A debate on ex-Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) retirement package refuses to die despite government making it clear that it is verifying names of beneficiaries and will be responsible for all payments to the former young pioneers.
What is surprising though is that some quarters still feel government should not pay the former young pioneers instead; the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) should shoulder the burden of paying ex-MYPs.
Driven by abhorrence for MCP, those who are pushing this agenda are deliberately twisting facts claiming MYP was a paramilitary wing of the party. The fact remains that MYP was a State enterprise and all those that worked under it are government responsibility.
Which is why it is important to understand the history of MYP before arguments against any payouts to ex-MYP officials are advanced.
A brief research by scholar Sitinga Kachipande published by Pambazuka shows that MYP was a youth wing that was established by President Kamuzu Hastings Banda in 1963. It was modeled after the Ghana Young Pioneers and the National Service Brigade of Israel.
Its main aim Kachipande writes was to train rural youth with various skills, especially agriculture, so that they could “spearhead” the country’s development.
Many of us on street, still recall that MYP and the Ministry of Youth offered agricultural science, technical and vocational education for out-of-school youth or drop-outs.
MYP also supplied the Ministry of Education with teachers who taught youths in schools about ‘Kamuzuism’.
The MYP also trained a significant number of youth who ended up joining the civil service, private sector or armed forces.
There is no dispute that MYP officers were extremely loyal to Dr Banda and MCP—but let us bear in mind that Malawi at the time was a one party State and there was only one leader all government employees were loyal to.
Some believe it was due to the loyalty to Banda, that MYP officers increasingly received preferential treatment such as promotions, diplomatic positions and training scholarships from Banda.
Therefore, it is not surprising that a section of some greedy officers turned MYP into a paramilitary group which functioned primarily to keep Banda in power and save their jobs. As they say, the rest is history.
Word on the street is that, unlike the Youth League, which was a party wing, MYP and its activities were funded by government.
MCP took advantage of the poor governance and accountability systems at the time to abuse the institution.
So instead of dragging MCP to foot the retirement bill of ex-MYP officials, let us learn a thing or two about the MYP saga.
One simple lesson is that there should be clear difference between party and State institutions. And that ruling parties should leave State institutions alone to serve the public.
All we can push for now is to stop the abuse of State enterprises, because as we can see, MCP is lucky for getting away with murder on this one.
Today, Malawians who suffered under MCP are the ones who will fork out the money to pay MYP militants. It’s like Malawians are rewarding a fox for killing their chickens!
Those against the payout, should spend their energies on stopping the DPP repeating the mistakes MCP made while in power: abusing State institutions, because at the end of the day, it is us, on the streets, who will bear the cost.