This country is not short of comedians or even soothsayers. And in this hour, when a myriad national challenges make citizenship of this country a painful reality, theirs is a welcome relief. Otherwise, we all risk of dying of broken hearts and helplessness.
Vincent Wandale jokes about establishing a new State within our boundaries but can be forgiven if the courts determines his statehood aspiration are driven by insanity.
But let’s not allow every bad joke to go unchallenged. Jokes like promising us electricity, everywhere, at all times, all within a mind boggling 48-hour period are not funny, they are insulting to Malawians desperate for electricity at the moment.
Cruel jokes remind us that even in comedy, there are lines of decency you shouldn’t cross.
By now, we all know that Prophet Shepard Bushiri was comical when he said the other day he could end the country’s nightmarish electricity outages within 48 hours.
It could’ve been simply hyperbole or slip of the tongue. But when you organise the media to listen to your message, you have a certain confidence in your message. If a hyperbole goes too far, you can quickly clarify the exaggeration to ensure the core of the message is not distracted. It’s not what Bushiri did.
Yet, any reasonable thinking person would surely have anticipated the backlash of such outlandish suggestion unless the aim was generating such backlash in the first place. Many a latter-day prophet, thrive on cheap publicity.
For prophets, one can imagine, they could even be forewarned by divinity on the consequences of such an action.
Perhaps, we should give the prophet the benefit of doubt. Perhaps, the prophet was misquoted. Let’s say the prophet only suggested that his magic wand could simply end the blackouts within “a few days.”
In such a case, “a few days” could still be considered a questionable proposition and highly disingenuous. It could also be sign of hubris; a character at odds with divinity gift of humbleness.
The question of power generation and supply in the country has eluded successive governments for decades and is a painful reality to Malawians. Even with foreign interventions such as the US energy compact, it has only been eased at times but never totally dealt with.
To simply downplay this crisis with outrageous bombast, for whatever ends—be it political or commercial— at a time millions of Malawians are reeling from its impact, is a gross symptom of out-of-control egotism.
But today’s prophets hardly care. They crave cheap publicity and endlessly churn out stunts. Yet this is beyond galvanising church goers.
From Bushiri’s interface with the media, we further get a hint on what the man of God is up to. If there are any prophets of the old reading this, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Ezekiel, Daniel, it’s time to look away!
Bushiri wants to strike gold! And soon after making his business pitch to government for contracts in the energy sector, we learnt how far he is willing to go. Bushiri let loose a ringing endorsement for the DPP government. Coincidence? Forget it. In our system of patronage, only those connected to the ruling party gets government business. Often, as an analysis of Escom’s state of affairs would show you, they make a mess of the contracts leaving Escom a cash cow for politicians and their friends in business, but crippled to solve the electricity nightmare we have landed ourselves into.
Hence, asked on his political allegiance, Bushiri had no hesitation explaining that if elections were held today, he would vote DPP. Now, in case you are a stranger in our blackouts-plagued Jerusalem, DPP is the out-of-sorts party currently lording over Capital Hill. The recent by-elections suggest majority Malawians are unamused by its rule. Social media, beer talk and any other platforms betray a reverting anger by those governed towards those governing them.
On the contrary, Bushiri sees a visionary and dynamic leadership, words scripted straight from the ruling DPP’s propaganda machinery. Words, though, have consequences. They surely must prompt questions.
Would the prophets of the old, for example, whose time on earth was spent speaking truth to power, identify themselves with such commercial-driven flirting with power? What about the shameless manipulation and craving for publicity?
I am not Elijah. But I can hazard a guess: They would see prophets at odds with the truth, themselves and, perhaps, God. n