For president Peter Mutharika, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and for the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), never before have the words of George Santayana resounded with a fresh pertinence: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
On the morning of 5 April 2012, at around ten o’clock, Bingu wa Mutharika collapsed while having a meeting with an MP, Agnes Penimulungu and died of a heart attack.
Before that, on 14 and 15 March, the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) had held a two-day All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference at Limbe Cathedral in Blantyre.
Delegates to that conference included media fraternity, political parties, academia, legal fraternity, Malawi Congress of Trade Union, representatives of civil society organizations, faith leaders and other interested stakeholders. PAC said that is had been prompted by signs in Malawi that pointed to a crisis in political,economic and constitutional governance, and that it had realised that “God does not change the conditions of people unless the people themselves show commitment to change them . . .”
At the end of the conference, in its final communiqué, PAC stated that the need to repeal the bad laws and to cooperate with IMF and other development partners was of urgency with the crisis that was prevailing in the country at the time. PAC warned that if the crisis continued Malawians would exercise their right to withdraw the trust bestowed upon the current regime in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Republic of Malawi (S.12)(111), and called upon all Malawians to demonstrate a spirit of patriotism towards the nation as it faced the socio-economic and political challenges by actively participating and engaging with the concerned institutions in the exercise of their constitutional rights.
From some participants to the conference, talk of regime change was in the air and there were calls that within 60 days, Bingu wa Mutharika’s government should resign as the solution for the economic and governance problems that the country was facing.
The similarities between the governance problems that culminated in that PAC Conference and calls for Bingu to resign, and the governance problems now accompanying his brother Peter’s administration are astounding. As a matter of fact, I would argue that this younger Mutharika’s governance frailties by far surpass those of his late brother.
For those Malawians who have buried their heads in the sand ostrich-style, perhaps it is important to remember that as Mutharika settled in the reigns of government for his second term in 2009, a true Lhomweagenda began to unfold. All top positions in government were reserved for people from or connected to this particular tribe.
Along with the nation, I observed in wonder andconsternation as our advice was set aside andLhomwes were appointed to all key government positions. At one point, they included senior cabinet ministers such as Justice Minister Prof. Peter Mutharika, Minister of Education Dr. George Chaponda, Minister of Tourism Anna Kachikho, Gender and Women Affairs Minister Patricia Kaliati, Trade and Industry minister Eunice Kazembe, Minister ofIrrigation Richie Muheya, Deputy Finance minister Nihorya, Deputy Lands and Housing Minister T. Gowelo, Deputy Disabilities Minister Felton Mulli, Deputy Information Minister Kingsley Namakhwa, and Deputy Education Minister V. Sajeni.
Principal Secretaries in key ministries also reflected a pattern that favoured the same Mulhakho belt and within the Executive big institutions were also assigned to the Lhomwes. These included ADMARC General Manager Dr. Charles Matabwa, ADMARC Finance Director Foster Mulumbe, ADMARC Head of Administration George Bakuwa, Auction Holdings CEO Evance Matabwa MASAF boss Edward Sawelengera, Immigration Chief Elvis Thodi, Anti Corruption Bureau Director Alex Nampota, Director of Intelligence Clement Kapalamula, Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito, Chairperson Malawi Electoral Commission, Anastanzia Msosa, Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, Clerk of Parliament Maltilda Katopola, Attorney General Jane Ansah, Secretary to Treasury Randson Madiwa, General Manager Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) Mondiwa, MBC—Director General Patrick Khoza, Reserve Bank Governer Perks Ligoya, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Commissioner General Lloyd Muhara, Blantyre City Assembly Chief Executive Ted Nandolo and Malawi Savings Bank CEO Joseph Mwanamvekha.
In addition, the Mulhako wa Alhomwe executive committee that included prominent businessmen such as LestonMulli and Noel Masangwi formed the President’s unofficial advisory council on appointments and political strategy.
Many of these individuals still have influential positions in the current Peter Mutharika administration, on top of more lhomwes that Peter has also brought in.
I do not think we need a PAC conference to tell us that Peter Mutharika’s administration, since its inception in 2014, has done more harm than good to this country’s chances of economic development or the improvement of the general welfare of the ordinary Malawian. Compared to 2014, the ordinary Malawian’s life is far harder today as prices of basic commodities have increased, and government service delivery has almost totally collapsed.
If a PAC conference should be valid and beneficial at all, it should prescribe what the solutions are for Malawians that are desperate for medical and health services, for reliable water and electricity, and for their children to be learning instead of teachers being on strike and schools being closed all the time.
It is in anticipation of the possibility of the conference spelling out steps that the Malawian public should take to bring the government into check that government and DPP officials were panicking to the point of trying to actually stop the conference.
Peter Mutharika and DPP are afraid that as Malawians we have probably finally had enough of their looting and failure to lead that we might, starting with the PAC conference, begin to stand up and show them the exit door.
With a possible exit door beckoning, whose wealth and power is vested in the DPP’s continued stay in government have conspired,understandably, to give Mutharika a Siege Mentality, which they will maintainbecause it secures their positions and gives them somehope of continuity for the future. A siege mentality is that state ofmind or perception of an individual or a group that people or forcesoutside the group have intention to do wrong or inflict harm on theindividual or on the group.
This panicking of the DPP, however, should serve only to reinforce the determination of all Malawians, PAC and everyone else, to push the government harder for more accountability and transparency, and to demand true change that demonstrates good governance and a transformative vision for the country.
If nothing of note besides a communiqué demanding this or that comes out this PAC conference, then it will be another opportunity lost.
It seems to me that impunity has so closed the ears of the DPP that only forceful demonstrations of public disapproval, discontent and dissatisfaction with its leadership, now and not later, will unplug those ears, or better still, produce the kind of special political dynamic that Malawi right now desperately needs.