Antonio Guterres, the current United Nations Secretary General, was once quoted as saying: “The global wave of demonstrations we are witnessing shows a growing lack of trust between people and political establishments.
“People are hurting and want to be heard. We must listen to the problems of real people and work to restore the social contract.”
What the UN chief said is that Malawi is part of the global wave of demonstrations. Indeed, the cause of all this is that the political leadership is not listening to what people are saying about their lives. In short, the leadership does not care.
Honestly speaking, with all the problems in Malawi, the buck stops at President Peter Mutharika.
To start with, the main cause of the biggest demonstrations organised by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) was the generally believed fraudulent election by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC). The call by the demonstrators has been for MEC chairperson Jane Ansah and her commissioners to step down.
This call has drawn a blank because Ansah sees nothing wrong to warrant her resignation. This is what has triggered all manner of demonstrations, which sometimes have gone as far as having street fights with the police.
Unfortunately, tear gas and use of live bullets have taken place resulting in injuries and deaths. The country has really been on fire and in the process people have been forced to ask the whereabouts of the President. Naturally, people have been waiting for him to address the nation and show the way forward.
It is sad that the President seems to have opted for a conspiracy of silence. It does not help anybody at all when the President buries his head in the sand, like an ostrich, and expect the problems to disappear.
The President seems to forget his oath of office that he is to protect all Malawians. Probably, he did not know the impact of non-stop demonstrations and heavy-handedness of the police on the demonstrators. Hence, he maintained his silence, even when women and girls were being raped and sexually assaulted at Msundwe in Lilongwe. There is even moral breakdown at the police. The social media is awash with photos of drunken police officers who can hardly walk. What is the Ministry of Homeland Security doing?
Meanwhile, it was surprising, on his return from a Russia-Africa summit in Russia, to hear the President extending a hand to opposition party leaders and activists for some peace talks to sort out the problems in Malawi.
What is so surprising with his call is that does it mean that he needed to go out and be reminded by fellow leaders that Malawi is very unstable to attract any investors? Where is his leadership capability? One wonders why the President went out to hunt for investors when Malawi is so unstable? In fact, his reconciliatory mode has so many hanging questions.
Meanwhile, what the President should know is that the problems in Malawi go deeper than demonstrations. There is corruption, nepotism and abuse of public resources, including taxpayers’ money. Even calling for dialogue now is a problem because his government has never allowed dialogue to work in the past.
What the President must know is that Malawians will continue to ask the MEC chairperson to stand down and this might be to bottom line for dialogue. Is the President ready to fire hire? To say the truth, the dialogue that the President is talking about is long overdue and as a result it is now more complex.
The conspiracy of silence by the President has destabilised the country and poor Malawians are paying the price.