Remembering Kamuzu while at the crossroads

Hon. Folks, a stitch in time saves nine, they say. The question is:  does the Malawi of 2019, under the presidency of Prof. Peter Mutharika with Lazarus Chakwera, PhD and Saulos Chilima, PhD calling the shots in the Opposition camp see merit in this witty idiom?

We are led by highly educated people who should know better that we are currently at a very difficult place as a nation where only effective transformational leadership can save us from tripping into the abyss of a failed state.

The year has been characterised by unprecedented levels of violence and lawlessness. Before the May 21 Tripartite Elections, it was campaign-related violence: the torching of UTM vehicles in Mangochi, physical assault of political rivals, stripping and humiliating of women activists from rival political camps, etc.

The merciless killings of people with albinism, rampant in the run-up to the May 21 Tripartite Elections, appear to have abated in the post-election period. Could it really be that some politicians believed, as some international media reported, that body parts of fellow humans could have the potency to make them win a political race? If such dunderheads made it by juju, what good would emanate from their warped reasoning?

In the post-election period, it has been demos coupled with unprecedented levels of violence—lynching, looting, raping, petrol-bombing and other forms of arson, destruction of private and public property, stripping naked of innocent women, the illegal blockade of public roads and all manner of chaos that follows when public order is dissipated.

Many voices, local and international, have been heard on our situation. I’m yet to hear someone describe it as normal. Rather, people see a divided nation, a dangerous destination for tourists, investors and donors alike and, more worrisomely, a nation gliding towards civil strife.

The latest international voice on the Malawi situation has come from the United Kingdom, a former colonial master and major donor to our economy since the attainment of our independence in 1964.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Department for International Development (DfID), on November 10 jointly issued a statement, expressing fear that the outcome of Constitutional Court hearing on the disputed presidential election results could lead to more violence unless the political leaders proactively send clear messages to their followers to accept court verdict with grace.

None of the three PhD holders above have acknowledged the message of wisdom, let alone commented on it even now when the chaos has spread to schools and colleges. It’s business as usual for them.

The problem in Malawi is that leaders love power and its trappings probably more than they love the country and its people. They seem to regard the highest office of the President of the Republic less as a service to the motherland and the 18.6 million Malawians and more as a gateway to absolute power and the amassing of extreme wealth amidst extreme poverty.

It’s highly unlikely therefore that such people can eagerly champion peace as a national good unless there are safeguards to their vested interests in politics.

Africa has seen many senseless civil wars where lives are lost, economies destroyed and orphans and widows displaced, abused and generally dehumanised.

In the end, the warring warlords come together and reach a negotiated settlement of their political differences. They end up sharing power. They also share glasses wine and whiskey to inebriate their memories so they can sleep and forget, for a while at least, the innocent lives sacrificed at the altar of their insatiable hunger for power, affluence and opulence.

There’s no compensation for casualties of civil war. These constitute collateral damage with zero value.

Where peaceful deals don’t happen, another casualty becomes the concept of nationhood as the country ends up being shredded into smaller “colonies” of people sharing ethnic, regional or religious identities with self-declared leaders at the helm—extreme cases of failed states like Somalia.

What’s important to know is that civil strife can destroy any democracy, including Malawi, if many people feel alienated by politics of exclusion, more so when those in government pursue policies that only work for them alone, leaving those in Opposition hanging on the rails like worn-out curtains.

Corruption in Malawi has greatly benefitted those in government and the politically connected businesspersons while the majority of the people in Opposition suffer deprivation when it comes to enjoying the national cake. This is not what people expected when they voted for a multiparty system of government in the 1993 national referendum.

Only Kamuzu in his “wise, pragmatic, dynamic and foresighted leadership” saw the danger in the system of government Malawians wanted. And he openly and frankly pointed where the danger really was—the calibre of people masquerading as champions of democracy. n

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