Written by WINFRED NKOCHI
If you are a professor of history or a consumer rights activist, but you cannot put things in context, you are probably not sophisticated enough.
President Joyce Banda has in the past few weeks experienced a barrage of criticisms reminiscent of a hostile environment in which her predecessor Professor Bingu wa Mutharika concluded his life and rule. There is extremely nothing wrong with criticizing a president. People who stand up to speak against excesses of power indeed deserve our respect. In this item, however, I do not intend to praise such men and women. In fact I assess their criticisms.
My focus is on pronouncements against President Banda and her government coming from outspoken consumer rights activist John Kapito and historian Professor Wiseman Chijere Chirwa. My analysis of their criticisms is that they are made out of hatred and frustration. Let me summarize first their problems with President Banda and her government as reported in the media.
Professor Chijere Chirwa criticizes President Banda for not foreseeing that devaluation was going to hurt Malawians in the absence of mitigation measures to ease the hardships. According to the historian, Banda has taken too long (6 months) to come up with a policy statement to guide the direction of the country, to convene a “crisis cabinet” meeting to plan a recovery process. Ironically, he also criticizes President Banda’s ‘recovery plan’ because it coincides with election times.
President Banda is also criticized for picking up petty quarrels with her critics instead of concentrating on solutions to the issues she is being criticized for. Professor Chijere Chirwa also attacks President Banda because she keeps changing statements, recounting how she was victimized during Bingu’s rule, relying on donor support, travelling a lot, and lack of economic strategy.
John Kapito has called on President Joyce Banda to step down or call for early elections because the People’s Party (PP) government has failed the people. The basis of this reasoning is that people cannot afford “dignified” livelihood anymore; people are walking to their workplaces as they cannot afford a bus fare.
President Banda is also criticized by Kapito for surrounding herself with bad advisors who spoiled former President late Bingu wa Mutharika and he predicts doom if the president does not remove such people.
Just like Professor Chijere Chirwa, Kapito advises Banda not to put blame on the past regime and not to allow the country to be run by the IMF and the World Bank.
What Chijere and Kapito will not tell the Malawians
Before I make an assessment of the criticisms levelled against Banda by the two prominent members of the Malawi society, allow me to cite a few things which both Professor Chijere Chirwa and John Kapito will not tell Malawians.
The two prominent men will not tell Malawians that Joyce Banda and her People’s Party have been in power for about four months only. You therefore see Professor Chijere Chirwa lying that Joyce Banda became president six months ago.
Professor Chijere Chirwa and John Kapito will not tell you that they supported immediate devaluation of the Kwacha because market forces at that time demanded this action and time was against us. They will never tell the nation that prominent Professors from Economics Department at Chancellor College and many other experts recommended an immediate devaluation of the Kwacha.
These two men will also not tell the nation the truth that in the absence of the IMF and the World Bank, the Malawi economy would completely ground to a halt. Malawi relies on donors who in turn rely on recommendations from these two institutions.
These two gentlemen will never tell the nation that President Professor Bingu wa Mutharika left the economy almost grounded, surviving on lies that the kwacha was still valuable, zero-deficit-budget was a success, Malawi was fast developing (second place in the world), etc. They will never tell you that they loathed Bingu for this.
Finally, Professor Chijere Chirwa and John Kapito will never tell Malawians that the economy is recovering unlike the nose-diving trend it took during the past regime. They will never tell citizens that President Joyce Banda has high scores in governance and international relations.
The question is: What sort of game is being played by Professor Chirwa and Kapito? WINFRED NKOCHI
The question is: What sort of game is being played by Professor Chirwa and Kapito?
An Assessment of the criticisms
The following are the issues which continue to baffle me in the content of the criticisms from Professor Chijere Chirwa and John Kapito. Why do the two exaggerate issues and why does the former decide to lie that President Joyce Banda has so far ruled Malawi for six months? Are they realistic to ask Joyce Banda to fix the economy within four months, while Barrack Obama is said to require ten years (Bill Clinton) to fix the American economy?
Both Chirwa and Kapito were in the forefront calling for President Bingu wa Mutharika to devalue the currency. They wanted this action as early as yesterday in order to attract forex and to avert a looming collapse of the economy.
Why have they now turned around and start speaking the opposite? Do they have any principles? WINFRED NKOCHI
Why have they now turned around and start speaking the opposite? Do they have any principles?
Another accusation levelled against Banda is that she has taken too long to come up with a policy statement to guide the direction of the country, to convene a “crisis cabinet” meeting to plan a recovery process. The ironical part of it is that the same Professor Chirwa alludes to a ‘recovery plan’ of President Joyce Banda that coincides with election time. Is this sign of a frustrated person who is ready to exchange his brain for a pop-corn?
Other issues like a recovery plan coinciding with election time, the president responding to her critics, that the president keeps changing statements, and that the president is surrounded by same recycled stuff, are rather laughable. Should presidents and humans in general not make realistic plans regardless of what they coincide with, react to attacks, change plans, and work with people they can trust?
Perhaps a strangest attack on President Joyce Banda is one made by John Kapito that President Joyce Banda has failed Malawians therefore she must resign or call for an early election. As I have already argued, Kapito is part of the problem only that the vocabulary of “we” does not exist in his diction. Does Kapito think he is offering solutions by calling for early elections and spelling doom for President Joyce Banda in the 2014 tripartite elections?
If for thirty years Dr. Hastings Banda repeatedly blamed colonial government for some of the challenged we faced as a nation, should President Joyce Banda be restrained by his critics from linking our current challenges to a regime that fell only four months ago?
The dictionary definition of critic is “one who forms and expresses judgments on the merits, faults, value or truth of a matter.” Compare this with the dictionary meaning of “haters”. The Collins Cobuild Advanced Dictionary defines ‘your hater’ as someone who strongly dislikes you.
Another dictionary defines a hater as a “jealous person, or, one that cannot be happy for another person’s success to the point of only picking out perceived flaws.” Haters are always negative about you, regardless of how many times you have either reached out or tried to more thoroughly explain yourself. Haters have no intention to make peace, but they simply want to throw a volume of insults before they turn and run away.
And finally, haters use “lies, name calling, exaggerations, insults, etc to either ‘expose’ you or launch a grenade hoping you will blow up.”
To me, John Kapito and Professor Chijere Chirwa are more of haters than critics WINFRED NKOCHI
To me, John Kapito and Professor Chijere Chirwa are more of haters than critics. The reader is entitled to his or her opinion too!
*Winfred Mkochi: Student, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.