We listened with keen interest to Monday’s speech by Malawi Congress Party president Lazarus Chakwera.
Monday, he was in a class of his own. His speech was scathing, angry and fearless.
He said President Peter Mutharika’s administration was the most corrupt government in history, describing him as a “Prince of Thieves” presiding over a kleptocracy.
His speech was a stark break with decades of more measured responses to a Head of State’s speech in Parliament.
What Chakwera did yesterday was to offer insights into a presidency that has run out of ideas and is, slowly but surely, making a disappearing act.
With each day, President Mutharika offers fresh proof that he is failing to run the office that Malawians entrusted to him.
The rolling disaster of his presidency accelerated downhill last month when the power crisis worsened after Escom and Egenco failed to buy stand-by generators, which many experts say are expensive and not sustainable.
In his comments on the power crisis on Friday, when he opened the 47th Session of Parliament, he seemed determined to convince a nation desperate for electricity that stand-by generators are a solution to the country’s electricity supply woes.
But there is nothing typical about this president. All Malawians want is for him to summon the moral authority of the presidency to solve the power crisis, to put the good of the country before personal pique.
Last week, he chose, instead, to deliver a speech painting a rosy picture that raised, as never before, profound doubts about his ability to tackle corruption, his grasp of the obligations of his office and his fitness to occupy it.
This, in essence, is where we are now: a nation led by a leader who seems divorced from the realities on the ground and common sense.
One measure of the despair caused by Mutharika’s behaviour is that we find ourselves strangely comforted by things that, in any normal presidency, would be cause for concern.
One of these is the sheer incompetence that he has displayed in handling the issue of blood suckers, the energy crisis, and many other problems that have befallen us.
We are relieved that, yesterday, Chakwera showed signs that our democratic system is working to hold Mutharika accountable.
The challenge on his office launched by Chakwera, the continuing investigation of his former right hand man George Chaponda, and a new willingness by the opposition and civil society groups all suggest he is not immune to the forces that have felled bad presidents before him
The deeper question, to Mutharika’s supporters, is not political but moral. Will they continue to follow a standard-bearer who has allowed many to suffer untold miseries and fuelled corruption because of his ineptitude?