Wednesday, 11 April 2012
President Joyce Banda - Take Heed
Dear Madam President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda,
Let me first congratulate you for making it to the hot seat.
You have always referred to Presidents Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika (May His Soul Rest in Peace) as ‘Abwana’ – Your boss.
And I feel anxious that now you are the ‘Boss’ yourself.
When you fell out of grace with your second boss President Mutharika, you became ‘wiser’ and talked so much on how best the government was supposed to run so that the common man out there is the ultimate beneficiary. I believe your conduct will also prove on whether or not what you were saying was all garbage or you had a point.
In His veritable wisdom God has put you on the mantle of leadership so that you put some breaks to the rampaging wheel of the economy which long lost its track and is straying in the bush; but in order to ensure that what contributed towards its derailment is reversed, everything is in your hands so that the country can get back to its prosperous ways.
You must be very lucky person to become the country’s fourth President. The position you are occupying Madam was first occupied by late President Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. But you are lucky because you have seen where your colleagues went wrong and where they slipped off it is where you will put your footholds for you to keep going and in the end create a perfect regime, although perfection is only for God.
Forget that your mediocre performance will be palliated by your being a woman; I for one would expect you to perform, nonetheless.
Don’t ignore the hospitals
I want the South Africa Rands or the US Dollars every time I seek for it at the bank. I need to roll down my vehicle at a fuel pump and fill the tank without much ado. I want to be diagnosed properly and treated with suitable medicine every time I am sick.
Remember, President Mutharika thought he would fly to foreign hospitals to get treatment when he will become sick and no wonder he paid a deaf ear to all the cries from our villages that public hospitals had no medicine.
But God never rendered him the opportunity to get sick first so that he enjoys the attention of medical experts of the world. He had a cardiac arrest while deep in his the line of duty and died soon later.
Your Excellency, in 2010, you became a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health and I know it is not in vain that your presidency will mix well with this for the benefit of our country, considering our maternal, child and neonatal mortality rate.
Would you please re-look our situation and establish if at all our efforts to reduce the figures and fulfill our bit on the MDGs was due to lack of political leadership or inadequate resources? Imagine we are the second worst country in the world after Sierra Leone that has a shocking maternal mortality rate.
I need to commend you for the drastic actions taken less than a week in office when you directed that the two gynecologists who have been waiting for an appointment letter to start working at the Ethel Mutharika ‘Safe Motherhood’ Hospital do get such letters as quickly as before close of business on the day you made your directive – thus April 10, 2012.
Search the Forex for us
We have deficiencies in the supply chain of our fuel as well as sugar, not to mention medicine. All this I know is because some where somehow the executive botched up in ensuring that forex was available.
On Medicine, what UNICEF and other donors did and supplied medicine into our hospitals is shameful.
While we all applaud them for the gesture, it is a shame because it is like people organizing themselves to start fending for your family because as the father you have failed to provide bread on your table.
I need to remind you Madam President that when we were voting for you and your predecessor on that single DPP ballot, we were in fact hiring you to take care of our purse and provide for the country by ensuring that forex is available so that by extension, we should also have medicine, fuel as well as ensuring that there is no cut for all the supply chain for our basic necessities.
What it means is that when you failed to provide these, it will be a vote of no confidence, that your predecessor failed to accept and instead used force to cling to power when he even murdered over 20 youths on July 20 last year.
I know you were never given an opportunity to show your leadership skills and ensure that you were doing what we voted you for, now you have no excuse.
We know your predecessor said fighting corruption was his number one mission. But was it not apparent that all that gibberish was meant to hoodwink donors into giving us their monies when we were not up to it, no wonder they stopped us in our tracks.
Declaring your assets
Instead, the President who had nothing on him when he was ascending to power became a multimillionaire overnight in all the currencies.
He built a multi-roomed, up-stairs home at Ndata, he started dishing out millions to all and sundry, he used to allocate millions to state house and then to the presidency in the national budget which he was failing to account for. He became so big headed that even when parliament would summon him he thought he was larger than us the voters who had hired him for a short period to take care of our country, to explain to us through parliament how he was managing our resources.
I don’t want to trouble you to go back to our constitution and read this so I will provide it for you right here.
Section 88 A (1) of our Constitution reads and I quote:
“The President and members of the Cabinet shall not hold any public office and shall not perform remunerative work outside the duties if their offices and shall, within three months from the date of election or appointment, as the case may be, fully disclose all their assets, liabilities and business interests, and those of their spouses, held by them or on their behalf as at that date; and, unless Parliament, such disclosure shall be made in a written document delivered to the Speaker of the National Assembly who shall immediately upon receipt deposit the document with such public office as may be specified in the Standing orders of Parliament.
(2) Any business interests held by the President and Members of the Cabinet shall be held on their behalf in a beneficial trust which shall ne managed is such manner as to enclosure conformity with the responsibilities and duties of their offices.
(3) The President and members of the Cabinet shall not use their respective offices for personal gain or place themselves in a situation where their material interest conflict with the responsibilities and duties of their offices.”
End of quote Madam.
