Last week we, our leader of delegation, the Abiti Genuine Prof Dr Joyce Befu, MG 66 and MEGA-1 and I, Malawi’s only Mohashoi, were in Lilongwe to welcome back to Malawi, the Most Eminent Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC, who had gone to China for a short breather which turned into a forced long holiday due to that country’s zero Covid-19 restrictions.
We will soon resume our nationwide tour de Malawi. This week we are resting ‘in peace’, undisturbed, musing, self-introspecting, cogitating, and reflecting. We are at Banana Private Inn owned by our former friend, a former presidential body minder, anyamata ometa m’mbali.
“Why are Malawians so cynical about their country? As we drove back from the airport, I was amazed at how much is being done to improve the road network in this city, but…” Jean-Philippe observed.
“Well, isn’t that human nature? Malawians praise the President of Zambia while Zambians praise the President of Malawi,” I responded.
“Outside of Malawi, people reading social media messages and news sites have the image of a country collapsing; a country where nothing is working; where people are dying and left unburied; where there is no money; where there is no food; where there are no drugs; where all protesters are in jail; where State-terrorists are abducting people and dumping them in farms; where all political leaders are nepotistic, corrupt or captured by some crooked Asian-Malawians,” Jean-Philippe said, “It is unbelievable that I have found the same charm that I had left”.
“Welcome to the same Malawi, where people see half-emptiness instead of half-fullness all the time,” Abiti said philosophically.
“Self-worth is not prized in Malawi,” I said, adding, “even the poorest European, American, Russian, or worse, Haitian and Sri Lankan, the one who lives on crumbs and has no shelter, no land parcel, and no family thinks he is better than a Malawian.”
“Depressing. Why should it be like that?” Jean-Philippe wondered.
“From kindergarten, or ECD as they call it these days, to university, Malawi’s education system teaches about the inevitability of poverty, lack of minerals, lack oils, lack of this and lack of that. Malawi’s education system teaches about half-emptiness while elsewhere education teaches children to see in themselves half-fullness or total fullness and control over nature,” Abiti explained.
“Then, Malawi’s education system needs urgent evaluation and revamp. Education should emphasise self-worthiness of individuals, communities and the nation; build skills in its human resource to enable people translate nature into wealth and other critical values,” Jean-Philippe suggested.
“The new Malawi 2063 vision has identified mindset change as one of the foundations or enablers for achieving the national development we desire. From 2021 to 2030, about K13.3 billion will be spent on ensuring that Malawians change their minds,” Abiti said.
“How will that be done?” Jean-Phillipe asked, rather skeptically.
“A bill on national unity has been drafted, I hear. The same bill, I am told, will criminalize tribalism, regionalism, and racism, promote patriotism and national pride, reorient religion to encourage hard work, wealth creation, prosperity, and self-reliance, and revise school curricula to include ethics and positivity,” I said.
“Tall order, quite ambitious. Is all that doable in Malawi?” Jean-Philippe.
“Why not?” I retorted. “In Rwanda, tribalism is officially banned. All Rwandans are encouraged to treat and see themselves as Rwandans though some people, politicians especially, still keep talking about Hutus murdering Tutsis but with time Rwanda will be detribalised like Tanzania is.”
“So, it means, tribal organisations being encouraged to disguise themselves as cultural heritage associations will be banned? There will be no Chewa Foundation, Tonga Heritage, Maseko Ngoni Heritage, Karonga-Chitipa Heritage, Mzimba Heritage, Mlhakho wa Alhomwe, Sena-Mang’anja, Ndamyo sya Yao, etc? Chieftaincies, heads of tribes, will also be banned? All these promote tribalism. Don’t they?”
“Do they? I thought they promote cultural diversity, sort of unity in diversity?” Chiefs are a traditional leadership structure, much like the kings and queens of Europe exist parallel to elected leaders,” I said.
“Well, you can’t detribalise Malawi and have tribal organisations,” Jean-Philippe, concluded. “Already, as an outsider, I see the mindset foundation or enabler as an experiment in futility.”
“Give it a chance, please?” Abiti pleaded.
“ Well. This is 2022, has the mindset change programme rolled out?”