‘The whole government of Malawi is a criminal enterprise, that’s what I found out,” former budget director Paul Mphwiyo.
Paul Mphwiyo, as brutal as he was on his above assessment of our government, was damn right.
To give Mphwiyo his due, he was discussing this in context of cashgate and corruption but sometimes our government, both the rulers and their agents, appear and act as a criminal enterprise.
Just imagine the nature of our government’s response to the persistent murders of people with albinism in the country, for one.
At the very least, our government is culpable of criminal negligence, if not worse.
For the negligence part, ever since ‘mighty’ DPP return to power in 2014, some 25 peoples with albinism have been slain in cold blood by unknown attackers.
The attacks have occurred at an alarming regularity that a top United Nations official had to issue a stark warning: “at some point that the whole population of 10 000-strong persons with albinism faces extinction.”
At best, our government’s reaction has been to rehashing statements condemning the vice and promising protection.
Then, our government has resolved to window-dressing actions such meetings with people with albinism—a move that forced the Association of People with Albinism in Malawi (Apam) this week to say enough is enough, and rejected President Peter Mutharika’s recent overtures for a second round of meeting at his opulent palace.
But DPP is not a party that loves reality, so, instead of accepting the writing on the wall and move to placate fears that the administration is only interested in offering platitudes and lip-service, Mutharika’s aides organised a revolt in APAM’s ranks and file, and invited a splinter group to State House to meet Mutharika.
Apparently, the photoshoot of Mutharika surrounded by people with albinism is so important to this government, that its agents had to turn to bribery, intimidation and coercion, according to Apam members, for the president to get his way.
All this smacks of criminality. All this is truly predictable. These are tactics the rest of the civil society are quite familiar with. What we did not know is that our government can be so heartless to open up its usual propaganda dogs to wage a slander campaign against victims of the worst atrocities this country has ever known.
It just shows the depths of this government’s desperation. Even a small demographic of people—as vulnerable as the persons with disability are—is being seen as an existantial threat and even after State House warned the rest of the public not to turn the tragedy of the attacks into a political issue, the actions of its own officers expose State House’s own machinisations.
And we know, its for political reasons, damn it, that State House is so afraid to see Apam and its rallies hold a vigil at State House to remind the president that they hold him accountable for this failure of the state to end the attacks. Instead, State House, aware that the perceptions that the president has been clueless and spineless to halt the attacks will not be forgotten when the polling centres open on 21 May, has resorted to desperation to an extent that the state broadcaster is now vilifying Apam officials as if they are some foreign agents caught spying on the country.
Suddenly, with the prospect of the vigils at State House showing the world what Apam thinks of APM’s leadership drawing closer, our government is throwing caution to the wind but the damage has already be done.
Malawians, not just Apam are now familiar with Mutharika’s crisis management style: First bury head in the sand—like the proverbial ostrich, and pretend all is well. Then surrogates attack those calling for his intervention and facing unbearable pressure, call for dialogue and issue a statement promising action.
That, Apam has rejected. The rest of the country will have their say on 21 May, 2019.