By Samuel Samson
I have personally for the past days attempted to answer this question. As such, I have incorporated my personal views and views of some people that I have interacted with in trying to address this million dollar question. I have taken all the trouble because I owe the nation, the DPP and APM allegiance exactly in that order.
It is pure cowardice as a senior cadet myself to bury my head in the sand while all pointers clearly suggest that we are going off track. Unfortunately, it is not possible for me to air out these views or advice and hope that the president will have access to them and address them if I try to follow ‘the normal channel’. In case someone will try to accuse me of lacking decorum and failing to observe protocol. Which must be the very first area that Mr President has to look into. It is very scaring that the president operates in an environment that doesn’t allow him to freely get input from the outside world. One respondent to my question suggested that the president must look at how business is conducted in his office and make drastic changes.
Even if it means sending others packing. He must allow himself time to peep into the outside world and have a feel of what Malawians are going through and saying about him and his government. Another respondent suggested that he can even just call some of his fiercest critics or any unsuspecting citizen elsewhere and ask their honest opinion. My President would hear that some citizens are rating him below Joyce Banda. Quite a very disappointing feat if we remember that this is a former president who voters decided that she was not even better to occupy the second position! The President can save himself if he looked at the people that have surrounded him including his ministers and advisors. And ask himself if he is getting the best from them. Do drastic changes there too to maximize the input from his team. It is obvious that the recent battle that he is embroiled in after the UNGA trip is as a result of a failed team rather than himself. But because the buck has to stop at him, it is only him who will be assessed and rated and not his back-room staff.
His late brother shocked the nation once when he fired a Director of public prosecutions, an Attorney General and a Justice minister at the same time! Their sins were lesser! There are some things that he can benefit from if he acts as his brother’s brother. One of which was to know when his stooges were growing too big for his comfort. As for the DPP, I have never seen it looking so disjointed as it is now. The members do not exactly know what the future holds for them. Some followers will mention the recent by-elections as a measure of DPP popularity but no one will tell you why there was heavy voter apathy even in Thyolo East constituency. In fact, we would have higher voter apathy in 2019 in the Lhomwe belt as a sign of protest while others will vote for opposition parties outright!
One other senior cadet summed up the case in DPP by stating that ‘DPP will face itself in 2019 and will surely finish itself before kneeling down to the opposition’ before hurrying to advise that DPP has to put its house in order now. So, the onus is on the president himself to rebuild the DPP and instill hope and morale into an entity that was very organised and unshakeable prior to the elections. Lastly, the biggest casualty if APM does not conduct himself well is our nation. We are less than two years into APM leadership. Yet we have already heard of calls for him to resign because he ‘lacks direction,’ among others.
Let us face facts. APM rode on a manifesto that had 3 main elements: The maize subsidy, the malata subsidy and the community colleges. Currently our economic muscle does not favor the provision of subsidies of any kind. That makes APM to only remain with the community colleges if he has to be seen as walking the talk. But what direction apart from that has APM clearly showed Malawi? Like where does he want Malawi to be by 2019? How does he intend to deal with the many problems our country has? Because, with our emerging problems, the community college project does not address the current scenario. This is where as a leader he needs to re-strategise to provide short term solutions that are relevant to the current myriad of problems. His brother clearly demonstrated his vision and direction that he wanted our country to take. He may have shown dictatorial tendencies as observed by one Cochraine Dyet but surely even his detractors agree that he laid a road map that every Malawian knew we were a nation on a move before his political decisions got him under fire.
Joyce Banda simply undid what Bingu refused to do before calling for an all stake holders conference to draft a national recovery plan. She also formed a committee responsible for overseeing development issues. Mr President can do the same by clearly showing us what he is doing or intends to do in the face of our problems if he can do it boldly as Bingu did or by simply setting up another recovery plan.
The advantage of involving a team of various experts and professionals will be that we will all own up the roadmap. In conclusion, I think it is not too late for the president to put up his act together. But what he needs to do is to take some bold steps. Steps that even those that are vying for his neck must stop in their tracks. He must remember that it is his legacy and not of his cronies that will be put under microscope and rated in relation to the other leaders that the country has had. He must not mind whether some of the casualties of his new road map include the people who have always been very close to him. Yes, he can!