It is undeniable that multiparty democracy came with a lot of bad practices. It is equally true that all these were due to the euphoria of getting the democratic freedom. One of the practices which ordinary Malawians used to enjoy was cash handouts during the Bakili Muluzi era.
People used to throng Muluzi’s meetings expecting money to be thrown at them. In desperation, some, especially women, would fight their way into the crowd only to get K50 on lucky days.
Honestly, this was not helping the poor at all, but hoodwinking them into believing that the leadership was helping them. What was so disheartening was the act of throwing money at people. It was demeaning and dehumanising.
Maybe those people who visited the State House and got their cash handouts in khaki envelopes might have appreciated the system. What puzzled me was whether this cash was from government coffers. If so, it would have been properly used than haphazardly giving it to people.
Meanwhile, the handouts destroyed the work relationship with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations (CBOs), especially those that had light budgets to give handouts to people.
Just like Muluzi did members of Parliament (MPs) were also expected to disperse some cash handouts to attract people at their meetings. Failing which people would shun them.
The practice continued and was perfected during the Democratic Progressive Party governments of Bingu wa Mutharika and Peter Mutharika. The cash handouts were so entrenched that none could think that a day would come when the practice would stop.
Indeed, presidents and those giving cash handouts thought that it was part of democracy, but they were very wrong. The practice was actually unsustainable.
In fact, it could be the handouts that forced MPs to abandon their constituencies and live in urban areas. The expectations were high—from coffins and actual cash to food and school fees for children.
It goes without saying that the leadership that introduced handouts had no clue how it would be sustained or stopped.
Fortunately, when President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice-President Saulos Chilima came to power, they did not fancy giving handouts to anyone; hence, handouts are non-existintent their meetings. People who attend their meetings willingly do so and expect nothing in return. As a result, the system has been phased out.
Any sensible leader should have known that the tendency of giving handouts was the beginning of bribery and corruption. These practices were so much entrenched in the previous governments and they now give problems to the Tonse Alliance administration.
Since the coming of the new government all manner of corruption are surfacing. It is not wrong to suggest that had the previous government been still in power Malawi would have been financially worse off.
This forces one to think deeper that many people might have benefited from other non-existing institutions.
Any determined leadership can stop any bad system.