Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
According to the BBC, in his resignation letter to his boss, UK's Conservative Government Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell said "it has become clear to me that whatever the rights and wrongs of the matter I will not be able to fulfil my duties as we both would wish. Nor is it fair to continue to put my family and colleagues through this upsetting and damaging publicity".
Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
The ruling Peoples Party is putting on a brave face by cheating itself that it scored a brace in last week's Mzimba double by-elections. The truth is it won one seat and lost another to an independent candidate.
Granted, Mabvuto James Kachali might have been an Orange Partner all along; he might have been cheated at the PP primaries and he might have officially joined the ruling party soon after his electoral triumph. But the fact is: PP had Aram Beza as its official candidate in Mzimba Central and campaigned heavily for him; Mabvuto James Kachali stood and won as an independent candidate, full-stop!
The Mzimba by-elections should therefore be a big lesson for PP and a big wake up call for its nemesis, the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The DPP is, of course, the biggest loser in these elections, not figures-wise but politically. We will come back to this a little bit later.
I say these elections are a big lesson to the ruling party for a number of reasons. Firstly, as the incumbent party in government the two polls should have been a walk-over for PP. The party pulled all the stops to ensure victory. Cabinet ministers literally camped in the area, complete with public resources et al. To boot, President Joyce Banda sealed the campaign with pomp and ceremony, with the public media in tow to drum up the event.
But somehow for all its troubles the ruling party could only cart home 50 per cent of the ultimate result. If truth be told, this does not justify the investment the party pooled in Mzimba.
There could be several extrapolations for this but chief among them is the cancer that seems malignant in almost all politicians: botched primaries. National leaders always have preferred candidates who may not always be the grassroots people's choices. They somehow make sure these 'chosen few' sail through the primaries at all costs.
But people are clever these days. Gone are the days when people used to vote for party colours regardless. Nowadays people vote for characteristics of individual candidates. Former president Bakili Muluzi learnt the hard way when the UDF harvested a large per capita of independents the other election year. One would ordinary think that other parties would learn from Muluzi's woos but there is a syndrome among politicians that somehow prevent them from learning lessons from others.
Secondly, the PP might also have not packaged its message well. Instead of telling the voters why they should vote for PP candidates leaders wasted time recounting how Bingu abused Abiti. She is now the President of the Republic of Malawi for crying out loud! People are now looking up to her for solutions, not lessons in oral history. After all, Bingu is dead and gone for good.
The PP politburo must go back to the drawing board and take a hard look at itself. For a party that came to power with the goodwill of almost everyone to fail to win two seats is not a good omen for things to come. Bingu's DPP faced a similar challenge when he eloped with government after selling Muluzi and the UDF a dummy. His new party contested in not two, not three, but six by-elections but won them all. Bingu might have soiled his legacy eventually but we must give it to the old dude, he briefly brought a breath of fresh air into our politics.
PP might wear a brave face now but if that brave face is not spruced up with tangible strategies it might turn out to be the mask for failure come 2014.
Which brings me back to the DPP...
They say it never rains, it pours...yes, it does for the DPP. Straight from spectacularly losing two seats in a region Harry Mkandawire famously cheekily dubbed "home of the DPP", the former ruling party lost one of its few sober voices. When everybody else had lost their heads and behaved like headless chicken in those mad three days in April, Elias Wakuda Kamanga was the party's only voice of reason. When everyone else was in denial that their leader had died Wakuda asked for forgiveness "for all the transgressions we visited on Malawians when we were in the comfort of government".
For Wakuda to quit when the party is still smarting from its miserable showing in Mzimba is a big blow of unimaginable proportions for the DPP. Add to that the recent announcement by DPP First Vice-President Goodall Gondwe that he was quitting active politics. It never rains, indeed; it pours for the DPP.
Like the PP, the DPP must go back to its drawing board and re-strategise. It might be high time the party truly lived its name: democratic and progressive. By practising its 'democratic' credentials the party should consider letting democracy prevail in the party. By espousing its 'progressive' nature the DPP wish might consider letting go the belief that some names are synonymous to the party.