Now how come your predecessor is said to have acquired a Presidential Villa and Yatch in Portugal at a whooping price of US$18m; built Ndata which is worth 14 billion Malawi Kwacha; lavishly spent 200 million Malawi Kwacha on his birthday; acquired a $60m hotel in Portugal through the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and ordered that Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) at Ginnery Corner in Blantyre do extend a K400M loan to Mulli Brothers Ltd to purchase Bestobell.
In the first place President Mutharika never declared his assets and I should also hasten to ask you, did you ever declare your assets as Vice President? If anything he used to brag about how rich he was then when he was conducting political rallies as if that is what the quoted piece of legislation above says.
For your benefit Madam, President Mutharika was a bad financial manager and he miserably failed to run his Bineth Farm in Zimbabwe which forced him to get back here to try his hands on a minibus business which also failed miserably.
It was only after President Muluzi’s greed for power having hit a wal with attempt to stay in power for life through open term bill, supported by Opposition leader John Tembo and third term that he started looking for a ‘bovine’ personality he would install on the seat and remote control from the backseat.
At the time Muluzi made Mutharika Deputy Central bank Governor he had nothing on him. And it is surprising he started dishing out such big monies like that.
I suspect lack of the country’s knowledge on the wealth of the President before he ascended to power is where the problem of stealing from our coffers start from.
Madam President, I know I have been to some of your property including your lakeshore home in Chintheche; which is imposing yes and I would not be surprised if you improve it further.
It will however be wrong if such improvement will start raising eyebrows and while you will feel so big not to bother give the nation an account of how that has been achieved, as was the case with your predecessors, I hope you will spare us such a headache this time round, by at least attempting to make any unconvincing effort to explain.
I always wonder Madam President what fuels what? Does nepotism fuel gluttony or it is gluttony that fuels nepotism? Your predecessor President Mutharika was a shame that you need not emulate. He was so myopic that he divided the country on tribal lines, something his previous colleagues never did.
With his Mulhakho wa Alomwe tribal grouping, he filled all influential positions in the country with his kind. Just check the head of Judiciary, Central Bank, the Police, Immigration; I am not sure about the Attorney General and the Malawi Defence Force Commander, MRA, MACRA, Head of Treasury and the list is long.
Unashamedly he never had any conscious and those that were supposed to speak against it, were never taken seriously. What is disturbing is that those that were benefitting to such divisive acts never listened to the voice of reason.
You have an opportunity Madam President to better this record or correct things.
Within your ranks you have one similar character that feeds on nepotism in Brown James Mpinganjira. If you so decide to give him any position ensure that his wings are clipped, so that he does not soar higher that reason.
Relationship with the Media
Remember where we first brushed shoulders Madam President? It was while I was working at The Chronicle Newspaper which your predecessor finished off; for he never let the media operate as a free entity and vital organ of our democratic apparatus.
You went ballistic when I wrote a story about you while at the Ministry of Gender and how you managed UNICEF provided resources meant for Orphans and Vulnerable children.
Lucky for me I had all the necessary documents that I showed in your face when you summoned me and my Editor Pushpa Jamieson.
I vividly remember how you threatened me that your husband was a retired Chief Justice and that you would sue me for the story and you never forgot about the issue. Every other time I called you for a different story you would still remember it.
There was a time you were with your fellow lady ministers in Parliament and when I greeted all of you, you never responded, and still showed your anger two years after that story was published.
Now I know how you personally feel about the media and I am now very afraid of the whip that you will hold over our heads as you watch our every move while discharging our duty as the fourth estate.
I know this might also be aggravated by a team of your Media Machine that you will put at your state residence and your office as has been the case with your predecessors.
I remember to have confessed at one time that chivalry, that virtue I must show the institution of the State House to demonstrate my deference to the residence of this nation’s first citizen seem to have been eluding me.
Pity, it was not out of my own making; I don’t want it to continue feeling the same.
I have known from experience that a composition of people who run the state house second guess their purpose and grope in the dark as a result in order to find meaning of why they have to be where they are. They thus become a propaganda machinery that infiltrates the media apparatus of the state like MACRA, MBC etc. I hope your appointments will avoid this Madam.
State House Media Team
It is demeaning to make out that the State House thinks it should co-exist alongside the mediocrity of righting the wrongs of the media, believing that it walks within its ‘holier than though’ attitude it desperately tries to exhibit through its cheap propaganda as was the case with Mutharika’s style.
Not in a too distant past, we had a kind of personnel who religiously believed in the propaganda of ‘Press Release Theory’.
They had all the characteristics of shenanigans and sycophants who wrongly thought they were within their parameter of duty to scurrilously dispute anything that appeared in the media about President Bingu wa Mutharika.
The strange thing is that even when these people are replaced, they tend to continue from where their friends left off.
Good example is even when Charles Namondwe entered the scene as new Director General of State Residences; he was trying to walk the same route that had seen others fall by the wayside. He never revoked any memory to tread carefully realizing that he took over from an overzealous Chief of Staff of State Residences Ken Zikhale Ng’oma who ended up shooting himself in the foot.
