A man who wanted to buy a donkey went to the market.
And coming across a likely-looking beast, he arranged with the owner that he should be allowed to take it home on trial to see what it was like.
When he reached home, he put it into his kraal along with the other donkeys.
The newcomer took a look around, and immediately went and chose a place next to the laziest and greediest beast in the kraal. When the master saw this, he put a halter on it at once and led it off and handed it over to its owner again.
The latter was a good deal surprised to see it back so soon and said: “Why? Do you mean to say you have tested it already?”
“I don’t want to put it through any more tests,” replied the master. “I could see what sort of beast it is from the companion it chose for itself.”
Similarly, a person is known by the companion they keep.
The new democratic dispensation in Africa brought a lot of hope to many ordinary citizens who were convinced that their economic fortunes would be actualised.
Surprisingly, however, the majority of ordinary citizens are becoming poorer and poorer in the current democratic environment than they were under autocratic regimes.
The prevailing scorching economic climate in Malawi is one prominent indication of the fact that the democratisation project in Africa is not bearing kind of fruits ordinary citizens were expecting.
Not only that. Unabating cases of corruption and gross abuse of public resources in the country have culminated in growing rates of unemployment and inflation on one hand and increasing levels of poverty on the other.
All these negative developments point to the fact that, like in many other African democracies, there is leadership bankruptcy in Malawi, and the country might not see political maturity and economic growth soon.
President Peter Mutharika, for example, reeling from a disputed presidential poll last May resolved to move on.
He called on Malawians in his inaugural speech to put behind their differences and embark on nation-building exercise.
But the President is gradually proving those who thought his administration would be a replica of his brother, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, correct.
He speedily let political affiliation and nepotism become a decisive factor in who gets what in terms of public goods and positions.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general Eckleni Kudontoni speaking at the party meeting in Mzuzu testified to this when he urged public servants to toe the party line or lose their jobs.
As the country, however, awaits Mutharika and DPP to disown or condemn Kudontoni over the remarks, presidential adviser on national unity and parliamentary affairs Symon Vuwa Kaunda materialises with yet another illustration of warped thinking characterising the party.
The presidential adviser, who needs advice more than the President, told Mzuzu deputy mayor Frazer Chunga on Tuesday at Chibanja Ward Tally Centre to join the ruling DPP to avoid the harassment he is getting from the party.
This follows recent reports that DPP gurus grabbed an official vehicle used by the deputy mayor and channelled it to party functions.
This might look quite strange, but those who understand the centrality of leadership in the fundamental and sustainable transformation of a society would ‘appreciate’ the leadership infirmity in Mutharika.
Simply, the President has failed to exert special influence within DPP to move the party towards change of its abusive mindset.
But ordinary citizens are silently but steadily learning a lot in the course of being given raw deals: like the donkey’s purchaser, they just look at the persons their leader is surrounded with and conclude. n