If the status quo continues in the party we might as well devise an epitaph on its grave: "Here Lieth A Once Upon A Great Party That Let Its Phenomenal Success Choke It To An Early Death".
© The Marai Post 2012.
Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
The Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority, that club of wise men and women that decides at what price to sell petroleum products, last Wednesday decided it was high time they hiked the pump price of fuel. Painful though this was Malawians have resigned to fate. Since our political leaders decided not only to devalue the kwacha but also to let it float to find its equilibrium according to market trends, frequent shocks in the pricing of goods and services would inevitably hurt but certainly would not surprise anyone.
So when MERA announced that come Thursday morning there would be 5.79 and 6.3 per cent increases in the pump price of petrol and diesel respectively motorists simply braced to dig deeper in their already hard-hit pockets.
What was shocking about Wednesday's MERA announcement was therefore not the news of the price increase per se; what was shocking was the counter-announcement that came fast on the heels on the first announcement. In fact, MERA said, we were just joking with you, people; the fuel price remains the same.
C'mon, good people of MERA, the market is already a mess following the devaluation of the kwacha; we do not want it to be confused further because of indecisions by those we entrusted to make decisions on our behalf. Wednesday's was one bad, insensitive joke the suffering Malawians could do without.
The Wednesday yo-yo game by MERA begs a lot of questions, chief among them being: is MERA really in control? Surely nobody can buy into its publicist Edward Mponda's explanation that the price hike about-turn was due to a "technical glitch". What technical glitch? Maybe Mponda wanted to say "political glitch"?
We all know that having two price hikes in as many months would not endear the Joyce Banda administration, in fact any administration, to anyone. With an election not too far from now no government would want to annoy potential voters with frequent price shocks of essential commodities. We can therefore safely deduce therefore that MERA's hand was twisted by partisan political interests.
After all, the self-styled political engineer Bakili Muluzi already rightly put it: Malawians have short memories. If the pump price of fuel hits a thousand kwacha per litre, for instance, Malawians will become easily nostalgic of the Mutharika era forgetting that we are in this mess because of the old man's needless arrogance. That fuel was cheaper but not available during the Bingu era but is expensive but available now may not matter much.
So the Banda administration understandably must be wary of the run-away prices of fuel and may wish to keep MERA on a short leash.
But, be that as it may, one thinks MERA should have weighed both the political and economic implications before rushing to make the Wednesday price hike announcement. After all with the Automatic Pricing Mechanism we expect fuel prices to follow the movement of the kwacha against the dollar. So one would think the good people at MERA must have agonised over all these fundamentals before coming up with the Wednesday announcement of the impending fuel price hike.
For MERA to therefore come back within hours to eat its own words does not auger well with such a crucial office. It is as clumsy as it is amateurish. How can the desperate nation take these folks seriously again?
On her return from her maiden big speech before a world audience in the Big Apple, Abiti said as long as she does all the right things and makes a difference she does not care if she is re-elected or not. She rightly observed that such statements annoy some people in her party whose livelihood depend on how long she stays in State House.
If indeed her re-election is secondary, doing the right things is primary; her government must free important departments like MERA to do the right things. We are still smarting from Bingu's empty arrogance against devaluing the kwacha. While the old man held on to a useless artificially strong kwacha essential goods were disappearing from the shelves because manufacturers had no forex to procure raw materials with which to replenish them. Does Mama Joyce want to keep prices of fuel artificially low simply to keep her chances of re-election high at the expense of failing to sustain the petroleum industry?
If MERA thinks it is the right time to adjust upwards the fuel price let no politics interfere. After all it is the politicians that embraced policies that necessitated the Automatic Pricing Mechanism. Do they not say if you make a bed you must lie on it?
More of the same?
One of the sad realities of our multiparty democracy is the politicisation of almost everything. Some key positions in the civil service are filled not based on competence or training of an individual but how politically connected the prospective holder is. In worst case scenarios even tribes come into play. We all recall in recent times when people from a certain geographical area monopolised plum positions in government and government business.
