“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens…” Ecclesiastes 3, Holy Bible.
Of course, scripture is right when it says there is time for everything. And Deng Xiaoping, one of China’s aforementioned leaders, was right when he warned that leaders must be cautious against overstaying in office.
“To build the fate of a country on the renown of one or two people,” once said Deng, “is very unhealthy and very dangerous.”
To buttress the point, Deng is considered the father of modern China. History credits Deng as one of the giants of the past century, for opening up China to trade and investment that eventually transformed a then sleeping giant into the world’s fastest growing economy.
China, today, is poised to challenge US economic and political hegemony. And Deng’s words ring true today although across the orient, news is that current Chinese leaders are comteplating removing limits to the office of its rulers.
Deng, who succeeded the life-long, Chairman Mao, after years of economic pain and attendant woes of dictatorship, would weep at the current folly gripping China’s Communist Party.
Closer home, it is illuminating to note that one of Africa’s much serenaded presidents, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, is now in his third seven-year term in office after also changing the constitution to remove term limits.
At the infancy of his presidency, Kagame himself, too, once warned about overstaying in life; arguing in one interview that if he was unable to groom a successor by 2017, “it means that I have not created capacity for a post-me Rwanda. I see this as a personal failure.”
But hanging around for far too long is perilous business in any job, not just political office. Across all disciplines, overstaying officials, soon find out they are out of ideas, or ideas that were once considered trailblazing and innovative are outdated; their personality which once charmed subordinates no longer inspire others. All this, at the expense of potential energetic and bright successors.
As they say, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ Sometimes, complacency, too. Staying in office for far too long is recipe for corruption, apart from incompetence.
It might look far-fetched now, but there was, actually, a time firing Goodall Gondwe as the country’s economic chief appeared suicidal, if not utterly ill-conceived.
But firing him, Bingu wa Mutharika, to the shock and consternation of everyone, once did. Back then, Goodall did no wrong.
Somet imes, looking back, one gets a feeling the decision to remove Goodall from Treasury and shuffle him to the Local Government Ministry, was cheap point-scoring by the supposedly control-freak DPP patriarch.
Back then, the economy appeared to be a bit bouncing back—I wanted to say flourishing—but just that hyperbole ventures so close to exaggeration bearing in mind, those who promoted that also gave us this line: We were the second fastest growing economy in the world—second only to oil-rich Qatar—I find that a bit patronising.
There was a good feeling in the air, then, largely due to Bingu’s inspiring first-term in office. And Goodall, was part of that success.
Today, one gets the feeling the country has seen the best years of 81-year-old Goodall. At his advanced age, it is not surprising, too, that he is goofing big time, well, a bit too often.
But ‘to be very raw here’, as the late Edward Chitsulo would have said, some of his recent mistakes are not about any dementia, but bad morals.
As calls for his head grow louder each day, including for anti-corruption agents to take some time into his recent experiment with our taxes, the willy-nilly allocation of K4 billion from Account Number One to vultures masquerading as our lawmakers, one can only agree that Goodall’s time is up.
Soon, or later, President Peter Mutharika, the man with the ultimate responsibility to down the curtain on the Gondwe years, has to see that prolonging Gondwe’s stay any longer is an indictment of his own commitment to aspirations of the people.
Goodall, today, is an epitome of mismanagement and as the country edges closer to 2019 elections, he is a liability to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
With elections in 15 months’ time, many voters would have his name in mind as one of the many reasons the DPP is not the party to trust with affairs of government.