SO, we find ourselves in the midst of yet another scandal. Surprise! Surprise!
Malawians who still think scandal is an exception – not the rule – of our approach to governance need to wake up from their slumber. Since 1964, this country has been run primarily via scandal, and never in the best interests of the broad citizenry. How else should we account for the massive under-development that we have been subjected to by the series of governments we have survived since independence day?
We have been repeatedly subjected to governments bereft of imagination, sincerity and love. Instead, we have elected liars and nincompoop political upstarts, who are guided not by the demands of the flag but by their own avarice. As a result, the catalogue of failures this country has experienced are not as natural as we have been made to so easily believe.
In fact, one of the most blatant lies ever sold to Malawians by every government we have survived is that they have all governed – or are governing – with Malawians at heart. Sadly, this has been believed by many citizens and in doing so, we have internalised fear and poverty to a level where we cannot see or imagine a different state of affairs.
Hence, to be poor is to be Malawian. To suffer is to be Malawian. To be robbed in broad daylight by your government is to be Malawian. To show up during elections and get dumped in the immediate aftermath, like used condoms, is to be Malawian. To plead peace and humility in the face of utmost provocation from Business and the State is to be Malawian. Effectively, we are citizens who have no rights and are not useful except when legitimising frauds that masquerade as national governments.
So yes, we are in the midst of another scandal. Big deal!
This country is already a crime scene as it is. Let us not be bothered with the minor scandals that keep popping up; the biggest and unresolved scandal in this country is the stolen promise of independence and progress. Unfortunately, not many Malawians are outward-looking and seek to measure our development against that of other nations. This alone, is one of the most convenient outcomes for politicians in this country – we simply don’t have any benchmarks for development.
Without a reference point, you cannot demand anything better because your lack suddenly feels like sufficiency. So, your twenty-six hours without electricity becomes normal and acceptable because you do not see the abnormality in being denied regular service, especially when paying for it. A week without running water becomes acceptable because you always know how to make a plan, even though you still pay bills to those who are supposed to supply you with water in the first places. Long trips over very short distance become bearable because there is no appreciation of efficient road networks necessary for the easy movement of people and goods.
“Bola moyo” we say in acceptance quite often, sealing our fate and citizenship with those two words. But what kind of life is this that affords other people the very same luxuries they deny us? Why is it ok for some people to have uninterrupted supplies of electricity and water while others do not have the same? Why should someone never experience the traffic nightmares suffered by millions on a daily basis because he travels in a forty-car convoy and has police escorts?
As I wrote last week: “One of the most devastating effects of poverty is the limitations and restrictions on imagination. To think rich while poor is difficult. To think happy while sad is almost impossible. To think life while surrounded by so much death is to partake in jest. This is the State of our Nation – our individual and collective poverty has imposed severe restrictions on our ability to imagine a better Malawi.”
I should add: to tolerate exhibitions of wealth and power in the name of respecting authority and tradition is to accept your position as a lower-class, sub-standard citizen. In most of the excesses that we have seen in Malawi, the kind from those in the public service have escaped scrutiny, have been easily forgiven or have not been instructive enough to inspire positive change. The opposite is true: we envy and admire the people who enrich themselves by robbing poor and suffering Malawians of decent livelihoods. We cheer the thieves on, and offer them our respect in exchange for more dispossession and plunder.
In 2016, I wrote about Rwanda and Singapore, two countries that Malawi can learn from. We got our independence ahead of Singapore (1965) and were considerably richer than this country. While it has since grown to become of the most developed countries in the world, Malawi has regressed sharply. This quite shameful.
To understand the Singapore success as one of today’s key financial and tourism service centres of the world, you have to go to their firebrand independence leader, Lee Kuan Yew. In his earliest speeches, he made very bold declarations and undertook to see them through. “We, the people of Singapore have decided to run the affairs of Singapore…we have no future apart from your future…it is our duty to ensure that it’s a bright future,” he once declared.
Can you imagine a Malawian politician uttering those words and seeing them through? Definitely not anyone among the heavily-compromised crop we currently have.
In 1994, Rwanda had no country, we had Democracy. To say we, in Malawi, had a massive headstart over Rwanda in 1994 is to understate the truth. We were far ahead of the country and we had the peace and stability to go with, unlike those who were at war. How come, then, Rwanda has managed to make all these strides in the last twenty-years and is able to deliver services that not only benefit itself but significant parts of the continent?
The scandal that we live daily – call it Malawigate – continuously gives birth to many other scandals. This entire country is a crime scene and that should concern all right-thinking citizens who care about our future. Unless we deal with the root cause of all our problems, we are still playing games, a whole 52 years after independence.
Grow up, Malawi!