Signs of Malawi Government Leadership Failures

John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. Thus a leader must have a capacity to influence people follow him/her and do things they would otherwise not. If anyone claims to be a leader but has no followers, s/he is just taking a walk not leading. While we have had a number of governments in Malawi, let me relate the Bingu/Joyce leadership. I must confess that in 2004, I didn’t vote for Bingu wa Mutharika because of his association with UDF which expressed failing government by increased insecurity, hunger, violation of human rights, increased corruption and many other impunities. In Bingu’s first term in office, I regretted and wished I voted for him because of his leadership strengths he had shown.  His leadership brought order in the country. Security tightened, hunger became history to the point of helping other countries, Kwacha stabilised, education quality improved, corruption declined, respect of human rights etc. It must be noted that, Bingu expressed good leadership to prove the opposition who were the majority wrong. He tried his best to please the public to gain its sympathy which worked in his favour in 2009 elections.

It was very sad that after winning with landslides, Bingu became so arrogant even to the public which voted for him. He never entertained any criticism even those ventilated in good faith. The results were obvious, no fuel, no forex, companies closing down, human rights violation leading to the death of 20 people on July 20, 2011 and many other impunities. This was not the same Bingu of 2004 – 2009 which Malawians would wish to have as their leader. When Bingu died, though people would not wish him dead, brought abrupt leadership change. Unethically, many Malawians saw this as a relief from God to bring a better leader, obviously Joyce Banda for that case. Despite Joyce Banda’s ascendency to power, Malawi continues to suffer leadership failures. On the same note, JB dethroned TA Mankhambira of Nkhatabay for saying that the she has been selective when elevating chiefs and distributing food items. The president also elevated chief Chikowi of Zomba despite controversies and court injunction surrounding it and advised two parties to solve their differences while she had worsen their relations already.

  For many years, Malawi leaders have convinced us that we can’t do without aid by over-depending on donors because we have no minerals. I don’t think we must have minerals to realise development in our country. All we need is hardworking and commitment to use the available resources and intensify manufacturing industry. Japan is one such a country whose economy is not dependent on minerals but technological creativity and fishing. Overdependence on donors is bringing a lot of immorality in our country, gay rights being a prominent example. We can’t make decisions for our own good if donors disagree. Donor dependence promotes laziness and worsen poverty situation since once donors default promises, we have no budget to run our country affairs with.

Since the dawn of democracy, examination leakage has been the song of academia. Kenya is one country known for corruption which is more than Malawi yet, no examination leakage because they respect education. The Malawi government has failed to put in place strategies to completely combat this unethical behaviour. The unfortunate part for the past two academic calendars is that despite huge examination leakages, no paper was cancelled to be rewritten as it has been before, all in the name of austerity measures of economy. What kind of graduates shall we produce? This is a manifestation of leadership failure.

Lack of delegation is also a leadership failure. A good leader prepares for his/her exit the day s/he assumes office but that’s not the case in Malawi’s leadership. Bingu wa Mutharika failed to work with his two vice presidents which has contributed to Banda’s leadership failure because she was not mentored. The job worth of a DC is done by the whole president, say distribution of food. It would be cheaper to use DCs to distribute these foods than when the head of state leaves her palace with full escort of ministers, security officers and many more which attracts maximum allowances. On the same note, there is serious looming hunger in Malawi because of careless and clueless leadership style of making people depend on hand-outs. The leadership which is careless delights in people have no food so as to give them food in exchange of a vote, what a cheap politicking. Can you imagine the JB’s government selling the plane and use money to buy food to distribute for political gain instead of using the money for real investment. The looming hunger could be avoided if the leadership was visionary. The president doesn’t  seem knowing what she  is doing.

