Do some serious fixing, Mr. President

Hon Folks, a good starting point for us is to admit that our governance system is broken and needs fixing. We’re a divided nation along so many lines—political, regional, tribal, etc,—and tolerance, the currency for multiparty democracy, has value zero.

What we need is a robust system that can unite and reinvigorate our creative genius against forces hindering economic growth and the enjoyment of a happier, improved life.

Draining the swamp requires fixing the rickety governance system built way back in 1994 at the dawn of the multiparty dispensation, a system steeped in politics of patronage. 

Except perhaps for MCP, political parties here are “owned” by their presidents much the same way as businesses belong to their proprietors. The wish of the party president is the command of the party loyalists. One die-hard crony of Bakili Muluzi declared that anyone else in the party is madeya (chaff).

Spin-doctors found a way of shoving this unpalatable and undemocratic thinking of the one-party era down the throat of the citizens. They called it “supporting government of the day.”

Initially it sounded like a message against the spirit of sabotage, to ensure public servants work diligently and professionally even under political leaders they did not vote for. But with time, “supporting government of the day” became a clarion call for blind support from workers in the public sector or business persons seeking contracts with government.

Even chiefs, whose subjects have the right to support any party, are brainwashed by mswahala (honorarium) to believe supporting the Opposition is an act of rebellion against the government of the day!  

In supporting government of the day, dissenting views of the Opposition—good or bad—simply have no room. Tolerance is deliberately sacrificed for sheer political expediency.

Unfortunately, rarely do we have the government side supported by the majority of the voters. Often the Opposition collectively garners around 60 percent of the votes. So, we are saddled with a minority government, spewing mediocrity mooted virtually by one person to the majority in Opposition who don’t believe we’re on the right path. See, where the system is rickety?

Our leaders collectively promised us a corrupt-free, export-based middle income economy. Instead, we’re rated among the four poorest countries in the world, all the three other countries being war-torn if not outright failed states. We’re a 55 year old independent sovereign state which has known no civil strife, yet extremely poor.

We’re also laggards by Human Development Index (HDI) measure, corruption is very high and a third of our 17.5 million people can feed themselves, depending on farm input subsidy and later food relief. The quality of public service delivery continues to decline despite the efficiencies injected in the collection of tax and non-tax revenue. Where’s our money going?

It’s a development that leaves a bitter after-taste of estrangement by any upright person who refuses to be a lapdog of the government of the day.  You are reduced to a mere spectator of the political circus which rakes billions for presidents and millions for their cronies while Mother Malawi is groaning in abject poverty.

I’m 100 percent with those who are saying enough is enough, we can’t go on like this. Malawi belongs to all Malawians and multiparty politics wasn’t meant to be a curse.  We need an inclusive government that restores people’s confidence in the affairs of the only country we all call home.

The K1 million question is: will the demonstrations help us fix the system or are we on a suicidal mission?

In a democracy, demonstrations are a means through which citizens directly speak to power. In our case, demos are a constitutional right, if they are peaceful.

Interestingly, virtually everyone, including demonstration organisers—the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC)—acknowledges the debilitating effect of demos, which have so far been marred by looting and other forms of violence, on the economy and social fabric.

Their argument is that it’s up to the President to stop the demonstrations by doing what they are demanding—firing Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson, Jane Ansah for presiding over a Tippex-ed and fraudulent 2019 presidential election.

True, there may not be a legal basis for removing Ansah but, if I may ask: can Ansah preside over any future elections in Malawi? Isn’t her job at MEC already rendered untenable?

APM, as the leader of government of the people, by the people and for the people, can’t be indifferent while lives and property are at risk. He needs to come out clear on Ansah’s tenure at MEC. 

He also has to re-look at other parts of the rickety system and start fixing it. Probably a starting point is to reverse the bad decision made in his first term to thwart reforms to the electoral laws.  n

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