It is generally believed that for people to get convinced and make a move on an issue, one can use a stick or a carrot.
In a democratic Malawi, it has been observed that most political leaders use a carrot in form of money to entice people to join them even if people do not understand what the parties stand for. At the moment, bribery in the country has gone into other sectors as well, including government offices. One is promptly attended to after giving or promising to give a kick-back.
Meanwhile, authorities seem not to accept that there is bribery in public offices. Obviously, they don’t want to discredit government. However, such a denial does not help. Instead, the tendency has institutionalised bribery, just like corruption. No wonder, the Anti-Corruption Bureau is currently dealing with a matter of some people who tried to bribe Constitutional Court (ConCourt) judges who are about to pronounce judgment on the presidential elections case.
It is this bribery attitude which is even making it difficult to work with rural communities. People expect to be given something to take part in community initiatives.
But what most Malawians have realised is that human rights are not for sale. Therefore, it is unacceptable for any politician or an individual to stop them from claiming their rights by bribing them.
At the moment, Malawians are aware that the May 21 2019 presidential elections have been followed by a high-profile case at the ConCourt.
As people await the ruling, rumours are making rounds in the social media about judges being bribed in billions of kwacha. In a poor country like Malawi, the amount of money being quoted as bribes can only come from taxpayers. This is probably why most people are not willing to pay taxes now. This is a sad development as taxpayers want their money to be used on things that benefit them.
That is why the presidential election case plus the various economic problems in the country have triggered demonstrations, mostly led by Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC). There has always been a big turn-out to these demonstrations, which has surprised even the government authorities and politicians, who generally believe that without a bribe people cannot come out and participate in the demos. What they fail to understand is that despite being poor, Malawians are intelligent enough to know and reclaim their rights.
In this case, then, they know that demonstrations are a better way of making their demands known. They, therefore, do not wait for some bribe them to come out for a genuine cause.
Having said the above, it was surprising when at a meeting, recently, President Peter Mutharika said that some people are taking advantage of poor Malawians to come out and demonstrate. This is not right. Observation has shown that people willingly come out to demonstrate. To say the truth, it is government that has abused poor Malawians because of its poor policies. Imagine, poor Malawians have to literally fight to buy 10 kilogrammes (kg) of maize at Admarc markets. The government is impervious to people’s concerns, instead it seems to institutionalising bribery, corruption, nepotism and abuse of public resources, and in the end make the poor get poorer. These are the real abuse of the poor, and not demonstrations.
What Mutharika’s government needs to do is not to argue against demonstrations, but to listen to what people are demonstrating about and correct the mistakes for a better life for all.