Apr 12, 2013

A birthday message



Dear Madame President,

Today is April 12 and I would like to wish you the happiest of birthdays. This has been a busy month already, I’m sure. A few days ago we marked the one year anniversary of the passing of Bingu wa Mutharika’s death. I believe that was April 5. No, I think the 6th or maybe the 7th. Oh, whatever, it’s been a year since he passed and when you took office, breaking through some illegal manoeuvrings by some of your former colleagues.

Madame President, when you took office I was in Baltimore, Maryland celebrating my birthday with family and friends. I woke up early that morning and frantically searched for a live feed that would be beaming your inauguration; I found it on Al-Jazeera.

I sat curled up on the couch in my hotel room watching these events on my iPad. The feed was spotty at times but there was absolutely no way I was going to miss the inauguration of Africa’s second woman president. A woman president in the country I first called home, Malawi. This was a moment not to be missed.

I don’t need to tell you the significance of your ascent to the highest office in the land, and what this means to millions to young women such me. You know this, you’ve talked about. Yet, I wonder if you’re privy to how many of us know look at your presidency one year on.

You took the helm at a time when Malawi was in turmoil. The shootings of 18 people in Karonga and Mzuzu after nationwide protests sparked by fuel shortages, rising prices and high unemployment had left the country badly bruised. This compounded by crackdowns on journalists, human rights activists, academic freedom, and any political opposition. Economic growth had stalled, and people were really feeling the pinch.

Along you came, promising to restore order and to stabilise the economy. Listening to your economic advisors and the IMF you devalued the Kwacha; this action was hailed by outsiders as a brave and needed step, yet at home new protests were sparked as the price of commodities nearly quadrupled causing even more hardship for people already on the brink. Your government relented by agreeing to salary increases demanded by striking civil servants. You listened.

Yet in spite of this it’s quite troubling to see your administration display some of the same arrogance we came to deplore under Mutharika, Muluzi and the original Ngwazi. You have touted an austerity government, and taken further steps to sell the presidential jet and some fleet vehicles and taken a salary cut to reduce spending; while on the other hand spending gobs of money purchasing expensive Toyota 4x4s for 35 ministers and their deputies. When called out on this, we’re told these expenditures are budgeted for, end of story.

If Malawians have to tighten their belts in times of austerity why can your administration not do the same? Furthermore, you seem to be continually campaigning for a job you already have. Traversing the country handing out bags of chimanga (maize) branded with your name. Your party cadres are awash with cash and flashy regalia. Care to share what fundraising mechanisms you have developed over 12 months to pay for all this?

Yes, you have restored donor confidence in the country but at what cost? Do the people of Malawi have confidence that you and your chosen ministers have the wherewithal to move the country forward or can we expect just more of the name until after the 2014 election? Understandably economic recovery polices are painful and some of the challenges have already eased (fuel and foreign currency shortages) but implementation must be thoroughly thought out to mitigate to the extent possible harm to people already suffering. This isn’t just about elections or pleasing foreign donors. For some it’s a matter of life and death.

Madame President, I really want you to succeed. Your success can translate to meaningful change for the country and your people. And yes, because you are a woman WE NEED you to succeed to show the detractors that the office of the president isn’t chanamuna bambo. Please disappoint us not. 

Respectfully yours,
Bwalya 

3 comments:

I think this needs to be sent to the president...RIGHT AWAY.

Thanks Sunshine! Now there's a thought. :-)

Is episode 11 the last one if not when can we expect episode 12? I've been waiting anxiously to see what happens next.

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