In my experience as a media practitioner I have realized that the State House institution, to start with, is a fortress of ‘secret information’ be it common and classified where when you stumble unto something that needs your seeking its clarity whoever is in custody of such information shortchange you with utmost pleasure.
When you salvage the little information that is adding up, write a story as a result, they turn ballistic, and become sententious about a version, which they say, is precise but nonetheless still scruffy.
It is a pity they are bigheaded and never see it of relevance to put records within their taste when a journalist is developing a story. Until a story is written and when our Septuagenarian leader took notice and chastised them or realizes on their own that some shouting from Mutharika is on the way, then they would rush to dispute the story through a press release.
As a media person, my duty is to crack the reticence associated with what I call public information like how the taxpayers’ money is extravagantly spent. It is common knowledge that the State House staff will be sanctimonious when giving out any version of story for public consumption knowing well whose skin they have to protect.
The observations above are reprieve of blame shifting where authority fails to accept that it is failing to look at the picture with open eyes and realize that the media and the state house will never share the same point.
Even if we write stories that are to the taste of the directorate of the state residences still some sectors within it will find them lacking. Nevertheless, since we will be trying to find out information that belongs to the public, which the statehouse gatekeepers will try to hide, then we will always be on the wrong side of what the state house perceives to be without its description of professional norm and ethics.
The President’s Office Media
That is about your statehouse media team; now there are also bad signs with the team at your office, talking from experience.
With Mutharika, whatever anybody wanted to believe I had concrete grounds to declare that he, or his lieutenants, was always trying to manipulate the media to set his agendas in motion.
While we still lamented for government’s contribution or lack of it in delaying the adoption of the much talked about Access to Information Bill by developing cold feet towards its realization, I find all the sanity to surmise that it is for the same manipulative objective that this bill is still a pipedream.
You see, whenever I was looking for any information from the office of His Excellency, whatever or however undemanding that information may be, I would be told to wait by Mutharika’s all-knowing Press officer.
It was either he was busy in a meeting or he would promise to get back to the enquiring journalists after finding out from the president; he rarely did though.
It was understandable considering how sensitive the position for these media guys at such places is as it thrives on the whims of the president and things become worse when the occupant of such a seat was very unpredictable on his bad days as was the case with Mutharika.
But it even became distasteful when the technocrats or officers in the ministries behave likewise or sometimes just more than the president’s press office; pretending to be the best custodians of public information in their domain. This is confidential information protected at the expense of transparency and accountability.
MACRA and LICENCES
It is by extension of the same proclivity that you find bodies like Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) behaving like politicians. They have flimsy excuse to threaten closure of some broadcasting stations and worse still refuse to issue licenses to deserving operators.
Just how do you explain how a well established media house like Blantyre Newspapers Limited (BNL) or Zodiak Broadcasting Station (ZBS) would be denied licence but president’s tribal grouping Mulhakho wa Lomwe and his family who have never done any media business qualifies for a TV and radio licence. Is this not taking Malawians for granted?
I would be so saddened Madam President when you will continue refusing the deserving the licenses and end up providing one for the Joyce Banda Foundation.
Then there is that Spy MACHINE, do you share the reasons MACRA advanced, justifies its acquisition?
Then there are state controlled broadcasters, the Malawi Broadcasting Station (MBC) television and radio stations. You cannot forget how mere employees of the institution like Bright Malopa and his clique used to insult you as if you were not their boss.
Madam President, the lesson you learnt from such behavior should teach you a lesson on why there is need to free the corporation so that it can act professionally.
If you think what your predecessors were doing is okay, and then it is unfortunate that Malawi is blessed with leaders of your kind.
Learn to know that it is not an issue when you stretch a muscle neither is it an issue when you belch or attend a wedding of a relative. We have no business paying tax to watch you or listen to you doing this on our television and radios. We hired you right from our villages and therefore you are a human being connected to these relations first. It is folly to always follow you with state cameras and microphones when you are visiting Domasi or Chintheche to cheer up with relatives.
Madam President, MBC has some of the most talented journalists in the country, but can you see what a circus it became. An accomplished journalist like Charles Chikapa was thrown out into the doldrums. Joshua Kambwiri was penalized merely for coming from the same area that you hail from. Is this the way we are supposed to suppress talent and progress?
This madness has to stop, and I think it is you who has to give sanity to the way the state broadcaster is to operate. It will be difficult if you will surround yourself with praise singers, because they will be blind or deliberately blind to your shortcomings.
I am in deep doubt that you are any different fro your predecessors if going by your appointment of Dr. Benson Tembo is anything to go by.
Here is a man who was in the management of MBC at the time Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda used it as a suppressing tool. Dr. Tembo is the same person who perpetuated his charge even under President Muluzi when he was the pioneer head of the then Television Malawi.
You cannot describe how it operated then as professional. And this is the person you appoint again and knowing how you used to chastise workers at MBC when you were a cabinet minister for not covering you enough, I know we are back on the same circumstance for another vicious cycle.
The most unfortunate thing is that the grassroots are sensitive to any mistake that you will make and they will give you, your prize or God will do it on their behalf.
I wish you all the best your Excellency President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda.