Who do we vote for?

Hon. Folks, as we continue counting down to 21st May 2019, the day when Malawians will go to vote for their President, MPs and Councillors, there is need to reflect on what is at stake in these elections.

If the electorate do not define what the elections are about, entrusting the agenda setting to politicians instead, then Malawians should not be surprised when fake scorecards are produced at the end of each five-year tenure, proclaiming tremendous development on their watch.  

From Kamuzu Banda (1964-94), Bakili Muluzi (1994-2004), Bingu wa Mutharika (2004-2012), Joyce Banda (2012-2014) and now APM, each one of them has done self-assessment and declared they have tremendously developed the country.

Which country; the same Malawi which is rated the forth poorest in the world?

Not only that. Of the 10 poorest countries, the world is able to isolate nine and explain the cause of their poverty—war and other calamities that recently made them failed states.

How about us? What are we doing in the category of war-torn or failed states when for the entire 55 years we’ve a sovereign State, there’s been no civil strife nor coup nor any major calamity resulting in massive displacement of people and disruption of economic activity? 

Our situation has one major explanation—failed leadership that’s contented with mediocrity.

We are an agricultural economy yet we can’t even feed ourselves. Every year a third of the population ends up looking to government for relief handouts even after benefitting from  the damn expensive farm input subsidy at the beginning of the farming season.

The population grew by 30 percent in the past 10 years yet economic growth has been way below the desirable 6 percent threshold. 

Since 2004, the promise has been to transform Malawi from a predominantly importing to a predominantly exporting economy. Yet imports are ceiling high and exports  are almost hitting the floor and it’s hard to mention a single country with which trade  balance is tilting in our favour.

Studies have shown that the economy may be small but the people still enjoy healthier and happier lives if governments manage the wealth distribution of a country well. In our case, where political power builds economic muscle just for a few well-connected people, the majority are left stuck in poverty.

Development means building houses for them, feeding them and giving them crumbs from king’s table. In return, the people are expected to maintain the status quo and compose songs of praise for the political Santa.

It’s time Malawians sought with passion the restoration of their dignity by demanding not the fish but how to fish for themselves. Our patriotism should be to the country and the Constitution.  We should reject as totally unacceptable the political construct of failed leadership which reduces citizens to boot lickers who politely look the other way when politicians betray their trust and corruptly rob poor Malawians. 

Businesses are the engine that drive the economy and we should reject the political construct   that forces businesses to survive and grow by short-changing  the people through overpricing so they can oil the palms of those who wield political clout in government. Cashgate did not start during the reign of Bingu wa Mutharika and ended during the reign of Joyce Banda. It was there during Bakili Muluzi’s reign and it has been there during APM’s first term.

The 2019 elections should therefore be about change for the better. APM can give us this change. So too can Lazarus Chakwera, Saulos Chilima or Atupele Muluzi. We need to listen carefully to their campaign messages: what they say about governance, what they say about wealth generation and what they say about management and use of our tax money.

Whoever makes it to the State House after the May 21 polls is not God but fallible man. We should watch how they exercise the power entrusted in the office they assume. Running the government should be about us and not them and their cronies.

If we allow more of the same, then we can rest assured that another 50 years and we shall only develop in the eyes of failed leaders while the rest of the world is moving on.

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