No picture could be smaller, Madam
So, the gospel according to President Joyce Banda is that as long as you can replace an illegally sacked public official with someone from the victim’s home district, then the law be damned!
That, to say the least, is an interesting thread of presidential thought, which Mrs. Banda apparently calls the "larger picture" that all of us are supposed to look at, see and learn.
The President’s caterwauling and hand-wringing, delivered on Tuesday during one of her cross-country missions of performing mundane tasks befitting a principal secretary or even a district commissioner, were a reaction to the Malawi Law Society (MLS).
Last week, MLS finally jerked itself out of a deep slumber to issue an analytical statement on a wide-range of issues, including the stinging criticism of Banda’s decisions to fire senior public officials willy-nilly.
Noting the apparent irregularities that have accompanied appointments and removal of certain public officers or heads of public bodies, MLS urged that the dictates of the law be complied with when making personnel changes.
But the President, speaking during the elevation ceremony of Traditional Authority (T/A) Mkanda of Mchinji to senior chief, said she did not understand such criticism because, according to her, she replaces the fired officers with people from districts that the victims of her powers came from.
Boy, this President must have a lot of spare time, scrutinising resumes up to such minor details as a candidate’s district of origin!
Based on the President’s reasoning, it follows then, for example, that I can walk up to a bitter Perks Ligoya, fired Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) governor that, "hey buddy, what are you complaining about?
"Granted, you were fired without proper reasons before your five-year term as governor was up, but look boy dear, you have just been replaced you with your homeboy—someone from Thyolo where you also come from, so what’s the fuss?"
At the sound of that, a convinced Ligoya is supposed to break into a wide grin and live happily ever after!
The same, according to the accidental Head of State, is supposed to be the case with fired Immigration chief Elvis Thodi. Both were from Thyolo and, according to Banda, so are their replacements.
Why, argues a frustrated Banda, can’t her critics see this bigger picture? The answer is obvious really. There is nothing big to see. Everything in this reasoning is so small-minded that most of us have to strain ourselves to see anything in her explanation.
In any case, does the new Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) Commissioner General John Biziwick and his predecessor Lloyd Muhara, who was relieved of his duties with 12 months left on his contract, come from the same district?
What about sacked Inspector General of Police (IG) Peter Mukhito and his successor Loti Dzonzi? Do they originate from the same district too? The answer is a resounding no. If this was supposed to be an attempt at spin by her communications handlers, it was disastrous.
In the first place, the tribal issue—especially when connected to the appointment of senior public officials—is certainly not the type of conversation a President would want to have. It is unnecessary. People have to be hired and fired on merit—and legally. You don’t have to look at their districts of origin. It is that simple.
In addition, this is not about the rights of a tribe; rather it is about the rights and freedoms of an individual, no matter where he or she comes from.
If these individuals demand compensation from government for unfair dismissal as is already the case with most of them, they will be doing so on their own behalf, not on behalf of their respective tribes.
The hundreds of millions that suffering taxpayers are likely to cough would go to these individuals, not tribes. Is that so hard to understand, Madam President? Do you need those experts you trust so much to interpret this for you?
I choose to give you the benefit of the doubt on this one, Your Excellency. I desperately want to believe you can figure this out on your own and pray that I am right.