Saturday, November 24, 2012

President Joyce Ntila Banda: Ruling By Confusion!

Joyce Ntila Banda, before April this year a disgruntled politician who, if the truth be told, was in that capacity as a mere lame-duck Vice-President,  has, since her accidental ascendancy to the position of Malawi's Chief Executive Officer on April 7, proven just how clue less she is as President.
In deed, ever since that tragic morning of April 5, 2012- the first day independent Malawi had a dead president at the New State House (now renamed Kamuzu Palace) in Lilongwe- Mrs. Banda has steered Malawi to destinations unknown and, from the look of things, Malawians are yet to see the worst.
To start with, Mrs. Banda steered Malawi to a destination unknown when she, without second thoughts, declared to South African media that she would devalue the local currency, the Malawi Kwacha. That, to say the least, was a headless decision because Presidents in their right frame do not go about blubbing about intentions to plunge the national currency a little down the ditch.
Devaluation, due to its, mostly, negative connotations, is always bad news to a people long-used to back-water salaries, demotivational workplace policies, hidden unemployment rates, among others. People long-used to civilisation-in-reverse (for that is the proper term for these negative elements) deserve better treatment than devaluation.
Not that devaluation is always bad. Nay. But, as former president Bingu wa Mutharika- that giant son of Malawi Pride Magazine says, in its latest edition, was murdered at the New State House) used to say, it is headlessness and immature (both politically and economically) to devalue your national currency in the absense of clear-cut cushioning measures. It is for the reason that the Second Ngwazi vehemently refused to bulge on the issue of devaluing the Kwacha.
And, surely, unshaken did Bingu stand against those twin murderers-of-world economies- the World Bank and International Monetary Fund-   that, in their desperate bid to paint a negative picture of him, they begun to systematically squeeze him where it hurt the most. They withheld their financial support, they said Malawi's economic programme had gone off rail, and they talked bucketfuls of more nonsense, all of it sickening to the ear.
But Bingu stood still, to the happiness of the nation.
And Bingu was a visionary man.
Because Bingu was a visionary man.
He died a visionary man.
And would be sad to see his successor become a follower- of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank- instead of being the leader Malawians wanted her to be. Mrs. Banda lost her leadership and political clout the moment she became President.
Some say she was surprised by the sudden tide of power.
Some say she was ill-prepared.
Some say she was taken unawares, and did not have time to formulate policies.
But some say what she is doing is the way she is; the way she has always been.
Well. what she used to be is none of our business. It will only become our business if that's what she is today.
And what she is today is a Lady-President without a clear-cut policy.
Look at how she devalued the Kwacha by a record 49 percent soon after taking over the country's leadership position. And she did so at a time Malawians desperately needed  good news. And she did so without any concrete cushioning measures either from her People's Party of her leaders- the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank!
Today, Malawians are still waiting for the much-needed financial inflows.
This hour, Malawi is still gasping for economic breath. But Mrs. Banda's leaders- the International Monetary Fund and World Bank- have done nothing. All they do is visit the country, and promise to send one more tam before they can start injecting Malawi's economy with the foreign currency Mrs. Banda and Malawi's business community so dies to have.
So far, it has been more promises, little action.
But this was preventable. If only Mrs. Banda had been foresighted.
She has proved she is not.
The other sign that things are not going as planned for Mrs. Banda is this thing called fuel queues. Mrs. Banda made the mistake of telling Malawians two months ago that, ever since she became Malawi's first female president, sub-Saharan Africa's first, and Africa's second (female president), the fuel queues have long disappeared.
That, as the queues at filling stations all over the country testify, was a Presidential lie! Whether this falls under presidential immunity nobody -except, perhaps, Attorney General and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Ralph Kasambara- knows!
And there seems to be no short-term solution in sight. Former president, the slain (if we have to believe Pride Magazine Bingu wa Mutharika, often talked of constructing strategic fuel reservoirs that would keep Malawi's vehicles going for, at least, a month. But Mrs. Banda has been quiet as usual, may be another stark reminder about how blank she is or, rather, how blank she has become.
Surely, Malawi needs some long-term solution, and the fuel reserves provide just that.
Another sad reminder that Mrs. Banda and her administration are as blank as the first man to be created, Adam (the first time he saw the world around him, and saw that he was alone among the many animals and plants).
Take, for instance, the issue of the Nsanje World In-land Port. That port was on top of Mutharika's agenda, and made this nation believe in his 'colour dreams'. And, from the look of things and progress on the ground, things were going as planned, and work started in earnest.
But, just last month, the equally clueless and policy-ignorant Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu said the In-Land Port was no longer a policy issue for Malawi, and that it is no longer a priority.
