And the Lord spoke unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me. Exodus 8:1
Former President, father and founder of Malawi, Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, was an orator. He could speak. For long hours. His record was six and a half hours at one of his many rallies, opening bridges, a road or commissioning something — with his name on it; but his average speaking time was four hours.
When an engagement was scheduled, the whole country stopped to listen. The man could speak; and he enjoyed it too that all ears, Malawi or foreign were listening to him. There were times one couldn’t help think he loves to hear himself speak.
As the song writer aptly put it “Zonse zimeni Nza Kamuzu Banda!” (All thing belong to Kamuzu Banda.
That being the fashion in one party Malawi Congress Party Malawi, Kamuzu was also Chancellor of the lone University of Malawi. He gave public lectures, whereas students, we were compelled to put on undergraduate gowns, sit in the scorching sun, and have all the appearances of listening.
His voice rang loud, his voice rang alone and his voice rang strong.
From the University, to capital hill, or to the market place, the voice of Dr. Kamuzu Banda got things done, or undone. He spoke, and we filed into line, or chilled by the anger of the president.
At the dawn of democratic dispensation in Malawi in 1994, there appeared to be so much fervor in unraveling the fearsome power Banda had on the people’s body, mind and soul, that various segments of leadership (even at the highest office), were tampered with; diluted. It makes you wonder and sometimes ask, “Hey, who’s in charge here?”
Democracy does not mean you muzzle the leader. While you exercise your right to free speech, the President must have his vested powers. We must not disinvest his authority, his voice.
Of course leadership styles differ; having been used to stern-stuff Banda, Muluzi’s flippant and oftentimes jest, sometimes made people believe and even hold it to be true – “the President is my friend.”
The first Mutharika, I believe was a scholar of the good Bandaism (the initiative, dream, didactic and no-nonsense parts). Although unlike Banda who leaned West, Mutharika advanced Malawi East.
Having a woman President was exciting because issues that were swept under the carpet, were now table talk.
Enter the second Mutharika or Mutharika II, and strikes involving the entire education sector – university lecturers, primary school teachers in a nation-wide called by the national teachers association. Near anarchy erupted in the primary school ranks.
The debate even entered the Parliament where daggers were drawn on Education Minister Emmanuel Fabiano, asking him to resign.
Through the melee that ensured and almost erupted into chaos, it was discovered that the University Act excludes minister of education: he has no power, no jurisdiction or mandate. Minister Fabiano is merely a spectator, not someone to resign!
Last Friday, the gentle quiet giant, summoned teachers union, UNIMA Council, Minister of Education; and Mutharika whisked them into the Presidential “Listen-to-me-Lounge.”
I don’t know what he said or how he said it, but by the time the boys and girls from institutions were all “It is well…….” picket placards dropped and chalk picked up. It’s back to school.
Now that’s the effects of the President when he speaks — things happen, people listen, people act upon instruction given from above.
This past Thursday (yesterday) UNIMA Chancellor, who is the State President, announced through Chief Secretary, a newly constituted UNIMA Council. At first glance, it must be said, we appreciate that member number one is a woman. Bravo Bwana President. With the Kamuzu College of Nursing Principal being a woman, it is guaranteed that two women sit on the Council from the word “Go!”
To the other appointing bodies (ex-students and UNIMA Students Union), please follow the President’s style: appoint a woman, and men.
The moral of my story: Let us hear you speak Bwana President. We are listening.