There are countless reasons why Malawi is stagnant, without any progress. The main reason is the Presidency, which, unfortunately, takes the office as a one-man show.
There is a wrong thinking that by being elected into power, it means the President has a monopoly of wisdom. This is enhanced by numerous powers a President has. Apart from having powers to appoint a Cabinet, he/she also appoints board members of parastatals, as well as appointing chief executives officers, ambassadors and high commissioners.
Time and again Malawians complain about excessive powers of the President. While enjoying these excessive powers, some go beyond the limit, and even appoint people who are supposed to be appointed by their board members.
Countries in Africa, Malawi included, people have fought against dictatorship to remove the belief that only the President is wise. In fact, it has been said somewhere else that the presidency does not change who you are, but it reveals who you are. Presidents who do not care about people they lead, and only take care of themselves, expose their greed—that is simply what they are. Malawi has had no shortage of such presidents and this is why it continues to be poor.
It is so surprising that the Malawi leadership seems to be in a celebratory mode when Malawi receives a loan, say from the IMF. Malawians at large are being misled into thinking that getting a loan is a sign that the country is doing well economically. This is a wrong mindset. Malawi has received a lot of loans in the past and yet there is no progress worth writing home about.
In fact, the use of the loan seems like a guarded secret to ordinary Malawians. As a result, people come up with their own stories, that the loans are abused by the powers that be through corruption, fake contracts and direct stealing. While other African countries are weaning themselves from donor dependence, Malawi leadership has no clue on how to do it. Meanwhile, the leader is misled by the belief that he/she has a monopoly of wisdom; therefore, learning from other people is the last thing he/she can do.
Some years back, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda sent to Malawi some government officials to learn about the country’s Vision 20-20 strategy. The officials went back and implemented it and have now achieved more than 80 percent of the strategy, while Malawi’s startegy is still on the drawing board. There is nothing much, if any, the leadership can show for Vision 20-20.
It is the misconception that a leader has a monopoly of being wise that President Peter Mutharika seems to have no time to listen to alternative views or voice of reason provided by the multiparty system of government. Listening to others would have definitely developed this country. In fact, it is naïve to think that only a President is anointed with intelligence.
This country has a lot of intelligent technocrats who can change this country given a chance. Having one person elected into the presidency does not make the rest of Malawians dunderheads. It is the greed of leaders which has left the country lag behind compared to neighbouring countries. Just imagine, a country such as Mauritius can freely use a leader of opposition party to lead a government delegation to overseas meetings. They definitely believe that such a delegation would represent their country, and not talk about domestic politics. It must be said without any contraction that running Malawi is not a one-man’s show. Therefore, the President should solicit views from other people across the country, if Malawi is to progress.