My Fellow Malawians

Our nation is in crisis. And in times of national crisis, leadership is critical. But unfortunately for us, the crisis we face is one of leadership itself.

And so I have decided to address you directly on this issue, because the leadership of President Mutharika and his government is in a state of emergency, and it will take all of us working together to disabuse ourselves from its destructive effects.

Not many days ago, I tuned into the radio to listen to the President, His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, deliver his address to the nation, not knowing that I was about to subject myself to yet another heartbreak.

What unfolded in that address is a perfect illustration of the national disaster that President Mutharika’s government has been for nearly three years.

Since June of 2014, what we have seen with our very own eyes and heard with our own ears is the death of the things all Malawians hold dear.

If we allow Mutharika to continue leading this nation beyond this term, we will be hammering the final nail in the coffin of our nation’s development.

Allowing Mutharika’s failed leadership to continue will mean the assassination of our children’s hopes, our young people’s aspirations, our elders’ responsibilities, our women’s potential, and our nation’s future.

We find ourselves at a critical time in the history of our nation. After more than twenty years of bad governance, the people of Malawi are hanging on to hope by a thread, but President Mutharika’s leadership is like a pair of scissors designed to cut that thread and send us all spiraling into the abyss of deeper levels of poverty.

When I say that Mutharika’s leadership is destroying this country, I am not stating a personal opinion. This is now an established fact that officials of Mutharika’s government are themselves now publicly admitting.

The Minister of Finance is on record as saying that the economy is no longer in the hands of the Mutharika government, but “in God’s hands”.

The Governor of the Reserve Bank is also on record as saying that the country’s economy is “in dire straits”, like a stranded ship with no captain.

And in his own national address, the State President himself described the country under his leadership and government as moving in “reverse”.

These statements are Government’s refusal to admit the obvious, that Mutharika has failed.

For starters, the President has failed to account for the hundreds of ways in which this country is falling apart on his watch.

Contrary to his delusions, the country is not falling apart because of Cashgate in our recent history, or because of changes in the weather for which we had months to prepare, or because of withdrawal of donor aid, or because of civil servants in our institutions.

He has refused to take responsibility for the way things are, and has believed the lie that the country is failing because of what he continues to describe as “challenges”.

But every Malawian from Chitipa to Nsanje knows that the country is not failing because of “challenges”, but because of “failures”. And most of those failures are failures of leadership.

Look at the economy for example. While many Malawians were already facing hunger, Government raised the price of maize at ADMARC by 127%, forcing millions more to face the future with fear.

Instead of strategising to enter the market early enough after harvest when the poor farmers still have the crop they have sweated for—and therefore enable the poor farmers to benefit from a good price due to strong competition, ADMARC chooses to enter the market late when most of the maize is already in the hands of few big traders who take advantage of poor competition and offer very low prices to our helpless farmers.

Instead of smallholder farmers benefiting from this highly priced maize which they worked hard to produce, the beneficiaries are rich traders with political connections.

Now a poor villager eats mangoes for dinner, and a teacher buys gaga for a meal.

This is insensitive, greedy, and a clear failure of leadership.

While fuel prices have gone up, which has caused the price of goods and services to go up, especially food, Government raised taxes on basics like ordinary milk and bread. What happened to the Consumer Protection law of 2003?

This is a failure of leadership.

While productivity levels had already been on the decline, Government has increased its consumption of tax-payers money on luxuries, like cars and private jets for the President that cost millions.

When confronted about this penchant of useless spending, Government blames legislators, claiming that it was Parliament which approved the spending.

The truth is that Parliament only approves the amount State House can spend, not what State House can spend it on.

The choice to use that money on cars and jets is the President’s alone, and it reflects his failure of leadership.

While all industries were already struggling to sustain productivity due to lack of energy, the Mutharika Government has offered nothing but excuses for the fact that on their watch, large parts of the country are now having to operate without electricity for more than twelve hours of the day.

