Sun Tzu (The Art of War), advises leaders to avoid fighting every battle that comes along, but pick only those with strategic value and where victory is certain.Due to President Peter Mutharika’s preference to Harry Houdini’s adventures, he has gone completely off-tangent on the job we hired him for, i.e. developing Malawi.
Just in the past week, the University his late brother founded, Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) and Mzuzu University (Mzuni) closed for reasons bordering on foolishness.
When a university supposedly founded to champion scientific and technological advancement closes indefinitely because it lacks H2O – which happens to be freely flowing all around us, the saying ‘in the abundance of water, a fool is thirsty’ comes to mind.
On the same education front, opening of Nalikule Secondary Teachers Training College (TTC) along the Lilongwe-Salima road is in limbo because the Ministry of Education – under his watch – is failing to manage something as trivial as water connection.
With respect to electricity, the Millennium Challenge Corporation – our only hope – has flashed warning lights due to unchecked corruption.
Health-wise, 60% of us are being prescribed malaria drugs without being tested, contrary to WHO guidelines. Whether you have a headache, rheumatism, malaria or flue, all of which have similar symptoms, what you get at our Health Centres is quinine.
That medicines are manufactured to deal with specific ailments and that the malarial drug manufacturers have never claimed that LA, chloroquine and quinine are ‘general fitters’, is something the Ministry of Health, under the ‘progressive’ leadership of Mutharika, is yet to learn.
Hitch a ride to Mangamba Health Centre in Machinga, the stronghold of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s partner-in-crime, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and you will find guardians sleeping under trees due to the endemic lack of guardian shelters characteristic of health centres in the country.
These, Blues’ Orators, are the battles Mutharika is supposed to be fighting, not the media.
Universities closing unnecessarily reflects poorly on Mutharika as the Chancellor; ministers and director generals napping on the job is something a leader worth the name would take as a personal affront; and assuming Mutharika himself is wide awake, it is surprising he hasn’t realised that ‘Talking Blues’ guest of last week, Mr Lucas Kondowe is not fighting corruption at all, but is busy building an empire of corrupt associates.
In aid of what, only God knows!
Against this background, it is sickening to note that the battle that Mutharika deems more critical is fighting the private media whose crimes are: informing you that when you have rheumatism and go to your health centre, you will be prescribed quinine; enlightening you to expect to graduate in six years or more for a four year degree course because keeping universities running is no longer the Chancellor’s job; telling you to bring tents to hospitals when going to watch over your beloved sick because there are no shelters out there.
These are the iniquities the private media is committing, hence the State House’s wrath.
From Sun Tzu’s perspective, is this a war the State House can win?
Never mind the cheap diversionary gimmick, rest assured Blues’ Orators that, no matter what Mutharika’s apologists say, Malawi has one of the finest media in the world.
We may not have the resources at the disposal of the state funded MBC Tv to reach all corners of Malawi, but when we do inform you, we tell it like it is. Compare and contrast with the State media sustained through taxes on water, exercise books etc. then you will know what I am talking about.
This is why, much as State House wants to derail and force us to waste resources fighting battles in which ordinary Malawians will be the losers, bank on us to sift through the state garbage, debunk the lies and give you a crystal clear picture of the state of affairs.
No matter how much effort is invested in badmouthing the independent and private media, trust us to interpret the hidden agenda for pumping you with quinine for nyamakazi; denying you access to tertiary education first by exorbitant fees and if you nevertheless pay, indefinite closures; and indeed, look up to us to decipher why the Anti-Corruption Bureau is now the “All for Corruption Bureau”.
And, at no cost, Mapwiya will also show you who the biggest winner from graft is.
Should someone out there tell you that the Times Group and Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) are poisoning you with “disgusting and unprofessional reporting”, politely inform them that “disgusting and third rate leadership” lacks the moral high ground from which to point fingers.
Your Excellency Mr. President, allow me the singular honour to report excerpts from interviews that the media you hate recently conducted with various District Commissioners (DC) vis-à-vis your government’s dereliction of duty.
In Phalombe essential services and operations have been suspended or scaled down; in Mchinji the district health office has suspended referrals of patients; in Blantyre the DHO has grounded most of its ambulance fleet due to lack of fuel emanating from reduced or lack of funding from Treasury; while in Rumphi education, health, agriculture, forestry plus other sectors are reeling from your negligence.
Summing it all up, one DC lamented: “And we received nothing in October . There is disaster here. People are dying. Let us not be selfish by giving false information… We don’t have resources to provide healthcare services. Everything has ground to a halt.”
Mr President, you have your work cut out, do it and do it well.
Hint: start by reigning in the spiralling corruption, and everything will fall in place.
But whatever you decide do, get us out of this chasm, or go down the course of history as professor president who snoozed through his term of office, waking up only to fight losing battles with the media.
This article first appeared in the The Sunday Times of November 13, 2016