Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
"Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
And listen to others,
Even the dull and the ignorant;
They too have their story"
- an extract from 'Desiderata', a classic poem by American-German poet Max Ehrmann
They say 'speech is silver, silence is golden'. It is better to hold your tongue than shoot your mouth recklessly on certain issues.
I think Vice-President Khumbo Hastings Kachali needs some urgent tutorial on this wise counsel if the off-tangent speech he made in Karonga the other day is anything to go by.
Look, it’s Khumbo's considered view that because they don’t travel to our mothers' homes we, Malawians - supposedly their employers - have no right to question the presidency's penchant for travel. He thinks as long as he and his boss don’t travel to any of the loudmouths' mothers' homes they should shut their traps and hold their peace.
Really? What stuff was this guy high on? Is power such a potent aphrodisiac that it makes otherwise good men lose their heads like horny dogs during mating season? Not too long ago - in fact less than half a year ago - Khumbo was with the people lamenting about the excesses of power then. Now that an accident of fate has catapulted him to the pinnacle of power he wants to start behaving like those very people he was complaining about?
Are Malawians so cursed that they should always be dancing in circles when it comes to the type of political leadership they get? We thought after those dramatic events of those crazy three days in April we had seen the back of these arrogant, disparaging and patronising remarks? But, alas! As Khumbo has confirmed, it seems we just replaced names and faces; the politics is still the same.
Much as he has no business to visit most of our mothers' homes, Khumbo should know that every kwacha he uses on his endless trips is financed by the very people he is insulting. Malawians have therefore every right to question how leaders are using their hard-earned money. No one - be they presidents or vice-presidents - have the right to stop them.
By the way, we all know that Malawi is currently going through tough economic times when most of us are being hurt hard in the pocket. Government, rightly I must add, says it inherited a messy economy and - like someone suffering from malaria has to endure bitter drugs like Chloroquine in order to get cured - Malawians are told to tighten their belts. Government is calling for frugality if the country has to navigate such a stormy patch.
So where is the frugality when the Citizen No. 2 can arrogantly brag that he will criss-cross the country with reckless abandon whether one likes it or not? Perhaps the tightening of belts is only for us, the wananchi? Perhaps Khumbo is re-enacting 'Animal Farm' where the ruling elite has a different set of rules from the rest of us?
The Vice-President should have justified the Presidency's need for travel in a better manner. The late President Mutharika lost it with Malawians when he started behaving bigger than the country. Khumbo was there when Bingu called us 'tiankhwezule tating'onoting'ono' and 'cackling chicken'. I hope power hasn’t yet gone to his head to make Khumbo forget where that arrogance took the old man.
Bingu was a darling to many in May 2009 but when he literally got inebriated with power everyone deserted him. The man whose shadow many would have loved to kiss died a lonely sad man. This was because he forgot he was a leader, not a ruler.
Does Khumbo want the Joyce Banda presidency go the same route? There is palpable goodwill for President Banda now because many are hoping he will turn out to be different from her predecessor. But thoughtless and careless utterances like Khumbo's may make many doubt whether we are not back to square one.
Khumbo must clean up his mouth before he talks his government out of power. He has the luxury of hindsight because he was there when a popular government talked itself out of grace. Words are paramount in politics. Malawians have turned full circle; they are not as meek as politicians like Khumbo would like them to be.
It is not too late for Khumbo to clean up his act. At 46 he is still quite young and can learn a few new tricks to spruce up his political image. His first - and easy - lesson should be to think through his speeches before he set his tongue in motion. Otherwise they say 'talk is silver, silence is golden'.
©2012 The Maravi Post.