Malawi finally had an esteemed visiting Head of State, an indication that President Peter Mutharika is not a pariah of this part of the region after all going by the lack of visiting fellow presidents in recent years.
It has not helped that Mutharika has largely shunned gatherings in the Africa region having attended only one Southern African Development Community (Sadc) meeting in the five years he has been President.
He has argued, unconvincingly, that not attending these meetings saves the country money but ironically, he has not missed one United National General Assembly (Unga). The differences in allowances for attending a meeting in South Africa and New York must be huge after all.
A visit by the current chairperson of Sadc, President of Tanzania John Pombe Magufuli was exciting considering that he is not much of a traveler and Unga does not excite him either unlike his host, Mutharika.
But Magufuli is such a courteous visitor, that he knows you only say nice things and make observations that make the host feel good, even when these are clearly not true.
According to Magufuli, Mutharika and his administration are doing well. Supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration puffed up with pride when Magufuli spoke of transformation that has happened in this country.
His exact words during the discussion with his counterpart, Mutharika were: “As I was watching in the air, your people are really hard workers because every part of the land is occupied with crops, I can see that you have transformed this country in the best direction.”
The sarcasm in Magufuli’s voice was unmistakable, but in their haste to seek validation from the foreign leader, the DPP supporters completely missed it.
Arriving on an airline that fully belongs to the people of Tanzania, Magufuli saw from the air small maize gardens that will provide barely enough food to last three months.
If a Malawian flying into Lilongwe can be embarrassed by the dust and lack of industrial activity or buildings that would indicate arrival into a capital city, it is not difficult to imagine what Magufuli must have made of the maize gardens bordering the airport fence.
Magufuli saw the pathetic transformation that has happened from Malawians growing enough food for themselves to becoming beggars that need not only subsidised fertiliser and seed, but maize donations later in the year.
As he left Kamuzu International Airport (KIA), an airstrip not worth such a designation, Magufuli saw a dilapidated M1 Road with potholes big enough for one to take a bath in during the rainy season.
Such a road led up to Kanengo, an industrial area that is such a mess you wonder if the Lilongwe City Council collects enough taxes to sweep up trash, keep traffic lights working or even construct some semblance of a bus stage in the city.
Between the airport and Kanengo, Magufuli must have wondered about the warehouses lining up the M1 road running operations from rearing chickens to making chicken feed.
It is lucky that he did not travel at night because the lack of functioning street lights on a road from KIA heading to a central business district would have certainly baffled him.
The shambolic manner in which we have managed Lilongwe city speaks of the lack of ambition of the country’s leadership bent on lining their pockets first before thinking of the welfare of its inhabitants.
On paper, things look good and Magufuli appropriately quoted what is in the documents showing an economy that is thriving and indicating that Malawi has three months worth of fuel and forex reserves.
Going by Magufuli’s sarcastic remarks, he knows there is no transformation here. The man clearly speaks to his representative in Malawi.
The level of poverty in this country is disheartening; the high number of people with no access to clean water and health care cannot be disguised by the construction of a 4km road.
Two weeks ago, Bishop Martin Mtumbuka spoke plainly and many would be inclined to agree with him. Malawi is poor, its people are poor. The choice of leadership over the years has been poor.
Is it any wonder that such short-sightedness has earned Malawi the unenviable position of being the fourth poorest country in the world yet it has never been at war?