Our learned lawyers are busy, on social media, debating the merits and demerits of the High Court in Mzuzu decision to grant an injunction restraining Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister George Chaponda from executing his duties.
Well, it’s their field—we, the lay, should just sit, listen and learn a jargon, a lie and truth here and there.
But, to a governance scholar like me, the whole issue is not so much of a legal tussle we should be debating its merits and demerits.
The fundamental issue here is President Peter Mutharika’s leadership style of being indecisive whenever a pressing issue arises on his desk. He appears a leader on the terraces—arms folded, eyes popped out—just watching things happen on the pitch.
He does not appear to be in control of the nation. He appears tired, demotivated—almost resigned to fate. We are in a big problem.
Consider the maize issue. I do understand the scale of the scandal to the nation, but I don’t think it is that critical to grip and hold the entire nation at ransom the way it has done. I do not think it is a hot scandal that can put the government at the heat it has done. No.
The scandal, (assuming it deserves to be called so) when it broke, only demanded a decisive leader to make right things. All you needed was a decisive leader, at the onset of the scandal, to stamp his authority, bring confidence in the system by being seen to be doing something.
He could have set the right agenda by bringing confidence in the citizenry by, one, pushing aside Chaponda and Admarc boss Foster Mulumbe; and, two, immediately ordering the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate, not instituting a commission of inquiry.
Pushing aside Chaponda and Mulumbe does not mean the two are guilty.
As somebody who has worked in different international institutions and also well-travelled, Chaponda knows better that when the public opinion is against you, it is noble to step aside and give room for thorough investigations.
Unfortunately, typical of him, the President chose to sit on the issue while it culminated into a crisis.
Even at a crisis level, something that pushed him to assemble such a rambling commission of inquiry, the President is still indecisive in dealing with Chaponda who, according to public opinion, is the symbol of what is wrong in the maize deal.
Out here, the feeling is that the President is protecting Chaponda. We feel the President is failing to execute his duty to relieve Chaponda of his duties and pave the way for smooth investigations. This is why some people have even gone through court to remind the President that he is failing Malawians by choosing to be silent on Chaponda.
His silence on Chaponda, I should underline, is deafening, destructive and a strong symbol of an indecisive leader failing to do what is right.
The challenge is that the more he remains indecisive on Chaponda, the more trouble he creates for himself and his government. Malawians are not sitting idle on this. They have shown the zeal through that injunction and, trust me, every day the momentum is growing to the cause. It might turn nastier.
However, I still believe all is not lost for Mutharika. He has everything at his disposal to do right things. All he needs is to be decisive. He needs to make a decision driven by public interest. He needs to sacrifice some people for the sake of progress. He is the Head of State—and he needs to act as one. n