President Peter Mutharika, in his New Year message to the nation, says ‘he is hopeful that the kwacha will stabilise, more jobs will be created and new businesses will be opened’.
What captured my curiosity in the speech is his continuous use of the verb ‘will’-it features often, perhaps, more than any other word.
Now, the verb ‘will’, if we go back to primary school grammar, is a word that describes intention not accomplishment.
In fact, the Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines ‘will’ as a word ‘used for talking about or predicting the future’.
Seriously, you know something is terribly wrong when, after 19 months in office, the President still talks about an intention of having the local unit stabilise against major trading, of creating jobs and opening new business.
By today, I thought we should have moved from intentions, from dreaming and started showing something out of what we have been promising each other.
I thought, today, the verb ‘will’ should have been replaced by phrased such as ‘we have’.
These verbs, frankly speaking, tell us more about where, as a nation, we are with the Mutharika’s leadership: We are still at the experimentation stage.
Look here, Mutharika is not the first leader to have come into power at a time of serious economic challenges. Of course, the President told BBC weeks ago that he is the first leader to have come to power faced with Cashgate, donor withdrawal and floods. I am sorry to argue that the President was only trying to seek sympathy. The truth is that, one, there were no floods in May 2014 when he rose to power. Floods, which are a common disaster in Malawi, only struck in January 2015 and the response plan was a joint resource mobilisation effort between government and many other stakeholders both local and international.
And two, Mutharika, indeed, inherited a suffering economy because the donors had already withdrawn their budgetary support due to the Cashgate scandal.
But let s face facts here: Cashgate, whichever way you would want to spin it, is corruption. The donors withdrew their budgetary support due to this kind of corruption.
Taken from that context you will note, as earlier said, that Mutharika is not the first President in Malawi to have come to power under circumstances where the donors had withdrawn their support due to corruption.
It happened with Bakili Muluzi in 1994, his brother Bingu in 2004 and Joyce Banda in 2012. But what is surprising is that though all his three predecessors managed, within just six months in office, to bring back the donors, stabilise the economy and usher in hope, Mutharika, after 19 months in office, is failing to do that.
Take the instance of his late brother’s story.
He only managed 36 percent of the national vote-a clear symbol that he was not loved by most Malawians.
But after rising to power, it did not take the noise of public sector reforms to win the hearts of every most Malawians. His inaugural speech was inspiring and hopeful and, most critically, he quickly chose his own path of leadership-not one dictated by Muluzi.
In other words, Bingu went business unusual and, in a flash, the donors, the academia, the media, the civil society organisations (CSOS) and university students all joined his cause. In other words, people who did not support his UDF candidature quickly changed their minds and it was not surprising to see him getting the landslide victory during 2009 General Elections.
By contrast, Peter, just like his elder brother, got 36 percent and that, arguably, is nothing different from his brothers’ story of having a candidature being disliked by most.
But despite preaching the business unusual sermon, Mutharika has chosen to surround himself with same old faces that formed the inner circle that misled Bingu to his last fall.
There is one thing Mutharika can do to change the focus of his leadership: Go business unusual. How? It begins with one thing: Get away from the same old faces. The old faces formed the inner circle that was behind the bad decisions that destroyed Bingu. n