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Talking Blues: Of leadership and this and that

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Lazarus Chakwera 67

“If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the questions, and only five minutes finding the answers,” – Albert Einstein

Before I delve into our discourse for this week, I want to reiterate that any assertion implying one can prosper in a country where the government is flying headless is wrong. Leadership, whether one likes it or not, is everything.

Visionary leadership facilitates good governance at all levels. It creates an enabling environment on a level playing field where honest hard workers like you and me enjoy the fruits of your labours and where lazy folks find the going hard.

Clueless leadership, on the other hand, skews the ground so severely that while people like you and me toil day and night without making any tangible progress; some, for instance, those women who were deployed the other day to insult the Secretary to the President and Cabinet, compose and sing songs of praise to the very same next to non-existent leadership.

That said, allow me to get started.

By the end of two or so years into former President Peter Mutharika’s reign, those who were expecting nothing good to emanate from his leadership had been proved right.

Why were they pessimistic? It is because they had seen a dearth of effective leadership qualities in him during his troubled times at the helm of the ministries of Justice, Education and Foreign Affairs.

In fact, it was as if he had a magnet that courted trouble. The first signs surfaced during his tenure as Minister of Justice. The spate of laws on his watch forced Hon Henry Phoya, at that time a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) backbencher, to call his own party’s legislation “bad laws”.

Secondly, when Mutharika was conveniently moved to the less contentious Ministry of Education, the Academic Freedom saga broke out and lingered longer than it should have under a competent minister.

His move to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did little to launder his now battered image and worrisome leadership prospects.

“Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather” (Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37) proved prophetic in his case because the moment he was installed Minister of Foreign Affairs, the diplomatic spat with the British government erupted.

Thrice tried and tested as a minister, thrice did Peter Mutharika fail to rise to the occasion each time.

On what grounds, therefore, would anyone have based optimism that he was the leader Malawians had been waiting for?

None.

With Peter Mutharika’s performance, most – at least 60% of Malawians going by the 2020 Fresh Presidential Elections, believed we had reached rock bottom and couldn’t sink any lower.

“Anyone taking over after Peter Mutharika,” went the talk, now proving wishful thinking, “will look good because having hit rock bottom, we cannot sink any lower”.
Wishful thinking indeed!

What has improved? What could potentially improve during the remainder of President Chakwera’s term?

• Servant leadership? Rhetorically, yes, of course. Excellent speeches with zero action.
• Uniting Malawi? Which hitherto divided elements have jelled under this mantra?
• Prospering together? Together with who? Family and friends? Perhaps. The masses? A big NO.
• Ending corruption? Let’s not even go there.
• Rule of law? Where a “civil war” amongst top law enforcement agency officials rages unabated? Mhhhh. Where women clad in ruling party colours are unleashed to insult the number one civil servant who is simply trying to do her work professionally? Some rule of law indeed!

In short: we are back on square one, if not on minus square one. The more things change, the more they remain the same if you’re lucky, and the more they regress if unlucky.

This is why we need to go back to the drawing board and review how we choose party leaders who eventually become Malawi leaders.

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