I love Malawi and its capital, Lilongwe, is a beautiful plain laced with rivers, flora and fauna. The same can be said of many parts of this country that nearly 17.5 million Malawians call home.
But the unique thing about Lilongwe, the gateway to the Warm Heart of Africa, is the bus depot at the heart of the city. In the hive of activity, money changes hands, the residents and travellers exchange warm greetings and buses roar and hoot. The place is noisy and filthy, with wanton wastage disposal.
The tendency of throwing litter anyhow is not only endemic in the capital but across the country.
The chaos at Lilongwe Bus Depot reflects the mentality of many Malawians.
The dirt and ugliness on the banks of Lilongwe River is a sickening reminder of how we have messed this beautiful land.
When founding President Hastings Kamuzu Banda moved the capital from Zomba, he envisaged the new set of government adding beauty to the centrally located beautiful plain. He wanted to create the next Johannesburg with an airport city at Lumbadzi, an industrial city at Kanengo and commercial business districts at Old Town and City Centre.
Banda had standards and vision.
Despite resistance from our former colonial masters, he went ahead to implement his vision and he sold it to Malawians, African leaders and long-time development partners.
Lilongwe grew with the help of the apartheid-led South African government. A tarmac road was constructed from Blantyre to Lilongwe; new statutory corporations were born; commercial estates were established; the economy was taking shape and technologies were getting the government’s attention.
The automobile sector had potential and plans were put in place to roll out Malawi’s first ever automobile in the 1980s.
In building Lilongwe, Malawians had set up a city of their own-for Blantyre and Zomba cities were built by Europeans.
Banda wanted to show that we are capable of building our own legacy. He personifies will and strength of character when it comes to implementation of a goal.
Banda was ruthless. His entire Cabinet, civil service, the private sector and the citizenry knew in no uncertain terms that quality was not negotiable.
Even our agriculture sector was well-organised, a boost to our economy.
We also witnessed the growth of many companies, including Pew, Mandala Motors, United Transport of Malawi, David Whitehead and Sons and Lever Brothers (now Unilever South East Africa).
We were proud to be Malawian. Banda’s sharpness and charisma made him Malawi’s great son.
Over 40 years have passed since the capital shifted from Zomba, but Lilongwe has not fully transformed to what Banda envisioned.
The citizenry has not fully embraced the need to take care for our treasures. Instead, we vandalise, ravage, pollute and erode the value of nearly everything good and precious in our midst.
As the city is losing its gleam and glow, the nation is slowly losing its light and shine.
While our neighbours are leaving no stone unturned in pursuit of national development and quality service delivery, we are busy with self-enrichment and aggrandisement through abuse of public resources and laws.
The influx of kaunjika, second hand clothes and vehicles, in the multiparty Malawi is one of symbolic importance to this erosion of standards.
Since then we have seen erosion in all sectors of life and the poison has infested even the little good that we held as a nation.
We have become a little careless about who we are as a nation. As beautiful as our nation is, and as good as our ideas of the perceived future are, tragedy looms.
We pursue our narrow interests without an iota of patriotism and pride. We have plundered our land and ransacked the public purse without mercy. We have destroyed vegetation, polluted the environment and mismanaged our economy.
Just like Lilongwe Bus Depot, our nation is confused. Is there any hope left?n