No, Mr President, It’s Not by Choice that You’re Stepping Down in 2014
Malawi President, Bingu wa Mutharika recently announced that he is to step-down in 2014, at the end of his second and final term in office. The announcement has received a considerable coverage, especially in the new media.
Surprisingly, no one has questioned why the President found it necessary to make such announcement given that it is not by choice that he is stepping down in 2014 – it is a constitutional obligation, a constitution Mutharika promised to observe when he took the presidential oath.
The media, eager to report exactly what a source says – whether accurate or not, missed this crucial point. This is one of the limitations of a ‘he said, she said’ type journalism. News sources ought to be challenged if they are inaccurate. Context is everything. Here it is important to consider that Mutharika was speaking at a time when the subject of African presidents clinging on to power is topical again, owing it to President Wade of Senegal. This was a spin – Mutharika is trying to differentiate himself. But how different is he?
The President made this announcement weeks after he bluntly told Malawians that he could seek a third term if he wished. A ‘reminder’ that nothing and no one could stop a constitutional amendment, as his party has parliamentary majority to pass any necessary legislation.
It may well be that he was dissing his predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, whose third term bid failed, in 2003, due lack of strong parliamentary majority.
Yet the whole thing reflects the appalling record of the majority of outgoing African presidents who always fail to accept that their time is out. Here is a president who is failing to use his parliamentary majority to advance progressive policies; he would rather use it to boast and portray himself as a bigger man, a President larger than the laws he promised to observe and protect, under oath. He would rather use his parliamentary majority to boast that he does not need a constitution to tell him when to go – he will stand down under his own terms.
Of course all this is fantasy; the reality is different. We all stand in front of a mirror time and again and pretend we are not that image in the mirror – mtima siuvala nsanza, as we say it in Malawi.