Hon Folks, as we approach the May 21 tripartite elections, politicians are busy selling anything they can think of —their certificates, campaign pledges, etc. So desperate are they that some have eaten raw bonya just to prove they care about us. Others have pampered chiefs and the youth with money and opportunities—goodies that only come during election times!
The political marketing of the campaign period is so intense that, by the end of the day, it’s the voter who may end up confused. It’s like the aggressive marketing you’re subjected to when trying to buy nyanyati or tomatoes at Lizulu in Ntcheu on a market day. Vendors can sweet-talk you into buying the rot which goes straight into the trash-can when you check later and discover you bought what you shouldn’t have bought. Only that by the time you discover the mistake you could be in Blantyre or Lilongwe, point of no return.
Folks, the Lizulu type of marketing is in politics. There’s a real risk of being hoodwinked by a facade of promises made by people who do not have the slighted idea how to manage their own lives let alone a country such as Malawi which faces critical challenges of poverty, population projected to double within the next two decades, changing climatic conditions and serious environmental degradation.
We’ll labour to feed maggots in the trash-can if we elect criminals who get their way by pledging to serve their motherland when their real motive is to amass personal wealth at our expense. I have in mind leaders who condone tendencies that encourage Cashgate and other forms of corruption.
These are people who give away senior jobs in the public sector not to people who are qualified but to party clowns whose guaranteed output is nothing more than blind loyalty. These are people who let unscrupulous businesspersons reap us off as long as they, themselves, are well palm-oiled.
How come leaders declare assets worth few millions of kwacha when assuming office, get as little as K3 million tax free salary a month, but be able to give away multi-million kwacha donations and leave with multi-billion kwacha assets at the end of their tenure? Isn’t this proof that the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) is a bull-dog on the leash of the very corrupt-prone people it should be barking at?
Folks, in these campaign times dismiss as completely useless those who do not tell us why we must vote for them. The last thing any aspirant for an elective office can do to take us for granted and think our votes are their entitlement. Remember, as voters we are not registered party members. We have the right to vote for any party and any leader who has what it takes to make Malawi a better place for our children.
You can tell who the political charlatans by what they do, spewing out promises without saying how they will fulfil them. In campaign messages, the how is more challenging to cobble than the what. Remember the guy who promised us shoes? Later he wondered how stupid we could have been to bank on that promise when we had not even given him our shoe sizes!
Politicians know lies can pay dividends if voters are willing to buy them. Which is why, I guess, big parties have roots in tribal groupings set up under the pretext of preserving culture when the real aim is political—using such groupings as their political base or stronghold where they are guaranteed of getting blind votes. It’s up to voters to rise above such machinations and raise the bar high for those aspiring to lead the Malawi nation from 2019 to 2024.
Are there principled people in politics? I always marvel at how the character of Sir Thomas More in the drama book, A Man for Seasons by Richard Bolt which I read way back in my secondary school days in the 1970s.
Sir Thomas More served as the Lord Chancellor of England during the reign of Henry VIII. He was a Catholic who opposed Protestant Reformation, refused to acknowledge Henry VIII as the Supreme Head of the Church of England and saw the annulment of the King’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he could marry Anne Boleyn as immoral.
As a Presbyterian, it’s not for his Catholic beliefs that I’ve all along admired Sir Thomas More. Rather, it’s because Sir Thomas More was a different kind of real life statesman who did not ascribe to the crooked thinking that every man has a price.
He was a man of conscience, ready to defend what he considered right before God and man. I remember Sir Thomas Moore assuring the emissaries of the King of England of his unflinching loyalty then adding something like:
But tell the king, there’s a place [in my life], much smaller than the king’s own backyard garden, where I alone is the king.
The small place he was referring to was his conscience. He refused to do the wrong that the government which he served as Lord Chancellor, wanted him to do. Consequently, he lost his job and, ultimately, was taken to the guillotine.
Folks, a cause we believe in is worth dying for. In politics, don’t look for what’s in it for you. Rather, ask: what’s in it for my country? Nelson Mandela did just that. We all can for the sake of Mother Malawi. n