I had to rush and buy Political Philosophy's controversial book The PRINCE, by Niccolo Machiavelli from Harvard Bookstore during my short trip to Cambridge earlier in the month. I remembered Bentrand Russell reference to the book in the History of Western Philosophy as I reflected on the current crisis affecting Malawi.
The crisis has been well documented and Government has become so defensive that it has lost the plot in the eyes of the public, its antics of survival do not inspire any hopes and His Excellency President Bingu wa Mutharika looks like a man on the corner.
This is a President, institutions World over invited to lecture on food security and democracy, an achiever whose light went off faster than it stayed in office. Bingu is a man let down by his team of advisers, aides and Cabinet but to a greater chunk he has let down himself.
Here is a President who has always been said to be in charge of things, having his World crumble before him. His leuitanants have resorted to desperate antics of fooling themselves.
Take the public demostrations for example slated for July 20, 2011 in all the major streets of Malawi cities, Government is calling them Pro-Gay demonstrations. This is not only pathetic but totally stupid for strategists trying to lie to Malawians who are queuing at petrol and diesel lines.
If I were Bingu, I would fire my Cabinet and seek fresh pair of eyes and ears, chunk off my media team as it has miserably failed and develop new set of strategy to take the country out of the crisis within next six months- assuming I survive that long.
Seriously, anyone trying to attack, fool or lie in face of this crisis is creating a politcal grave for themselves, a Government is not supposed to panic at any given time, but this administration is panicking and its advisers and political strategists have overstayed the usefulness.
Lets go back to political lessons from Machiavelli: Chapter Five of his book states: How should one Govern cities or principalities which lived under their own laws before being conquered: "When an acquired state has been accustomed to living in freedom under its own laws, there are three ways of securing it. The first is to destroy it; the second, to move there oneself; the third, tp let it live with its own laws, exacting tribute and creating within it a regime of a selected few who will keep it freindly toward you."
Unfortunately after a very successful first term, forget what he told people on 6 July, the Prince, in this case President Mutharika lost the plot all together. He adapted one and two of this controversial advice but failed to ensure loyalty as he had already started to destroy the farbic of maintaining his regiments.
The absence of key political strategists and Ministers who lack political confidence about their status other than being paid, has seen the DPP come from being the most famous party in the land to the most insulted party in the land.
Unfortunately, the President and the party continue to rely on Malawi Congress Party- MCP type of propaganda of lies, intimidation and thinking Malawians are dull and stupid is destroying the party faster than they realise.
Sober people in the party are pushed around, liars and questionable characters who have jumoed from one party to another today are very much closer to decision making, while real experienced personnel has been left in the cold.
The political crisis was in truth started by those that decided to launch attacks on Joyce Banda on National Television, did they have a strategy to deal with it until the expulsion, NO! Then came the botched campaign of Professor Peter Mutharika, who I insist is well qualified enough to rule Malawi, but needs proper Managers, strategists and thinkers to manage his campaign not the money and power hungry gossipers that pretend to love him more than his freinds.
These two events could have been avoided by smart planning and scientific design of strategy.
When foreign exchange started disappaearing, the idea of closing foreign exchange buerueax was as bad as just the one to insist on fighting it through the courts. The difference between the banks and them was merely K10 and forex was readily available.
Then came the absence of a coordinated Government response in terms of legislation coming up, fuel shortages and the botched up Nsanje Port crisis with Mozambique, all these do not reflect of the Prince in Charge.
Get down to 2010, we had the controversy of changing National flag, the AU Chairmanship which the Presidential media team failed to sell across the continent restricting their marketing to MBC and the coming in pensions bill.
The postponment of the Local Government elections, suspension of the Electoral Commission and University Academic Freedom battles were all handled poorly and without any strategy.
Add that to the expulsion of the British High Commissioner and the eventual suspension of budgetary support- the only directly funds injected into Government coffers, teh prolonged fuel crisis and the statements from the President.
The President is only supposed to speak when there is going to be a change in a situation not any how. The State of the Nation Address, the fuel national broadcast and the July 6 statements could have all been points of change, but nobody had anything to offer to the President.
In simple terms, Government has failed to manage basic public relations and its propaganda now is serving to irritate Malawians more than before as they are taken as headless chickens with no brains to reason.
The worst strategy is the one deployed by Government spokesperson and MBC. Taking the usual suspects who now include Mavuto Bamusi, Chiefs and you know who now insulting Malawians dignity and thinking that they are stupid to grasp there own challenges they face.
The Prince needs revisitattion by the DPP and a reshuffle before July 20 can be one of the strategy to give a fresh start to the chaos that are envisaged if the President follows the current strategy of his advisors.
The public lecture who ever inveted it was a misguided and ill timed venture that has exposed the President as weak and panicking, just like un-confident Finance Minister Ken Kandodo who failed to outshine Joyce Banda during their meeting at Chiphaso Catholic Parish.
The President does not need a public lecture to find solutions to the challenges, actually those analysts across pretending to back it I dont think they are aware of what political strategies look like. You do not react to an event by lesser mortals according to Machiavelli as you will be seen as unfit to lead them.
The President needs to start showing confidence in himslef and that he is in charge, even a visit to a filling station would do, televised cabinet meeting will do and more importantly flying to countries that hold our fate would do.
Such fresh start would include politically motivated gestures to visit President Bakili Muluzi in hopsital, a Cabinet Meeting with Joyce Banda at the table, a meeting with MPs at Parliament sitting next to John Tembo and Ibrahim Matola and an official apology to the donors, announcement of Local Polls and more importantly, suspension of some decisions like adverts and events ban on the Nation (Macra and OVOP and Ministry of Agriculture are good at it) and suspension of all funny laws.
The President and the Ministers need to end the dreamland story, Malawians are used to their food security situation, its their taxes and those of other donors that buy it. You cannot continue using it as a story of success for years, it is now part of normal life in Malawi to have food.
The same with trumpeting of projects not yet on the ground being touted as part of success, there is more to implementation than just a dream to build new universities.
Before July 20, there is plenty time for Bingu and his administraion to change public perception only if they stop panicking and start listening.
Finally, the World has changed, any strong antics against the administration will see people heading more into the streets. Crushing demonstrations and any loss of life should be the last strategy at this point, remember there is the International Criminal Court and the United Nations which have now specialised in dealing with dictators in their own way.
Malawi is not of strategic importance to global powers, as such they will do the Ivory Coast Ghabgo faster to avoid further costs of having a prolonged dictator that will destabilise the region.
Even SADC will not have powers they misused in Zimbabwe to deal with the situation. It will be a shame for Bingu to share power with Tembo, Banda and others like in Zimbabwe should our arrogance see Jul 20 turn into a revolution instead of a mere expression of anger at the crisis.
Perhaps we can do a leacture on THE PRINCE and learn a few tricks before we reach July 20.
Long Live Malawis democracy!