Your Excellency Arthur Peter Mutharika,
Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus, and may you live long and prosper by his grace.
Your 82 year old Finance Minister, Honorable Goodall Gondwe, has responded to calls from a younger and growing faction of your governing Democratic Progressive Party for you to give up your bid for reelection and let your more youthful Vice President, Saulos Chilima, be the party’s nominee for president in next year’s election. In his response to these calls, Dr. Gondwe has made three rather staggering claims: Firstly, that at the age of 77, you, Sir, are “not old”; secondly, that the presidency is better handled by senior citizens than young people who are better at “other things” than the serious business of running state affairs; and thirdly, that it is unreasonable for people to be lobbying to replace you with “a baby.”
This is the latest in a series of public blunders that the Finance Minister has committed over the last few months on your watch and on our tab. There was the case in which it came to light that he had written and signed a rather vague and shady letter authorizing another government minister to keep an unlimited amount of cash in foreign currency for unspecified “health reasons”. Then there are all the loan deals he has signed on behalf of the State with foreign banks to access funds for government projects that are still nowhere to be seen these three or four years later. Then there was his blatant collusion with the Minister of Local Government to illegally misappropriate 4 billion Kwacha to be used to reward a group of 86 dubiously selected members of parliament with funding for projects in their constituencies in the lead up to the elections. Then there were his contradictory statements about whence the money had come and what the criteria was for its allocation.
And so with this litany of egregious acts of mishandling state affairs, Dr. Gondwe adds to it this latest multi-dimensional insult. By calling the Vice President a baby, he insults Chilima, who is in fact a man of 45 years of age. He insults his family, which looks up to him as the man of his house. He insults the electorate, most of which is younger than Chilima, that voted for him to be your Vice President and ready to fulfill the functions of the presidency at any moment. He also insults you, Mr. President, because it was you who chose this so called baby to be your deputy, and also because the statement weakens your presidency by alienating the young people who voted for you. By extension, he insults 75 percent of the country, which is younger than Chilima, by calling all of us babies. And on top of that, he insults the Constitution of this our Republic, which says that anyone aged 35 and above is of age and eligible to run for president and take charge of the serious business of running State affairs. Besides, is Hon. Gondwe perhaps too old to remember that the office of the Vice President is in fact part of your presidency, in which case Chilima already participates in the running of the very affairs he is supposedly too young to handle?
Your Excellency, Dr. Gondwe’s insult is not just insensitive and wrong, but ironically, it is also rather childish, for it is as incomprehensible as the mumblings of a baby. So from a certain perspective, he may be right that the presidency is not for babies, but he clearly fails to see that the infantile behavior we want to see out of the presidency is precisely the kind his statement embodies. There are already calls for Gondwe to apologize or resign, but you must see by now that this is not enough. He has squandered both his credibility as a Minister of Government and his opportunity to step down honorable on his own terms. With your Administration needing to pass the last budget of your presidential term in a matter of weeks, the last person you should be sending to parliament to present and persuade legislators to pass that budget is Gondwe. In my view, you need to fire him, Sir. And for good measure, you would do well to replace him with a more capable person, especially one he regards as a baby.
C. Sean Kampondeni