In Parliament and in the press some people have expressed disapproval of the manner President Peter Mutharika has constituted his Cabinet. They say it is heavily weighted in favour of the Southern Region and least accommodating to the Central Region.
In Parliament and in the press some people have defended the President by pointing out that constituting a Cabinet is the President’s prerogative. In other words, take it or leave; it is none of your business.
Politics is a highway for all types of people—patriots and self-seekers; those who think in terms of national interest and those who think of personal interest first.
A Head of State, whether a king or a president, who is worthy of the position must put the unity and integrity of his/her nation above all else. He/she must know that dissatisfied citizens create chaos.
Who is a danger to a prince (ruler), a friend or an enemy? You may say an enemy, of course. That is not what a sixteenth century Italian prince called Cesare Brogia thought. One day some of his subjects heard him praying. “God protect me from my friends, I can defend myself against my enemies”.
Dan Carnegie, in his book, How to Make Friends and Influence People tells us that General Obregon of Mexico used to tell his men: “Don’t be afraid of the enemies who attack you but be afraid of the friends who flatter you”.
A king or a prince must be aware of someone who always commends that which he does or says. He may have his own interest at heart, not that of the ruler. It has been said that a flatterer cannot be a friend. In the Tumbuka language there is a saying: ‘Kamuuzganga ntha ndi fwiti, fwiti ndi tilinganenge’. (He who gives you tips is not a wizard (enemy); the wizard is the one who says let him be as I am).
King David of ancient Judea built a strong kingdom. His son Solomon ruled over the kingdom intact, but towards the end of his life he over-worked his people and they grumbled. When Solomon’s son Rehoboam took over, people appealed to him for a less draconian rule.
He replied: “I will do what I like even to punish you with scorpions instead of whips”. This is how he viewed his prerogative but that was too much for most of the people. They rebelled and founded a state of their own called Israel.
Whenever in Africa we hear of civil wars the common cause is that some people have felt excluded from power, decision-making and the benefits that accompany these privileges.
Theoreticians these days tell us democracy is closer to perfection when it is inclusive not exclusive; when those in power consider carefully the views of those in opposition.
In the past 20 years, democracy in Malawi was at best during Bingu wa Mutharika’s first term, 2004 to 2009. He located major projects throughout the country and awarded top promotions in the civil service without discrimination. In so doing, he united the country as judged by how they voted for him in the year 2009.
A president’s constituency is the whole country regardless of who voted or not voted for him. When he appeals for national unity, he must not forget that people expect a consideration for their unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline.
People that are closest to a president have sometimes been known to mislead him into think that they are the only ones who are loyal and capable. A president should from time to time, stand on a soapbox and view what is going on beyond the fence of his advisers. Those who are saying the President has the prerogative to appoint whoever he chooses are right up to a point. Beyond that point, the views of those who want a slice of the national cake should be accommodated.
The policies that one president adopts can unite people of diverse communities as Joseph Tito of the now defunct Yugoslavia did. He skilfully balanced the interest of the groups. When he died his successors could only think of themselves as Serbians, Croatians and so on. The State of Yugoslavia ceased to exist. This will happen anywhere when some people advise heads of state to ignore petitions.
It is better that a country has institutions which can prop the integrity of the State even after a charismatic leader dies. From now up to 2019, we must give Malawi such institutions. In Parliament, may Honourable Harry Thomson ask again: “Are Malawians satisfied with the present Constitution?