Decisive action will change Malawi

 

Its early days yet—and a long way to the general election of 2019—but it feels like the campaign is in full swing.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is excitable and, understandably, impatient. In the blundering of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is an opportunity and the party fancies itself as a government-in-waiting. For MCP, 2019 cannot come sooner.

Unless Peter Mutharika’s DPP mends its ways and fast, it faces the real prospect of losing power. Enough diagnosis has been carried out on the October by-elections and only unimpressive thinking will argue that it does not mean a waning of fortunes for the ruling party.

This country is sick of the DPP—and it is not offering a cure.

An obvious failure of this DPP administration is the inability or unwillingness to translate its beautiful manifesto into tangible works. Read the DPP campaign document again and contrast it with what is not happening now. You will see a betrayal of the hopes, a breach of promise.

Where DPP promised a clean government and a relentless fight against corruption, it has given more of the same malfeasance in high places. Once in a while, there are official assurances that grand graft will be probed and the culprits exposed and prosecuted.

But Mutharika is a leader who hesitates to punish miscreant colleagues within his ranks. Today, far from the promised reforms, corruption has grown to be one big cancerous tumour.

In Mutharika’s inner circle are people whose combination of greed and unexplained wealth should long have earned them a trip to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to explain their sudden, enormous riches.

How far we have fallen as a country is reflected in the way honourable men and women allow themselves to be lulled into defending the indefensible. Theft is theft. Incompetence is incompetence. It should not matter that the one stealing is from my tribe.

Malawians should be getting consequential answers from Nicholas Dausi, the government spokesperson. Yet all they get from Dausi each time he is called to account is a self-involved spectacle, petty invective, high-sounding nothings, some Latin words and feigned fury—all ultimately meaning nothing.

Dausi is a DPP decoy and a joker, to whom facts do not matter.

By being entertained by the comics of men like Dausi, Malawians are being fooled into cheap laughter that overlooks the central fact that this government is systematically sapping the joy out of being a Malawian. There is a dehumanisation of the people going on in this country.

Those in Lilongwe made to drink feaces-laden water are one sickening example. The lack of reliable electricity is another.

You have to be the most blind DPP supporter not to be heartsick over the underperformance of this government in virtually every aspect of public service. Saulosi Chilima, the face and champion of public sector reforms, has now been reduced to playing basketball and is seemingly resigned to living out his last days in office as a photo-shoot model.

A perfunctory study of social media will show Malawians are fed up, but for many their only response is rage or a sense of helplessness. Helplessness is not an option. Rage not backed by action will change nothing.

I would have expected the people of Lilongwe, whose drinking water had human waste, to collect their own excreta and go dump it on the doorstep of Lilongwe Water Board’s chief executive. Nothing of that sort happened.

I have always wondered if this passive attitude suggests a pathological fear of confronting the source of our problems. The truth is Malawians would rather find ways to cope with squalor and deprivation, than take action to demand better.

One other truth is that the hullabaloo over Mutharika’s “surprise visits” to Escom and Admarc makes good copy for newspaper headlines, but it is an old fraud in a new designer suit.

Nothing good will come out of it.

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