BINGU MUST RESPECT CITIZENS NOT HIMSELF

Date:

On 6the July, 2011, President Bingu wa Mutharika led citizens of the Republic to the 47th Independent Celebrations at the Mzuzu Sports Stadium where among other functions he presented awards to citizens dead or alive for their perceived contributions to the development of the nation. As usual the celebrations closed with a National Soccer competition between the Malawi National Team the Flames and the Namibian National Soccer Team. Although the aim of the soccer competitions was entertainment, the outcome was that the Malawi National Flames lost zero to one.

Such a national event would be valueless without the Presidential State Address. It was therefore the turn for President Bingu wa Mutharika to deliver his speech expected to outline achievements, failures and projects to be carried out in the next twelve months. According to The Nation of 7th of July, 2011, instead of thanking the nation for maintaining peace and helping the president to achieve his objectives President Mutharika used the opportunity to castigate his real or perceived political opponents for suggesting the president’s first term in office was better than his second term. He also seized the opportunity to appeal to donors who had withheld aid, opposition parties and NGOs, to renew their relationships with his government by supporting the zero deficit budget recently approved by parliament.

The president is his usual self-praise style cited roads and the Nsanje Port developments projects as his achievements without mentioning admitting his failure to have the port project started before feasibility studies. It should have occurred to Bingu that it was a sign of incompetence for him as president to authorize the use of public funds on a project that had no benefit to the poor people of Malawi. Instead of preserving the funds for more productive projects to generate forex to import fuel at commercial banks, he wasted the money in building a white elephant which has now become a fish pond. What surprised every citizen listening to the speech was the absence of mention of the problems being faced by citizens or suggestion of possible solutions leaving commentators with the dilemma to ask if the president was talking of another country not Malawi.

Malawi and Britain are now on diplomatic stalemate created by the mistake made by the president. Instead of informing Malawians of the bold steps who was going to take to apologize to the British for the unfortunate decision to expel her diplomatic envoy, as usual, the president chose to blame the British High Commissioner for annoying Malawians. This was far from the truth because the British Commissioner did not annoy the citizens of Malawi but helping them by reporting to his sending government. This was a display of intransigence at best. The fact is that the British in discussion need an apology for Bingu’s violations of the Vienna Convention in the conduct of diplomatic practice as set out in 1961. Regrettably, an independence day is not for citizens to fight one another. It is a day for citizens to come together, forgive one another and look ahead with unity of purpose as Malawi belongs to all who live in it. The president is a servant of the citizens not an elected king. He was elected on trust. The trust is not infinite. It is like a business capital that reduces with the passage of time.

The president called on the opposition not to destroy the country; “the president also asked the opposition and NGOs not to destroy the country by giving false information to the international community”. The question is why should a president get concerned about the opposition and the NGOs? The opposition and NGOs have a different agenda from that of the ruling party. The two institutions have the role of counter balance- to ensure government is accountable. Therefore asking opposition and NGOs not to report on poor governance and human rights violation is the same as killing the opposition.

To reiterate, the president rules on trust. The trust drops by the day, month and year. That is why in countries where they have opinion polls, presidents learn to respect popular voices of dissent. It is sad to know that the president only wants to know good things. He hates dissenting views. It is no wonder that citizens went in their multitudes to the streets to demonstrate again him on July 20th. An elected representative has to always respect citizens.

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