Power and pettiness

You must feel for compatriots in the diaspora at the moment. The world is increasingly hearing about us and it’s not just bad news we are endlessly churning out these days, but sickening ones.

For a nation that prides itself as God-fearing and warm-hearted, our recent actions betray some savagery and hot-headedness that represent neither value. We are too superstitious and backward both in actions and thinking.

If we are not maiming and murdering albinos, we are murdering the elderly, accusing them of witchcraft. So far, nine people have been butchered—accused of being bloodsuckers. Out of job, mostly uneducated youths are preying on purely nonsensical and delusional rumours as a vehicle for thuggery and theft.

The Western media has loved that juicy vampire story, preying on the sensationalism—read absurdity—of it all.

We are becoming some sort of a laughing stock and this week, a civil servant no less, and a guy from the President’s own home of origin had the audacity to declare a new republic within the country’s shores. It is not the crazy idea that must shock you, but the grip of his madness on the public discourse and government’s seeming confusion on what to do about a guy who is on their payroll.

But the real scandal of our time is yet to get the world’s attention. Power black-outs are now getting out of hand, threatening to take this already seemingly backward country back to the iron ages. The black-outs are also threatening to destabilise an economy already considered fragile plus social tranquillity as citizens get restless.

You can see frustration blowing up on social media and following a vote that went the wrong side for the ruling party, we finally saw some action from the CEO of Malawi Inc. Some, though, were quick to point  that President Peter Mutharika’s Thursday visit to Escom headquarters was staged—which could be correct but must be tampered by the fact that in politics—but that was beside the point.

Perception is the fuel of politics, and often accused of being laid back and out of sync with reality, it’s only fair that Mutharika went to the nerve-centre of this crisis, for a change.

As a friend reminded us on Facebook, the power crisis is only one of many currently besieging this country. He aptly added, if rural folks who constitute majority of the country were on social media, electricity outages could have hardly topped the list of frustrations of Malawians. And we can all haphazard a list of what majority Malawians could have been whining on—water, transport, healthcare, education, etc.

It all means endless power challenges are just a symptom of a widespread paralysis; hence one symbolic gesture cannot be the answer. Some of the challenges we are facing are too complex and will not be solved in a day. But holistic response to the pressing needs of our challenges means we must change our ways of doing things.

This current crisis, for example, could have been lessened if corruption in State-owned companies such as Escom were less rife or management was appointed on merit and not out of political appeasement. Successive parasitic ruling parties have contributed to the current black-outs—thanks to outright corruption and general abuse of resources.

Corruption in general has crippled many aspects of our public life. And the word on the street is: its only getting worse. So good-riddance Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) outgoing director Lucas Kondowe then. Few will remember his ACB adventure with any fondness as one snap survey this newspaper once did would remind you.

Alongside the incumbent President, the fight against corruption has been rudderless since Mutharika appointed Kondowe as the country’s supposed anti-corruption crusader. Many a time, many thought, he was a conformist instead.

But our challenges are not just limited to corruption. There is lack of a clear development vision for this country and national planning has been dodgy.

Voters in the recent by-elections set out to voice their discontent on this administration’s role for the country’s malaise. Mutharika has reacted by simply swapping two Cabinet ministers and a visit to Escom headquarters. I reckon, it’s too little to change the dial on a state of affairs that has troubled Malawians, whether home or abroad, in rural or urban centres, for some time now.

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