BY IDRISS AL NASSAH
Poor Malawians stuck in classrooms and churches and mosques and all manner of makeshift shelters in Chiradzulu, Mulanje, Phalombe, Machinga, Zomba, Nsanje waiting for government help that is not coming…will surely be staggered to learn that a princely sum of K1 BILLION from this year’s national budget has been allocated for caring of the lawn at President Lazarus Chakwera’s State Residences.
One wonders when our president—himself a man of modest means who preached prudence in managing scant state resources when he campaigned for the presidency—acquired such expensive tastes to require lawns that around his government-issued homes should be this high-maintenance. The question has to be asked whether his extravagance is in keeping with the leader of one of the poorest countries in the world and the most-recent chairman of the world’s Least Developed Countries?
Importantly, what a man does with money that is not his tells you much about his character, as does the vulgarity of dedicating K1 BILLION to fertilizing and watering grass when your people are dying of no drugs in hospital, no clean water and, most recently, have nowhere to live following Freddy’s devastation. It points out to a yearning for a bourgeoisie’s lifestyle by our leader, a lifestyle which isn’t appropriate for a country as deprived as ours.
And I am yet to be convinced that the State Residences really require so much money for maintaining lawn. My suspicion is that allocating K1 BILLION to ‘maintenance of lawn’ is an ingenious plan to siphon money for State House’s nefarious activities. The MPs who were meant to scrutinize the budget on our behalf didn’t do a good job at pushing back on this. Maybe they just didn’t care. Or they were there just to collect their allowances and go home.
You would think the first thing President Chakwera was going to do on coming into power was to cut the frills and excesses of the past regime and demonstrate to everyone that there was a new sheriff in town who sincerely believed in leadership as service and not an endless party at poor people’s expense.
The worrying thing about all this is that you get the distinct feeling that this wastefulness is just who our leader is and, if it proceeds unchecked, it will get worse. Instead of rubbing hands together and saying let’s get on with rebuilding a nation broken by the greed and corruption of the past, our leaders seem already happy to expend enormous energy helping themselves to taxpayers’ money, enriching their cronies, travelling around the world at our expense and making sure their children and brothers and cronies eat and gorge on poor people’s taxes.
There is very little to smile about in Malawi at the moment except, of course, if you are the well-fed lawn and flowers at State House.
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