What happened to Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe last weekend makes very sad reading. As a media house, we are eager to provide checks and balances to those entrusted with political office to govern this country, no one should harbor delight in seeing senior government officials falling short of their expected public conduct, especially at a time like now when our country is bleeding from economic mismanagement
But we warned that Honourable Mwanakatwe’s stubbornness of demonstrating a reckless lifestyle to the younger generation, instead of focusing on rescuing the country was going to embarrass her. Today, we cannot say much but remind the Minister of our warning last year.
When you are a member of parliament, the leadership responsibilities are many, but one can still hide from the public and engage in illicit activities such as excessive beer drinking. A few people who might know about your bad social habits may talk, but the worst consequence of that behaviour would only be losing the parliamentary seat at the next election.
However, when you are a member of parliament and also Minister in charge of the country’s Treasury, it is unthinkable to engage in such conduct, publicly or privately, because you are carrying the whole nation on your shoulders.
The Ministry of Finance is charged with the huge responsibility of proposing economic and financial policy as well as coordinating and supervising the implementation of austerity measures as empowered by law. It is, in practice, the most important Cabinet position after the Head of State.
The duties of the Finance Minister include; preparing the annual fiscal budget and issuing adequate regulations for its execution; managing government financial assets; proposing bills relating to the management of government employees, particularly bills related to staffing, salaries, benefits and pensions; amortizing debt and coordinating financial activities carried out from grant facilities in different ministries and their related entities; supervising public expenditure, reporting financial indiscipline among controlling officers; and exercising all powers to sign sovereign guarantees and borrowing money on behalf of the State.
When you are holding this position, you have an easier option of abstaining from alcohol consumption because the nation demands that you are sober at all times. High-ranking conmen who run businesses that are parasitical on government have a saying about people who hold sensitive positions but are reckless with alcohol; they say “loose lips sink ships”. So they will do anything in the world to make a Finance Minister’s lips loose before they can strike and sink the nation.
That is why, we would suggest to a person occupying such a sensitive government position, in a vulnerable country like Zambia, to completely stay away from alcohol. But if that proves to be too unrealistic, we don’t see anything wrong in one taking a few glasses of whatever pleases their ego, or stimulates their appetite for whatever kind of ‘food’, for as long as such a person retains some semblance of sobriety.
We feel bad that the drinking habits of our beautiful and beloved Finance Minister Margaret Mwanakatwe must became a subject of public discussion because we have so much admiration for what she has achieved in life. She has a very charming and respected husband, and they both have had prosperous careers in the private sector.
We are worried that Honourable Mwanakatwe doesn’t seem to have changed after being elected member of parliament and she hasn’t adjusted after being promoted to this very powerful government position. Her lifestyle is as though she is still a private citizen.
In case people have forgotten, this is the woman who lost her handbag while drinking beer at Mayela bar in Kalingalinga. The handbag had K57,000 in various currencies, her diplomatic passport and several ATM cards. During a court hearing, Honourable Mwanakatwe testified that she interacted with a few patrons in the bar before discovering that her car outside had been broken into.
Why, Honourable Mwanakatwe, why? Look at how the women movement supported your appointment. Imagine the expectations that these people have from you. Honourable Mwanakatwe, it is high time you reflected on your drinking habits, because apart from holding a critical government position, you are a mother for goodness sake.
What do you expect people to think of you from this clearly drunken speech? What were you even talking about, because it doesn’t even make any sense? We are sure even the cadres were clapping because you were probably buying them beer that night.
In the state that our Finance Minister was, how can anyone believe that she is capable of supervise any austerity measures? Dear readers, we mean no malice when we ask if Honourable Mwanakatwe has an addiction problem, Great North Road has opened a rehab centre to help people like her.
We have interacted with her at close range and sometimes she reeks alcohol while on duty. An example of when we experienced this is when she officiated at the Zambia-South Africa Business Council meeting at Southern Sun Hotel on Wednesday June 20, 2018. This was the same day that she disputed the US$1.2 billion cost for the Lusaka-Ndola dual carriageway as not being realistic.
We feel maybe if the minister realizes that we, as journalists can tell when she has taken alcohol, she may change and reduce. That event was in the morning, and it baffled us to smell alcohol from the Minister’s breath that early. We imagined that she must have had taken something that early morning, or it could have been what she took late the previous working day. Whatever the case, we know alcohol when we smell it.
We can see that Honourable Mwanakatwe is resisting old age; she still wants to live the lifestyle of a teenager, a recycled teenager. But we are pleading with her to put that lifestyle on hold while she manages our public resources.
Our Finance Minister is very beautiful, and if she continues patronizing bars under the cover of night, one day, she will be mistaken for a ‘business’ woman. Please minister, change!