It is said that when the truth finally dawned upon him regarding the Bay of Pigs debacle, John F Kennedy asked himself time and again, “How could I have been so stupid?”
It was way too late when President Kennedy finally discovered that he had been led down a garden path by his advisers and assistants; too late to do anything about what was the defining moment of his presidency. He had been, as a more perceptive writer has since put it, “wounded in the house of his friends”.
In this open letter to you, sir, my sincere hope is that you will not confirm the allegations of those that have claimed that there have always been puppet-masters behind your throne; “friends” as it were who are betraying you, and in the process making your presidency betray the nation.
Mr President, if it is true that people with selfish interests have been controlling your presidency and that this is the reason you have failed to deliver on your campaign promises, or to demonstrate any progress at all with regard to improving the country, make 2018 a year of new beginnings. Remove any such doubts and expel the traitors from your administration (hopefully, it is not too late!).
I am certain that you have not blindly joined the chorus of the so-called puppet masters and called those of us concerned with your pitiful performance as president disgruntled and frustrated for the advice and criticisms that we have tried to bring to your attention. Rather I am confident that you are your own person and not a puppet, and that you have been finding time to objectively consider what I believe are some issues that might help your presidency.
Let me make it clear that you are very free to disregard the thoughts that I express in this and any future letters. It would be presumptuous of me to think I could give you directives. My thoughts are simply humble ideas, and truths that I believe you are being shielded from knowing.
Are you aware, your excellency, that in spite of any of your frequent rhetoric and expressions of your desire to reform this country, and in spite of that window-dressing you did on that closely controlled interview with Zodiak TV, the evidence on the ground is that you have totally and miserably failed to make any of the reforms that you and I discussed many times during your late brother’s presidency? I find this most disturbing as I am aware that at the beginning of your presidential term, the Vice President came to you with the idea of public service reforms, which you readily agreed as it was something that you had already planned to do and you had promised the nation in your manifesto.
Why is it then that the legacy of your presidency so far, is one of a man failing to control his cabinet from corrupt and suspicious deals, and the absolute pulverising of the nation’s public funds? Your administration in 2017, just as in the other 2 years of your presidency, has been sabotaged by the greedy and the selfish individuals in your cabinet who put self above country. Those of us analysing your presidency are still scratching our heads wondering how you’re Chief Secretary and Head of Intelligence can still remain in those positions when there are serious allegations of waste and dishonesty against them respectively.
Mr President, it seems clear that those close to you have been advising you that the way to deal with criticism is to buy off all critics either through monetary payments or through the award of government jobs or contracts. This is unfortunate especially as it is now proliferating to become the way even to deal with the opposition politicians. I had expected more integrity and moral perspicacity from you, sir. The way to deal with criticism is to change behaviour and demonstrate progress, not simply to silence the critics and continuing with the wayward behaviour. The country expects better than that from you.
Your Excellency, you will recall our many discussions during your late brother’s presidency that if the country was to move in the right direction with regard to good governance and economic development, there must be serious reforms in the governance framework and especially in the office of the presidency itself. I remember you agreeing with me that the country’s political and administrative system needed to be reformed so that the presidency is able to tap fully into the advice of professionals that are capable of analyzing policy and political issues dispassionately, rather than being advised mostly by political sharks that are simply thinking of advancing their own mostly financial agendas.
Was it not our consensus then that creating a presidency that fosters economic growth means reducing political influence in the public service and especially ensuring that there’s no political and administrative influence in industry and commerce? Did we not agree that it is necessary for the president’s powers of appointment to be curtailed, ensuring that appointments are based only on merit and not political patronage? What has happened to these ideals, sir?
How could all those good and Honourable intentions you had be extinguished to the point that you have reduced yourself to either castigating and persecuting or buying off critics and opponents? It is a matter of concern to me that in 2017, that seems to be all the mark that you have made. You have consistently defended yourself as being under attack from critics, without addressing the matters and the substance of the issues upon which you been criticized.
Your Excellency, this kind of behavior is the hallmark of failure.
If your answer to criticism about your failure to solve the electricity problems, to put medicines in hospitals and to deliver economic growth is to call critics misguided or to simply silence them with bribes and positions, then surely you have failed as president and you are not at all the man we who voted for you all thought you could be.
I am inclined to even venture to suggest, your Excellency, that it is the same self-serving political agenda of those around you that have persuaded you to start buying off opposition parties and MPs. You are more concerned about winning the coming elections than you are about running and transforming the country. With the legacy of failure that you have left in 2017, though, why should you want to contest again as President, and why should any Malawian still support you?
I never thought there would ever be the need to remind you, your excellency that your mandate for remaining in power must be based solely of good performance and that the country should come first before the party or any individual person. Yet it seems necessary to do so. Having failed to deliver on all your campaign promises, is it not only a selfish and greedy person that continues to maintain that they deserve to remain in leadership? Can you tell us, one these days, the specific points of your election manifesto that you have actually addressed in the past four years of your presidency?
Your Excellency, sir, I wish to remind you that although the many failures of your administration are the result of the greedy and the selfish around you, this is still your presidency and your legacy. Those that are enriching themselves through corruption, wastage and greed are essentially undermining your presidency.
My worry then is simply this: Are you not going to fail to realize this until it is too late? Like John F Kennedy, could you be wounded in the house of your friends and only exclaim later: How could I have been so stupid?
Wishing you a much more successful year in 2018, I promise, your Excellency, to write again soon informing you about other matters, and remain:
You’re most loyal and patriotic citizen,
Z Allan Ntata