Joyce Banda and Khumbo Kachali should not cheat us
My Diary: 6th October 2012
Malawi President Joyce Banda and her deputy, Khumbo Kachali, must be a disappointed lot seeing that their gesture of cutting their salaries by 30 percent in the name of austerity has received a lukewarm response from the public.
By now, the two must have realised that Malawians may be anything, but they are not so stupid as to see substance where there is mediocrity or perceive reality where there is naivety.
The public in Malawi does not know how much the President and her deputy cart home every month, but knowing public salaries, it would be safe to assume that it is not much.
So, in the absence of this vital information, how does the President and her deputy begin to think that the public will clap hands and praise God after the presidency’s empty gesture?
Do we know how much will be saved from this for us to feel good that finally JB and Kachali are walking the talk and sharing in our pain now made worse by the monthly fuel increases which their administration sees nothing wrong about?
Are Malawians so daft that they would not know that the so-called salary cut can be recouped through a day’s allowance on a trip in US or Europe? Is this not the reason both JB and Kachali are defending their constant travels both in Malawi and abroad?
The Vice-President even insulted Malawians and their mothers just to keep himself on the road or in the air. The President herself says she cannot even force her Cabinet ministers to follow her gesture and cut their perks as she claims she does not have the mandate to do so. What she means by this, I have no clue. I was meant to understand all along that she hired this Cabinet and, together, they want to serve Malawians.
What can, therefore, stop her from convincing her ministers during a Cabinet meeting to share in the pain Malawians are going through by cutting perks, is a puzzle to me.
But this is not surprising at all. Have some of the ministers themselves not already spoken that they are afraid for their perks after JB’s gesture? That they think they are being singled out to sacrifice their beloved Mercedes Benz?
When I hear such things coming from people who chose to serve in public office, my heart bleeds for my motherland. It simply shows me how damned my country is. That people who go into public office do so not to serve, but to milk the purse for their own comfort, extravagance and opulence. How can ministers complain of being singled out and talk of how great a speed machine called Mercedes Benz is when the people in the villages, the very ones they claim to represent and serve, cannot afford even a pinch of salt or a bar of Maluwa soap? Theirs is a life of constant daily struggle as they go to bed (is it a mat?), they do not know where their next meal will come from.
This is a reality our public officials fail to see as they eat and drink on a government gravy train. That is why our ministers and other top government officials from poor Malawi shamelessly stick to extravagance such as flying first class when officials such as ministers and ambassadors from rich countries, including UK and US, where most of our aid comes from, fly economy.
They realise that public service is service not self-enrichment at the expense of the poor masses. Is it a wonder then that the so-called austerity plan which Kachali launched only last week is an empty document? Although it was launched, Finance Minister Ken Lipenga says government is still looking at ways of cutting expenditure.
One wonders until when should Malawians wait for details. At the end, JB’s salary cut as well as the so-called austerity measures launched last week are just an empty public relations stunt with a spectacular failure rate. This is because Malawians cannot be cheated to see substance where there is none.