Some parts are only getting electricity from 11pm to 4am, as if ESCOM exists to supply electricity only to power our ability to sleep. And yet, ACB is refused the right to investigate corruption and government interference at ESCOM.

I wish all Executives would be like the ESCOM Financial Officer who refused to be brow beaten into submission to abuse ESCOM’s finances.

Meanwhile, this energy crisis is not given the priority it deserves. As a result, businesses that deal with perishable products such as meat, fish and vegetables that require refrigeration are in serious trouble, putting millions of Malawians at risk.

Hospitals and clinics have also been affected as most surgical operations and incubators, as well as mortuaries all require the kind of energy investment and innovation this government is incapable of making.

This is a failure of leadership.

Proceeds from Tobacco exports for 2016 have been lower than they were in 2015, reflecting a trend we have known for years that tobacco is becoming less and less valuable across the globe, yet there is no strategy to address the need for us to transition to crops whose global demand is rising.

This is a failure of leadership.

While most of our taxes are known to leak out of the system because of corruption, President Mutharika continues to shelter members of his own government from being properly investigated for any part they may have played in the siphoning of state funds over the past ten years.

He claims that he will only take action when there is clear evidence against them, yet he himself refuses to support legislation that will give the Ant-Corruption Bureau (ACB) full independence from his office so that such evidence can be gathered.

Do we even have hope that the K236 billion cashgate will ever be investigated? Even investigators live in fear as Njaunju’s death remains unexplained to-date.

And so corruption continues, and of those who have been convicted for their involvement in Cashgate, there is no report of how much of the stolen funds have been recovered.

This is a failure of leadership.

Similarly, even though it’s been months since Mutharika’s Government sold our treasured Malawi Savings Bank against our advice as Malawians, to this day there has been no report submitted to Parliament on the recovery of the bank’s toxic assets.

This is very typical of this government, making big public claims and then going months with nothing to report on the progress thereof.

Even when the President claims that there is plenty of maize for everyone, there is no public report on how much maize has been procured, from where, on what terms, and with what finances.

This Government is breaking new records with its lack of accountability, to the point that Malawians cannot even get a straight answer regarding the President’s health when he fails to return home from a foreign trip.

One government official says he is in robust health, another says he is meeting investors one by one, another says he is having a minor procedure, and another says he has rheumatism.

Mutharika’s love for keeping Malawians in the dark is precisely the reason why he continues to block the Access To Information bill by which Malawians will have any information they want on demand.

This is a failure of leadership.

If you look at the social sector, you will find more failures of leadership. In education, for example, it is a national tragedy that after more than 50 years of independence, we still have students attending classes under a tree.

And Government is even failing to keep the public university open for one whole academic year. And yet we say our President is a professor?

This is a failure of leadership.

Hospital infrastructure is left in a state of disrepair while Mutharika hires a private jet to Ethiopia to receive an honorary doctorate for accomplishing nothing.

Just imagine that a patient at the central hospital is carried four floors because Mutharika’s Government does not think fixing the elevator is a worthy investment!

This is a failure of leadership.

I could spend all day going sector by sector, but the results will be the same, a gross display of the Mutharika Government’s failure to lead this nation out of poverty into the prosperous future we all dream for ourselves and our children.

Simple solutions that can turn our nation’s fortunes around seem impossible for this Government to implement, not because they are too difficult, but because they require the kind of integrity of leadership that Mutharika and his cronies clearly do not have.

For example, if Mutharika was serious about fighting corruption, he would have implemented the following simple solutions:

1. Separate the Anti-corruption Bureau from the Executive Branch completely so that it has full power and independence to investigate corruption by members of the Executive Branch.

2. Suspend all top Government officials from office who were at the helm of government ministries in years we know money was siphoned from state coffers, until an independent investigation clears them of collusion in the corruption that happened on their watch.

3. Place all government contracts under a special parliamentary review that will determine and terminate all contracts whose terms, structures, and primary beneficiaries are not Malawians.

4. Pass a robust Access To Information bill and use it to expose all public officers with business interests that are using the state as a means to personal gain, so that those officers can be removed from office.