Many thought the new PP administration, coming as it did through an accident of fate, would bring a breath of fresh air. But what is happening in the Village Development Committees (VDCs) in districts like Thyolo, Zomba and Phalombe does not give one much hope. There are disturbing reports that PP officials are going about hijacking government vehicles from the District Commissioners' offices in the name of "re-arranging" these VDCs.
But VDCs were established at group village-head level and Area Development Committees (ADCs) at Traditional Authority level as governance structures to act as vehicles for development initiatives at grassroots level before they reach district councils. These are duly fused into the local government structures.
There are specific tenures for VDCs and ADCs. Once elected into these committees, office bearers are trained to build their capacity. In fact some of the committee members that are being replaced have just had their training. Training new people now will be a needless waste of resources.
VDCs and ADCs are supposed to be non-political and not based on religious or ethnic affiliation. They are supposed to be purely developmental and governance structures, meaning that any government that comes into power at any time is supposed to recognise and work with these structures.
But there are reports from the afro-mentioned districts that these structures are being restructured and reconstituted to accommodate political figures. This is a sad reality in our nascent democracy. Development must see no colour. Despite differing political persuasions all of us are supposed to be Malawians with one goal: to see the land we call Malawi develop to the next level. Colouring grassroots structures with politics is a recipe for disaster.
If President Banda is not aware of this retrogressive development she should intervene to bring sanity. After all once she took oath of office on April the 7th she ceased to be PP president only; she became President of the Republic of Malawi and therefore president for all of us regardless of a political party colour that attracts us.
Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
I think the Big Kahuna must be turning in his mausoleum in the wake of the needless wrangle between his widow, Callista, and his children over his estate.
When news came that Bingu was taking in a new wife in 2010 when he was already 76 some of us had reservations. The old man was already in the afternoon of his life. At best he could have lived at least 15 more years. On the other hand at 50 Callista had the whole life ahead of her. And she was somehow contemporaries of some of Bingu's children.
This was certainly a recipe for disaster considering that most of Bingu's estate was built with his late first wife, Ethel. Surely the potential for rivalry between Callista and the children was potent here.
But when the old man made the decision to re-marry regardless we - meaning us all, including his children - had to respect his wishes. We would like to believe he had all his faculties in working order when he proposed to - and exchanged vows with - Callista. Although they hardly stayed together for two years Callista was no less a wife to Bingu. She has all the rights to his property.
We hope Bingu left a will that spells out how his wealth is going to be distributed. But in the unlikely event that he died intestate (without a will) there surely is a more civilised manner to distribute his wealth among worthy beneficiaries. All of Bingu's children are grown up; they must be living independent lives now. It is therefore disrespectful of their late dad for the children to be harassing the woman he literally spent the rest of his life with.
Prof. Peter Mutharika promised Callista on a world stage that she "will never walk alone". When Bingu died in April Peter ceased to be an uncle to his brother's orphaned children; he assumed the role of father. Let him guide his charges properly while not ignoring the rights and interests of his sister-in-law. The family accepted Callista into their family when Bingu was alive; they should not ostracise her now that the patriarch is gone.
Let the family preserve Bingu's legacy by not behaving like uncivilised people to fight over deceased estate.
© The Marai Post 2012.
Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
It hasn't been a great week for the government. Khumbo Kachali, the guy who is supposed to be in charge of the country now, is still smarting from his rather sloppy gaffes of recent times. Wide-cat strikes may be off the headlines now, thanks to the 25 per cent that has been doled out to most workers, but the grumbling is still there for all to hear.
The village President Joyce Banda is said to have taken to New York to witness her maiden speech at the United Nations hasn't helped matters. US $1m may not sound like a lot of money but for a poor country that is struggling to pay its wage and fuel bills that is astronomical.
The Joyce Banda administration, trying as it is doing to be in good books with donors, can't afford such blatant obscene extravagance. No matter how her press aide Steve Nhlane tries to justify the expenditure by contrasting it with her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika's, 40-plus people to the UN is an expense no poor country must bear. Bingu may have taken another village to the US, may be two, but do they not say two wrongs do not make a right?
Joyce Banda's Peoples' Party administration is calling for austerity from all of us. How can we heed the call when she seems to be flaunting money around with reckless abandon herself? If Bingu took four chiefs to the UN just for them to clap hands for him and she takes two chiefs to clap hands for her, what is the difference?
