Difficult times are like dark clouds that pass overhead and block the sun. Darkness, as a result, reigns.
But when you look more closely at the edges of the dark clouds, you can see the sun shining there like a silver lining.
Surely, the sun at the edges is a symbol of hope. It reminds us that every difficult situation, no matter how painful, is temporary. It passes away with time.
Consider the plight the Jews underwent under Adolf Hitlerâ€™s tyranny.
â€œThe walls were too high to escape, the guards too inhumane to dare, and the spirit too low to hope. We were hollow men, just awaiting our deletion,â€ writes John Stengel, one of the survivors of the concentration camps in a memoir.
That Stengel survived and is able, from his home in USA, to tell us stories today, symbolises that difficult timesâ€”no matter the scale of destruction they inflict on humanityâ€”are temporary.
Of course, when a journalist asked him: â€˜when you were in the concentration camp, did you have hope that you will come out and reclaim freedom?â€™ Stengel answered, â€˜hell no!â€™
He said â€˜hell no!â€™ because he was living the pain of gas chambers, living the anger of being paraded naked, living the dread of watching his brother being shot.
That wasnâ€™t a world to see the sun shining at the edges of dark clouds, a world not different from the economic difficult times Malawians are living through today.
Just look around.
Most Malawians are glum at the moment. Very glum. Their glumâ€”symbolised by the calls by Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) John Kapito for government to step downâ€”stems from something deep about our economy. Since the 49% currency devaluationâ€”the biggest devaluation margin since independenceâ€”was effected, the consequences have been nasty. The cost of living has almost quadrupled in few months against shrinking incomes.
â€œMalawi has seen economic challenges before, but the scale and scope of the current one appears unprecedented,â€ says Dr Regison Chaweza, lecture of economics at Chancellor College.
The tragedy of these times is that both the worker and employer are hard-hit. As waves of industrial actions from workers continue to rear ugly scenes on the streets, employersâ€”both from public and private sector, too, are tongue tied.
They just donâ€™t have enough to effect the hikes and remain in business. Governmentâ€”the biggest employer, just, as well, canâ€™t effect all the demands. That would be tragedy; tragedy government would have spent beyond its means.
Beyond that, government, of course, seems to have recognised that it must do whatever is required to save its people. But big questions, however, remain. What will it take to achieve that? How costly will it be? How long will it take?
The crisis at hand isâ€”dramatically, vengefullyâ€”teaching politicians a lesson: donâ€™t confuse politics and economics.
Arguably, the mess springs from the previous governmentâ€™s failure to adhere to let political arrogance contaminate the basic rules of a capitalist economy.
In fact, the wise ones knew from a sober distance that Malawi will one day come to this mess. They saw the storm emerging.
It was refreshing, then, to hear from a reputable economist Dr Cornelius Mwalwandaâ€”who served as deputy minister of finance in the previous regimeâ€”telling The Nation months ago that president Bingu wa Mutharika couldnâ€™t understand the basics of economics.
He was referring to Mutharikaâ€™s stand to continue to overvalue an apparently devalued currency.
Surely, after serving the highest British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was right when he said politics is too big a business to be left to politicians alone.
He said that in the 1930s. The relevance of his wisdom is speaking to Malawians today, well echoed by a South African based political scientist.
â€œThis is not a century for a know-it-all leader. It is a century where a leader leads by listening to advice from different experts of various fields,â€ he says.
He doesnâ€™t stop there.
â€œA good leader is the one that consults the people, articulates their needs and design innovative policies, drawing lessons from history and implementing the policies within the realities of the present while laying foundation for a better future.
â€œMost importantly, leadership is shaped by existing rules of the game and ultimately it is the people themselves who should put in place these rules and implement them to create the leaders they want,â€ he adds.
The previous regimesâ€™ failure to listen and consult is the reason for the mess the country is currently in.
Surely, we are in tough times, our sun has been covered by the dark clouds.
But amid all the difficulties and hardship that Malawians are going through, there is a silver lining.
â€œGradually, it will ease. But people and companies will suffer. The good thing is that there appears to be a friendly investment environment that is good for the private sector,â€ says Ben Kalua, professor of economics at Chancellor College.
And tomorrow the sun will shine full bright again.