5. Create a special court in the Judiciary that will focus exclusively on cases of corruption and public fraud so that cases of stealing taxpayers’ funds are given priority and speedy conclusion.

But Mutharika cannot implement simple solutions, not because they haven’t crossed his mind, but because he lacks the leadership to stand up to the corrupt elements of his own government.

It is almost as though he is at their mercy more than he is at the service of Malawians.

So as a spokesman for the Malawian people, I have a simple message for President Mutharika: Your Excellency, you have failed.

You have failed the civil service because you have failed to lead.

You have failed the taxpayers because you have failed to end the corruption of your own government.

You have failed the poor because you have failed to live a modest lifestyle.

You have failed the rich because you have failed to make Malawi a secure place for investment.

You have failed the young people because you have failed to keep the doors of our universities open.

You have failed the manufacturer because you have failed to supply electricity for production.

You have failed the farmers because you have failed to insure their farms against climate change.

You have failed the donors because you have failed to remove the dross from your own cabinet.

You have failed the northerners because you have failed to include them in development.

You have failed the southerners because you have failed to end the stranglehold of tribalism.

You have failed the central region because you have failed to prove yourself worthy of their trust.

You have failed the electorate because you have failed to keep 99% of your campaign promises.

You have failed the Democratic Progressive Party because you have failed to govern under its banner.

You have failed the United Democratic Front because you have failed to keep it strong under your blue tent.

You have failed the Vice President because you have failed to maximize the young man’s talents for progress.

You have failed the country because you have failed to live in the same country that Malawians live in.

Your Excellency, I tell you now without fear or favor, that you are living in a fantasy.

You live in Mutharika Republic, whose capital is the State House, where our taxes supply you with an endless supply of free water when Malawians have no water, free food when Malawians face hunger, free electricity when Malawians live in the dark ages, free travel when Malawians walk with no shoes, free fuel when Malawians cry at the pumps, free 100-million Kwacha cars with bullet-proof doors to protect you from imaginary enemies when Malawians have nothing to protect them from your disastrous leadership, free medical attention across the globe for your so-called rheumatism when Malawians are dying in hospitals with no medicines and no doctors.

The Mutharika Republic you live in and of which you are President is a different country from the one the rest of us live in, because the rest of us still live in Malawi, still live for Malawi, still go to school in Malawi, still go to hospital in Malawi, still raise our children in Malawi, still work for Malawi, and still fight for Malawi.

And in your speeches from the distant and out-of-touch comfort of your Mutharika Republic, and in your failure to lead this great country for the past 30 months, you have made it abundantly clear that Malawi is not the country you are living in, its people are not the people you are working for, and its problems are not the problems you are working on.

You have made it abundantly clear that you have taken leave of your senses and that down here in the country of Malawi, looking to you for the leadership we need is not something we should waste our time on.

So keep your distance and keep hiding from us while you can, but you can’t hide forever, because your failures as President will not be forgotten.

And now, my Fellow Malawians, I call on all of you to work hard and help each other succeed, because Mutharika’s government has left you to fend for yourselves until the time comes for you to elect a new president who will use public funds to fight for you.

Until then, let us leave Mutharika to continue his retirement in peace, for he is clearly past his prime.

I just hope that he does not expect us to continue funding his incompetence when we have 17 million Malawians that need more resources than his wasteful Government does.

I also call upon all Members of Parliament and all Councilors to be brave to use your respective roles to serve your country, not your president, for the Malawians you represent are trusting you to show Mutharika that they have lost all confidence in him and his whole cabinet.

And lastly, I call upon all members of the press to continue giving this Government restless nights by probing into every inflated claim it makes about its achievements to expose everything that is nothing more than empty talk.

Together, we the people will overcome the failed leadership of this Government and bring ourselves to the shores of the kind of transformational leadership we desire and demand.

God bless you all and God bless Malawi.

Lazarus Chakwera

December 8, 2016 – Lilongwe, Malawi

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