Counting our losses

In the last couple of days, we have witnessed quite a number of losses. I would like to discuss a couple of these in this week’s column.

On 17 October, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lost against the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in local government and parliamentary by-elections held in a number of places around the country. The losses were not insignificant. The DPP had staked their bigwigs in the campaign and still got trounced. As MCP supporters celebrated a deserved win, DPP stalwarts began a process of soul-searching to understand what had just happened. Presidential promises to bring development had not enticed many a voter to vote blue. Some party members openly wondered whether Kondwani Nankhumwa was the right person to lead the campaign while others speculated whether a low voter turnout had scuppered the party’s chances. Others still suggested that the DPP’s election strategy should have been led by Nicholas Dausi, Patricia Kaliati and Hetherwick Ntaba. Now, I do not have much insight into the politics of these individuals but from the little I have seen, I did wonder if these supposed saviours of the DPP have the vision we need to surmount the challenges that our nation faces today. I will let you speculate.

Moving on from elections, we lost a significant number of our dear compatriots at the hands of loser Malawians who appointed themselves hunters of the so called bloodsuckers. We should all feel a deep sense of shame for these brutal lynchings that should have no place in our democracy. It is right that the perpetrators face the full wrath of the law. However, watching the videos of testimonies of those who claimed to have had their blood sucked and the evidence they adduced for their claims, I just felt sad for us as a people. We have let down a whole lot of our compatriots if that many among us do truly believe in bloodsuckers to the extent that they would take innocent lives.

Furthermore, watching the videos of mobs running riot as they hunted for bloodsuckers, I could not help but wonder why so many young people are on the roads barricading access at 9am in the morning. As a nation, we are not creating enough economic and educational opportunities for our youths. You will notice that when political personalities are promising development, they do not talk jobs numbers, education enrolment and other data like that. There is this vague idea of development that has no directly assessable impact on jobs and other opportunities. If development is real, no one should be at a bloodsucker road block at 9am on a Monday morning.

Finally in the last couple of days, the Malawi Law Society (MLS) lost its case for the judicial review of the Salima-Lilongwe water pipeline project which was signed by the government without the same being subjected to an environmental impact assessment as required by law. The case was thrown out on the basis of technicalities that I will not belabour here. But one wonders what the position of our government is in all this? It is after all contracting on our behalf. Is the matter of the environmental impact assessment (IEA) not important enough? At what point will the government insist that it is done? It should not require litigation for this obvious point to be drilled home. The contractor ought not be allowed to spend a penny whether on engineering contracts or procurement before we know the environmental feasibility of the project. This is first and foremost a question of accountability and the silence from our representatives smacks of arrogance.

However you look at them, all these losses are yet another chord in the sad tune of our collective failure to do the right thing. Future generations will look back at us as the generation that squandered the opportunity and indeed spurned the responsibility to lift Malawians from pervasive poverty even when we had the chance to do so.

Consider, for example, the DPP’s reaction to their election defeat: What is so striking for me is the absence of serious discussion among DPP supporters whether the party’s programme (or lack thereof) and its manner of governance could have contributed to their losses in these elections. It should concern us all that the principal focus of debate centres around how to get and retain power for its own sake. There is not much thought addressed to how control of government should translate into a programme of work that transforms our country from one of the poorest to a prosperous and proud nation.

I am no big political theorist but I wonder whether there is a simpler explanation to the DPP’s losses. Could it possibly be that voters do not think it is right to raid our parastatals? Could it be that they are tired of going to hospitals where there is no medicine and yet they see the opulence enjoyed by the political class? Could it be that they see cashgaters thriving on their ill-gotten wealth? Could it be that they see government ministers contriving fake loans for non-existent food shortages and yet face no consequences? Could it be that the economy keeps sliding and they are the only ones that get to pay for the consequences? Could it be that they look around and see no evidence of a grand plan for our youths who hang about roadblocks at 9am? Could it be, just maybe, that they see the arrogance of a political class that does not feel itself accountable to poor Malawians? n

 

*The author is from Bangwe and sometimes teaches law

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