That is a sign of administration sickness. How can the port not be a policy issue when it features in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy 3? Is this nation in the hands of people who know what is good for this country, or we have these accidental ministers and governmental officials out to ruin this beautiful land of the lake?
Malawians seem to be lost because even Mrs. Joyce Banda has been blank on this issues, telling Malawians that her administration will come up with a final stand "soon". Final stand on what? Something which is in the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy? Give Malawians a break from this nauseating today-you-say-this, tomorrow-you-say-that political strategy. It is no strategy because it stinks!
Want more examples of malaise in the way of running things? The issue of minority rights comes to mind.
The other day, at the United Nations General Assembly this year, Mrs. Banda was at it, promising the world that Malawi would soften her stance on the issue. She followed it in Parliament, telling the country's legislators that her administrations planned to repeal all anti-minority rights laws, and that, meanwhile, pending such an outcome, her administration would play a not-so-hard, not-so-soft approach.
Her sentiments were followed by yet another declaration by Attorney General and Constitutional Affairs Minister (two positions as if he is the only level-headed mind in this country! No, give the other position to your friends Mr. Kasambara. Hey, Mrs. President, have you run out of ideas? Can't you see that these are two portfolios that, somewhere, come to contradict and put the man in charge of both of them in a fix? Give than man a break from one of these positions. Asaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!) Ralph Kasambara, who said last month that Malawi had placed a moratorium on laws to do with unnatural sex.
A week later, he was- as has become the norm with this experimental administration- at it again: denying he never said that. Now, now, now- give Malawians a break from your undecidedness. Give them rest from this visible uncertainty.   Why can't you just make heads or tails?
Well, today, the President has ventured on food distribution exercises, a task well-suited for District Commissioners. Mrs. Banda maintains that she has always been a loving, charitable lady all her life.
But there is half a lie in such a statement. Why, if she is a charitable lady, can't she declare that she doesn't want to receive any allowances for any such trips?
She can't do that, for the simple reason that she is fundraising for her campaign in 2014. She is draining tax-payers money, in the name of performing charity works, while folking her right hand in the kitty- getting the last of our banknotes.
Was charity, if I may ask, ever this expensive?
What is the point, here, when you donate items worth K2 million while drawing allowances in the region of K20 million? They call it theft.
But Mrs. Banda has gone on an all-out campaign defending herself. She says she will not stop to go out of the countryside to donate items- even if she knows that's the task for District Commissioners. The President has also 'said' she will continue to draw allowances for such petty trips (yes, she has 'said' so because she hasn't denounced the allowances).
Of course, there is hunger in the nation. Check these facts out: In August 2012, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) issued a request, asking a number of agencies to launch a humanitarian programme to address Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee findings that indicated that up to 1.6 million Malawians faced hunger. The efforts started with three districts, with plans to scale up the efforts in a phased manner in a drive to reach up to 1.6 million people in 15 affected districts between January and March 2013. 
So far, DoDMA statistics indicate, the operation has reached close to 700,000 beneficiaries in Machinga, Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Balaka, Blantyre, Neno, Ntcheu, Phalombe, and Zomba. Thanks to the 25,000 metric tonnes of maize released by the government from the Strategic Grain Reserves (SGR) for the start of the response, things seem to be moving in the right direction. What with, in Phalombe district alone, the relief efforts targeting 3018 households in T/A Jenala, 7854 in T/A Chiwalo, 1888 in T/A Nkhulambe, totaling 12,760 households!
However, there is a shortfall which, according to the World Food Programme, stands at US$26 million (about K8 billion). Without these funds, these efforts will be compromised.The situation doesn't look promising because the July Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report estimated that 1.6 million people- 1 percent of the rural population- will be food insecure between January and March 2013.
However, preliminary results from the second 2012 MVAC update assessment, which took place between 1 October and 4 October 2012, indicate an increased number of food insecure people in need of assistance.  
Now, looking at these statistics, is it normal for a 'whole' State President to be going around distributing 100 bags of maize (50 Kg), instead of contributing resources that will fill the  US$26 million (about K8 billion) gap?
That is why rational thinking Malawians this that the nation is in a state of confusion.  
And, surely, contradictory pronouncements made by government officials fit so well into this theory of confusion- this frame of confusion. Now, when confusion befalls the President, her party officials, and the greedy opposition politicians who have abandoned their own ships, and gone to feed in the monger of this accidental administration, they call it a crisis!
Whether it is any longer a silent crisis is a your own decision!   

No comments: