President Peter Mutharika’s handlers must have ‘meticulously’ planned his trip to Europe this week.
They were pathetically at pains to make sure that Malawians are duped to a good measure that the European excursion was a necessary jaunt by a president who practices ‘frugality’ for the sake of us all and seldom travels abroad unless duty calls just like it did in this case.
And so they made sure to tell us that figures to the wild tune of K150 billion will spice this ‘necessary’ trip to EU headquarters in Brussels—in mega deals which awaited our president’s signature.
What is more, after the Brussels excursion, the President would proceed to London’s Oxford University to speak to some union on his pet subject that is education.
But when all is said and concluded, this trip by Mutharika is once again a typical case of the ancient Roman Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome was burning.
What right does the President have to preach education to anybody in the world, let alone at Oxford University, the bastion of top quality education that Malawian kids can only dream about, when he has never managed education here back home?
As if to remind him that Malawians cannot be taken for a ride using the Europe trip propaganda, primary school teachers were on a countrywide strike, all because government cannot pay them their peanuts and change aptly called leave grants.
Then there is Chancellor College (Chanco) which has been closed for over six months over a lecturers’ pay dispute and Malawians have never heard the President make a whimper about it.
He has refused to share and sympathise with the anguish of parents of the Chancellor College kids who live the daily heartache of seeing their children lazing at home when they are supposed to be in class at Chanco, preparing for their unguaranteed future.
The parents have been all over the place doing meetings in all cities and demanding an audience with the President, to no avail.
He has simply ignored them. But that is Mutharika’s management style to bury his head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and hope that the heat would simply go away.
He was Minister of Education at the height of the academic freedom saga with university lecturers when he kept his mouth shut and hoped the scandal would just vanish.
It took his brother, former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika, to simply transfer him to another ministry.
Today the President is Chancellor of the University of Malawi and, typical of him, he is saying problems in the university are not his responsibility but that of the council.
And the questions of Malawians who have been asking why he is Chancellor when he does not want to roll his sleeves and solve the problems the university is currently facing have been met with utter disdain.
The sad reality is we have a president who lives far insulated from our daily grinding reality.
This attitude has permeated into the whole government system that the Minister of Education Dr Emmanuel Fabiano shamelessly told Parliament this week that teachers going on strike is not his problem but that of some district councils who manage schools these days and the Ministry of Finance.
I am not sure why Fabiano should be called Minister of Education if this is the attitude— of shifting of blame— that he is going to display every time we have a problem in the education system in this country.
It simply means we Malawians have nowhere to run. The country is on autopilot and things manage themselves.
Meanwhile, we were supposed to be impressed that our President is going to Brussels to sign mega deals with the European Union as if the body has never stopped pouring Euros into this country and that it all depended on Mutharika travelling to Brussels to make it happen.
I was not unimpressed, not even for a split second.
Malawians will only be impressed when their problems are getting attention and at the moment the verdict is that Mutharika is an incompetent president who does not know what he is doing.
Worse still, he is surrounded by people who are cheating him that he is doing great just to line up their pockets.
They tell him he is the best thing that ever happened to this country, taking this country forward when the reality is that we are going backwards and into an abyss.
The events of this week were far from being impressive.