We know she inherited an almost comatose economy but it does not help her cause for her to be seen to be careless with her spending.
And fuel queues seem to be back in town. Central Bank chief Charles Chuka confesses that the fuel queues are a result of lack of forex. This does not auger well with President Banda's statement soon after taking office that she has solved the forex gridlock. What now? Déjà vu? Did the donors not say they would give us the much-needed dollars once we devalued the kwacha and let it float according to market forces? Were we bluffed?
Of course, I am not that naive to think that we had much choice about the devaluation. We had to devalue the artificially strong kwacha whether we liked it or not. But Joyce Banda's opponents will still justifiably rap her fingers for losing the grip on the kwacha, thanks to the donors. What with commodity prices shooting through the roof with reckless abandon daily.
I was in Lilongwe most of the past week and we struggled to get diesel. This is contrary to what we were meant to believe when Joyce Banda ascended to power. The script was like the fuel queues spectacle was a thing of the past for donors were now back in town.
So the spectre of the fuel queues is quite depressing. Surely Bingu's apologists will be gleeful. Bingu's arrogant defiance against devaluation will start making sense somehow. "We told you so," his supporters will say. They will hammer Mama Joyce with questions like where are the donors who promised us heaven and earth? Where is the booty they promised us? Were they just bluffing us to smite Bingu?
Britain and Germany cheekily say we have to wait until 2015 although the 'Boys from Berlin' came back to say they never really said that. But they did not tell us what they really said and when the money will start rolling in.
Great Britain, our largest aid donor - while not disputing the 2015 date, told us we have to appoint an Anti-Corruption Bureau director and an Auditor-General among other things. What cheek is that? Do they not know we are still scrutinising CVs to see who is orange enough?
But seriously does it not really bother the mind why appointing people to such offices should really be an issue? Do we not have qualified folks in the system?
Bingu and his eccentric antics may be dead and buried at 'Mpumulo wa Bata' but we are sure to be hounded by them for a long time.
Hey, listen to what Bingu's legal advisor is saying. Allan Ntata is spewing mud all over. He says, for instance, that Foreign Affairs Minister Ephraim Chiume was at the fore-front of trying to block Joyce Banda from ascending to office when he was Justice Minister the time the old man dropped dead. Chiume, of course, is dismissing these claims with disdain but I guess that is an interesting area we aught to explore.
By the way, how many in Joyce Banda's government put roadblocks on her ascendancy to power? Plenty, if you ask me. But these same people are at the core of her government. That makes politics quite interesting. It seems principles and morals do not count that much that side.
And the UDF is still doing what it knows best: killing itself softly, as it were. Do the men and women who run the once-upon-a-mighty-party know the irritation they cause on the lot of us by their senseless never-ending bickering?
Salary cut, fine, but...
Vice-President Khumbo Kachali on Friday announced that he and his boss are taking a salary cut of 30 per cent as one way of showing that they are suffering with the masses in these days of devaluation. He called it "equitable austerity".
This is quite commendable indeed. Many leaders have done this when their economies hit turbulent times. Just recently US comedian Jay Leno also volunteered a salary cut just to save jobs for his staff whom TV network NBC would have retrenched.
But this supposedly good gesture must be followed up with a cut in other activities that the presidency undertakes that drains the coffers. Frequent travel, which Khumbo himself infamously insulted our mothers for recently, is one of them. It may not matter much if the President and the Vice-President take a salary cut but end up all over the place doing mundane things like opening internet cafes.
Each time the President and the Vice-President travel there are always hordes of officials, security and hangers-on. These do not come cheap. All of them, including the President and the Vice-President, claim huge allowances every time they travel.
The presidency should also look into its motorcade. We do not need 30 gas-guzzling limos to escort the President whenever she travels. A reasonable number of the motorcade would go a long way in saving costs.
It will be meaningless if Khumbo and Abiti take the cut in their basic salaries and still trot around within and outside the country aimlessly. Otherwise the salary cut is a good beginning; let them follow it up with other meaningful cost-cutting measures.
©2012 The Maravi Post.