The shooting of the budget director, Paul Mphwiyo is a manifestation of leadership failure. The people connected to this shooting are likely to be within the limit of the governing party to seal their corrupt acts from the public eye. While we are anxiously waiting for the findings, my fear is that if the big fishes get netted by this spider thread, the case is likely to die a natural death. Failure to combat corruption has exposed leadership failure in our leaders including the past regimes. Government authorities talk about fighting corruption when they are party to it, taking us for granted. After a top government official has been shot, that’s when we want to investigate corrupt acts. This is like fighting effects of corruption instead of its causes. JB’s failure to re-declare assets leaves a lot to be desired.  One may ask, “If JB is not conscious of any corrupt act, why is she finding it heavy to re-declare assets? A good leader must lead by example, if not, s/he fails to be a leader.

Unreflective speeches show failing leadership because instead of solving problems, you implicate them. You remember the “he (Dr. Zikhale) confided in me” on the money from Taiwan DPP which is believed that Bingu Banked in his account and “I know Mphwiyo’s shooters.” A leader listens more and speaks less to avoid avoidable mistakes which end up compromising investigations in such cases. The more one speaks more mistakes are made. Now many wonder as to why the police should investigate Mphwiyo shooting while the president knows the shooters.

The issue of Lake Malawi dispute has not only proven Malawi’s peacefulness but also its leadership weaknesses. Tanzanians have been aggressive towards Malawi in dealing with this issue. Remember the issue of pushing and harassing Malawi fishermen, deploying of soldiers around what they call their portion of the lake, war threats and recently the said xenophobia. In all these, Joyce Banda’s administration has not been patriotic and protective enough. I don’t think diplomacy means sacrificing our citizens. Tanzania is not the first country to deport people. Malawians get deported from USA, UK, South Africa and other countries but there has never been a report of death as a result of deportation, why Tanzania and why at this time? Malawi government through information minister Kunkuyu has backed Tanzania at the expense of deportees, saying that no one with required documents was deported but has not even addressed the issues of one Malawian’s lost life, robbing of property, rape of our women and the beatings which interprets that Malawi government is not interested in protecting its ordinary citizens, in and abroad. The question is, have Malawian authorities investigated to establish that those who were attacked didn’t have required documents? Don’t we have Tanzanians without required documents freely trading in Malawi? If deportation was conducted in good faith, why didn’t Tanzanian government protect deportees against attacks by its citizens? Vice president Kumbo Kachali has emptily soothed the returnees and urging us not to retaliate without even security assurance to the remaining Malawians in Tanzania. Why must it be only us talking about diplomacy when our neighbours are violent? While we don’t have to retaliate violently, we are closely watching as to how Malawi government will deal with illegal immigrants including Tanzanians? If Tanzania was friendly to us, it shouldn’t’ have been harsh to Malawians, especially at a time when we have the border dispute. Their actions or even ours would be misinterpreted. Tanzanian government has taken advantage of Malawi’s weak leadership.

Rising cases of insecurity in the country in one most grave sign of leadership failure. JB repealed the shoot to kill Bingu order. Now security officers are not safe. How can we expect tight security in the country where the life of a security officer endangered? A police officer cannot shoot and kill a criminal but a criminal can shoot and kill a police officer, what are we doing?  Shoot to kill policy was not meant to eliminate lives but to save life and property of an innocent law abiding citizen. The sole purpose of shoot to kill order was to reduce crime for people to move about and around freely when doing their businesses.  Timadikira kuti pafe mzungu ndiye tiziyankhula za kuchepa kwa chitetezo (we wait for the death of a high profile person before we acknowledge security lapse). Many people have been killed, injured, raped with many properties lost but no serious investigations were launched, very unfortunate.

Joyce Banda took what is said a bold decision to devaluate the Kwacha in order to realise fuel and forex availability but the absence of cushion measures has hit hard on a poor Malawian while political elites enjoy its effects. The rising costs have become unbearable to many Malawians. To make matters worse, there is laxity by government to regulate market prices making the devaluation work in favour of business gurus while a consumer suffers price robbery.

The above discussed issues are some of the signs of Malawi government leadership failures. Drawing from Maxwell’s definition of leadership, these issues have made Malawi leaders loose followers, an offspring of leadership failure. It’s my prayer that, 2014 will give us able leaders not bosses.


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