries entering.
The end of the conference was uplifting as Chakwera assures Malawians “do not be afraid. God is with us all.”
For now, to APM, I advise, please get rid of the MEC; it is illegally preparing the rerun of an election after it dismally failed and fraudulently store the last elections. Unlike the US, Malawi does not have money for this kind of failed leadership in its election process.
On the health and economic issue of the COVID-19 entering in Malawi, perhaps you’ll listen to Bill Gates and set up a proper preparedness machinery that has more than just your ministers. The members of the opposition, the media, medical personnel, captains in the private sector, banking sector, women and youth, small and medium business sector, the international community, faith organizations.
Hold weekly broadcast and televised briefings to the nation, together with reps from the sectors outlined above.
Facing and fighting this pandemic, will require the participation of all these groups. You cannot commandeer this while fighting battles in court; it would be wise to drop the case, reconstitute the Electoral commission that will set a realist date.
The coronavirus is real, deadly, and is not selective. Championing it requires the now-famous clichés, “We’re in it together” and wishing every person “Stay well, stay safe, stay healthy.”