In the last few weeks, as the plight of people with albinism reached new levels and stakeholders struggled to get the State and government to demonstrate accountable, responsive and inclusive governance, the words of Pravin Gordhan, former erstwhile Finance Minister in South Africa reverberated in mind. Pravin Gordhan was fired by President Zuma on 31st March 2017 for reasons that I have no intention to discuss here. On leaving office he had this to say: ‘You don’t need to be a genius to see the trend in the country. I am not going to interpret what this means, or what the urgency is. What I am telling you is that you have history unfolding in front of you…I think south Africans have the responsibility to connect the dots’. These are the words reverberating in my mind as I think about the antics of what has so far constituted the responsiveness and accountability of the state and government of Malawi in so far as the plight of people living with albinism (PWA) is concerned.
Indeed, you don’t need to be a genius to see the trend in how suspects have been handled and treated to effectively erase or inhibit crucial evidence and paralyze the criminal justice system on this issue; you don’t need to be a genius to see how the state and government have weaved and ducked any and all forms of accountability and responsiveness on the plight; you don’t need to be a genius to see how state money has been used to drive a wedge among people living with albinism in the fashion of divide and rule to create a confusion akin to babel among PWA; you don’t need to be a genius to see how an important institution of the state, the Police, has been hollowed out and repurposed away from its legitimate mandate on this issue; you don’t need to be a genius to see that both the Task Team and the new Commission of Enquiry are facades and hoodwinking mechanisms intended only to window dress the issue and placate the feeble-minded of the stakeholders; you don’t need to be a genius to see that there is not yet genuine commitment to place firmly the plight of people with albinism on government’s policy agenda; You don’t need to be a genius to see that with elections around the corner, there is an all-consuming and singular focus on themselves primarily to win the elections and avoid legal accountability for the so many not so good things they have done against the trust of citizens.
The question is why? The answer to this has to be constructed because the duty-bearers won’t come out to state it themselves. They won’t come out to offer credible solutions because in the whole saga so far, they have refused to conform to democratic norms and standards. Malawians have a duty to connect the dots in order to figure out what’s really happening.
Social media is the space where Malawians are connecting the dots. There is no shortage of theories throwing explanatory light on the suboptimal performance of the state on the plight of PWA. But they mostly agree in their indictment of the state and government. When the dots are connected, it is impossible not to agree or at least see some truth in what one suspect in a cashgate case observed that the Malawi Government is largely a criminal enterprise. A good number of Malawians believe that senior State elites are directly involved on the demand side of the market of body parts of people living with albinism. On one hand they use the money they acquire illicitly from the State to finance the hunting, abduction and killing of people with albinism and on the other hand, they use the hubris of state power to create the impression of compassion and concern and that they are doing something to address the problem. It is simply a circus.
When the dots are connected, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that the plight of PWA stands as a monument to State intransigence and incompetence both in scale and in the hubris of exercise of power. For what can be said of the insensitiveness of the Minister’s statement on this? Of suspects of abductions and murders of people with albinism dying in police custody with the most funny explanations for each death? What can be said of a huge contingency of Police officers blocking PWA from accessing the Head of Government and State on a matter that is the very essence of the foundation of the state i.e. security of citizens? When presidents of Republics behave like monarchs and treat any part of their population as low lying subjects and not citizens, we know that the state has lost its soul; its institutions have been captured and re-purposed to serve a narrow agenda that is antithetical to the essence of the social contract on which basis the state exists. n