With unprecedented power blackouts and an economy so dreadful that no investors other than dubious Chinese gambling companies are interested in it, the failure and ineptitude of president Peter Mutharika as President has been harshly and unequivocally exposed.
Under President Peter Mutharika, the looting and corruption crisis we knew as cashgate has not been curbed but has escalated massively in the form of corrupt deals for a water project in Salima, corrupt maize purchase deals at Admarc, and corrupt deals at the ministry of health and the central medical stores just to mention a few.
We now have a government that is failing to raise wages for its workers, let alone find funds for other critical national infrastructure, like health care and education. Service delivery has totally collapsed. As of the main health referral centres, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre and Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, they are so unreliable that the prospect of being treated there is so frightening and no government official dares trust them when they need medical care. The governing party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has become so clueless that the only consistent elements about it are policy inconsistency and corruption.
Malawi could be the only country where in a time of peace and without any natural disaster of any kind, the official government economic thinkers can convince themselves and their president that the solution to an acute shortage of electricity is to employ the use of diesel powered generators leased at an exorbitant price from India!
I do not know what should frighten Malawians more- the fact that any one leader can prove to be so inept at leading the country and solving its relatively small and simple problems, or the fact that at the advanced age of 79, instead of simply admitting failure and retiring, he is refusing to throw in the towel and talking of contesting again in a presidential election.
Mutharika thinking as he embarks on this path? What is it that he plans to do in the next five years they he has failed to do in his first five years? Or does he just want the nation to see him bleed as the pressures of leadership continue to ride high and strong on his ageing body?
There is another, more important dimension to president Peter Mutharika’s intention to contest again that needs to be pointed out. It seems Mutharika has looked and analysed his cabinet and his party, and concluded that there is no-one in the party who can competently take over leadership when he retires. It suggests that when he looks at his “children”, Grandpa Mutharika sees no-one ready and capable of leaving the mantle to, and therefore has no choice but to press on himself even if the move is hazardous to his own health and peace of mind. What message is he giving out when he at the age of 79 must contest again in an election while his party has younger men like Joseph Mwanamveka, Kondwani Nankhumwa and Samuel Tembenu? There is even a very young and level-headed Vice President who is supposed to be next in line. Are Mutharika, and the DPP itself, telling us that none of these younger vibrant politicians are capable of leading that party or leading Malawi? What does that then say about the future of the DPP as a political party beyond Peter Mutharika?
Looking at his stunt this week of visiting the retired Honourable John Tembo, and adding on to that a study of some of the old politicians still hanging on to the political coattails, it has suddenly dawned upon me that politicians need to and must a have retirement age enforced by law.
It may come as a surprise to many to note that while every profession has a retirement age, it seems that one of the notable exceptions is politics. I believe that there is a reason for having retirement age in every profession. After a certain age one’s efficiency is considered to decline and it is time for him or her to retire from work and enjoy the remaining life in peace.
Retiring the older generation is also essential as young people need employment and one of the ways to provide for this is by filling in the vacancies vacated by the older people via retirement. Somehow though, when it comes to our presidency, there is no retirement. This is a very curious situation especially when you consider that the president is a civil servant and the civil servant retirement in Malawi in 60 years of age. Is it just double standards or a constitution written by old, power-hungry people that made this possible?
Perhaps I need to elaborate the point further for the purposes of clarity. We need young people to take up senior positions in political arena, which is only possible when elders leave active participation in politics. Politicians are also human beings, and after a certain age they are also prone to age related issues and thus for the same reason as there is a retirement age in other employment there should be one for politicians. Whilst senior politicians would have valuable knowledge and experience, generally they have a more conventional approach, which acts as a barrier to new thoughts and ideas. Ideally, the retirement age should be in line with retirement age set for other employment (age 60), and where a politician is considered as a valuable mentor he or she can be involved as a consultant but not push directly for power. Having a set retirement age for politicians would also ensure that a person knows that his reign of power would end at a definite point of time and he may have to answer for any misappropriation sooner rather than later.
Otherwise, it seems to me, we will continue to see spectacles of old people failing or refusing to initiate smooth power transitions, and I am especially concerned if we cannot convince ageing presidents to retire, we will continue to have undesirable state funerals which, as we noted in 2012, can be potentially dangerous to national peace as power plays are made even before the body is cold, and hamper the proper mourning of the deceased.
Perhaps what President Peter Mutharika has not been told and therefore doesn’t know – which is why he thinks Malawians still want him as leader – is that there is overwhelming convergence against his regime and his leadership.
Someone needs to tell the President that he needs to retire and not try to run again. This is the only honourable option for him. He has failed miserably to do anything of note in his term as president and I dare say that anyone encouraging Arthur Peter Mutharika to run for president again is simply licking his boots and afraid to tell him the truth.
Mutharika can rant and rave that he was elected in a free and fair election and therefore has a legitimate mandate to govern the country. The grim reality, however, is that, given his age and his decimal failure as president and leader, – from failing to implement any of the promises made in his party’s election manifesto to encouraging corruption buy shielding the corrupt and looking the other way as looters and fraudulent officials work hard at enriching themselves under his watch, it is his responsibility- no, his duty to retire honourably and set the stage for national economic and social recovery. For the sake of his legacy, he needs to send out a message that the country is more important than individuals.
If Mutharika truly loves this country, his retirement after this unremarkable and bungling first term will probably be the most effective demonstration of that love.
Malawi does not need more of the Mutharika incompetence.