Like foreign aid, like ‘blood money’

Of late Alfonsina Nyanthepa has literally been in control of Jean-Philippe’s mind. When we arrived at Nchalo yesterday, I suggested that we have lunch but Alfonsina asked me to drive on to Nsanje. To my chagrin, Jean-Philippe said nothing.

We drove in virtual silence until we got to Ngabu.

 “Ngabu? Isn’t this the town whose MP declared that everybody in his constituency had defected with him from the DPP to the PP?” Jean-Philippe asked.

Alfonsina smiled.

“I understand he claimed to have been urged by his constituents to defect to the ruling party,” Jean-Philippe went on, adding, “Malawian politicians are real theatre actors. Remember that MP who defected from the DPP to the PP; then from the PP to the DPP? In just one day.”

“The Constitution provides for freedom of movement, association, and conscience,” I said.

“Yeah, but politicians need to respect their voters. After I take up Malawian citizenship, I will run for MP to tighten Section 65.”

Alfonsina looked confused. Jean-Philippe explained that, as MP, he would propose that crossing the floor should also apply to independent MPs to ensure that they remain independent until the expiry of their terms of office. Further, no MP should ever declare himself independent, he declared.

“Even when the MP is fired from his party?” Alfonsina wondered.

“Yes. A fresh election should be held,” Jean-Philippe said.

“That would be very expensive,” Alfonsina said.

“It is the only way you can control political immorality,” Jean-Philippe retorted.

We arrived at Bangula around 3pm. Alfonsina commanded that we stop for a drink. Jean-Philippe obliged. So, we drove to Kaini na Abhele Lodge. 

There, a polite young female receptionist welcomed us and led us to the restaurant where a neatly clad waiter warmly greeted us before giving us nicely printed à la carte  menu cards.  A minute or so later, he came to collect our orders.  Alfonsina called for chicken and chips. I asked for bakayawo and nsima while Jean-Philippe chose roasted goat meat with rice. I offered to buy drinks.

When the food came, Jean-Philippe joked that if he ate all the food in my plate, he would go without a meal for a week. I did not respond. Jean-Philippe sensed my silent displeasure and changed topics. He asked what I thought about the remarks one MP recently made in Parliament about foreign aid.

“What exactly did he say?” I asked.

“He likened foreign aid to blood money because of the strings donors attach to their assistance,” Jean-Philippe explained.

“What’s remarkable about that?”

“Well, probably out of fear for donors, the Speaker of Parliament and other MPs asked him to withdraw the remark. But all donors and development economists know that in the long term, foreign assistance does more harm than good to local economies. For its economic development, Malawi needs transparent foreign direct investment, a creative, incentivised, target-oriented industry and robust micro-lending for smallholder farmers, small and medium entrepreneurs. I am ready to head a presidential commission of inquiry on that.”

“Is that how you apply for jobs?”  Alfonsina asked.

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