It is time to demystify State presidency

As it were, the first Malawi State president, Dr Kamuzu Banda, was a very unique man, difficult to understand his way of life.  No Malawian could claim to know him well.  Probably, by design, he decided to set himself apart.  He was well-disciplined and not easily approachable. In the process, his way of life created a fear factor.  Then people came up with the idea of hero worshipping him, then, by and by, he became a dictator.

Indeed, Banda’s rule left an indelible mark in the minds of Malawians as they were thinking that no ordinary man can be a president.  Whoever wants to be elected had to be as mystic as Banda.  To be fair, it can be said that his high level of discipline served both him and the country well.  Due to discipline there was no corruption in the civil service, but only hard work.

After Banda retired from politics, there have so far been four predecessors.  These have shown that a person does not need to have some unique characteristics to be President.  However, as much as Malawians do not want to go through dictatorship again, some of the presidents have copied some behaviours from Banda.  For example, the idea of president Muluzi wanting an Open/Third-term was like extending his tenure on the assumption that the country cannot find someone else like him.

The other thing is that, Banda had no deputy.  Effectively, since multiparty democracy, deputy presidents seem to be just for window-dressing.  It has happened with all governments and the media has been reporting some soured relationship between the presidents and their deputies.  All this is because the presidents want to look special and that no one else should be near them.  If they had their way, they could change the Constitution and remove the vice-presidency.

For the presidents to continue to look special, they design ways and means of being surrounded by sycophants, hero worshippers and some hangers on. This is successful because these people receive handouts in cash and kind.  Their job is to exaggeratingly talk about how special the President is and that no one else in the country is comparable to him/her.  Sadly, it is such behaviour of saying what you do not mean which makes the government feel satisfied with their management.  Just imagine, if all the State presidents— past and present—were and are indeed successful, would this country be struggling with poverty up to now?

It is common knowledge that State presidents emphasise their self-importance as a way of sticking to power.  Malawians should learn to call a spade a spade in order to save this country from further destruction. People must realise that the importance of a president is based on his/her successes.  It is not an abomination to have a one term President if he has failed the country.  Praises from sycophants is not an intelligent way of grading President’s performance.

Going by the adage ‘power is sweet’, presidents hate leaving office because they cannot imagine living an ordinary life and be a follower to another president.  As people and their parties are gearing up for the 2019 elections, no one should be taken as a second-class citizen.

If one wants to be a presidential candidate, he/she should just go for it.  The past presidents who thought were special did not do much for Malawians.

So, why can’t another person try? Some people feel offended when they hear others saying that the Peter Mutharika government has failed. Their argument is that at the moment the inflation is at a single digit.  Fair enough. But this does not make sense to jobless Malawians, the poverty-stricken people and those failing to get medicines in government hospitals.  As long as lower inflation rate cannot be translated into the situation on the ground, by improving lives of ordinary Malawians the government can as well not celebrate it.

In conclusion, the country has not benefited much from the so-called presidents with unique characteristics.  Therefore, anyone can run this country provided he/she is disciplined, listen to other people and differentiate between genuine and fake praises. n



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