Tanzanian President John Magufuli is a member of an elite club of leaders to visit the country under the Peter Mutharika presidency. So elite is the club that we don’t remember who else has visited us.
Under the underwhelming Mutharika presidency, we’ve stopped punching above our weight, diplomatically, and acted as exactly as small, poor, irrelevant state we have become.
So, thank you President Magufuli for your incursion.
But there is something Magufuli said that tickled our fancy.
While flaunting the many successes of his own administration he launched a flattery contest, serenading Mutharika’s government for equally transforming this country.
Magufuli, who would later on open the annual tobacco marketing season, cited not the mushrooming of industries or emergence of an ICT economy, not skyscrapers or freeways, but so many crop fields he saw on his way from the airport, as evidence of the country’s transformation.
Unsaid in that comment above is that over-reliance on tobacco, and agriculture in general, is one reminder that this country has failed to diversify its economy in 53 years of trying.
Magufuli was either pulling our legs or sarcastic, or has a very low view of us and our aspirations, to rank what he saw as development.
I have recently been to Dar es Salaam, I know how a vibrant emerging economy looks like.
But who could really blame Magufuli, he had to play a good neighbour and flatter the host. That is what diplomacy demands anyway!
Only that he picked a wrong subject. Or the timing of his visit made this subject a misfit.
As he jetted in the country, Malawians were still digesting news that we are now ranked the fourth poorest nation on earth.
And in that elite club, we were told, all our company has a chequered history of devastating civil wars.
But things have not always been like this, in the 1980s and 70s, Malawi’s economy ranked above or close to robust economies such as Malaysia, for example. Our fall has been steep, disgraceful and heartbreaking.
Nothing that Mutharika has done has arrested that decline or been transformative in anyway. But there is plenty to suggest has exasperated it. The sheer lack of interest by our neighbours suggest, Mutharika’s, has been a hugely pedestrian and forgettable administration on foreign affairs front, too.
At home, it has presided over unprecedented plunder of State resources. This week, we learnt how this administration has concerted yet another scheme to defraud the State purse. An ungodly K675 million will be paid to a little known company simply to demolish Escom’s two-storey building downtown Blantyre, which was gutted by fire a few years ago.
Let that sink in, K675 million of our hard earned taxpayer’s money, for just bringing down a dilapidated building and ferrying away the rubble.
Just what exactly does our government take us for? Fools, obviously!
It is in keeping up with the same contempt they hold us and in living up to its parasitic nature that our government dishes out such contracts endlessly.
The other day, a whopping K67 million was spent just on buying furniture—sofas, desks—for the office of Chief Secretary to the Government, police awarded a contract to a supplier without any means to pay for a clearly overpriced contract; when the contract was signed, they gave him a bank guarantee and raised without any justification the contract price by a figure close to a billion kwacha.
Oh, there are many of these schemes to bankrupt the country. My favourite one is the other one in which a supplier who failed to deliver a contract for uniforms for the Immigration Department, came back with his contract (its sum have mysteriously risen more than five times) and now with a simple belt costing a whopping K100 000. Just a belt!
This is, as Paul Mphwiyo rightly told us, a criminal enterprise. A broad daylight theft of our hard-earned taxes, which otherwise could have been used to ease our very pressing needs such as power supply, education, health and roads.
Graft-busting body, ACB, which Mutharika before entering office, pledged to empower, has been too impotent and powerless to stop the malaise. How can it do anything different, when by legislation, it should still dance to the whims of the presidency, and this particular one, doesn’t want to let go of its grip.
Mutharika has had a chance to stop the carnage but watched helplessly; launching nothing resembling a crusade. If anything, the small matter of how the K145 million—from the food rations deal—ended up in the President’s account, reminds us this country is being destroyed right at the top; by the untouchables with access to power.
But if Malawians really cared about their country, they would have minded not to vote back such set of people. In 2014, Joyce Banda’s presidency was ended in infancy thanks to Cashgate, or so we have reasoned.
Yet, JB allowed credible investigations and prosecution of those involved. DPP cannot emulate such a process. Those that deep into the public purse are always protected by the State, and not meticulously so at all, as this small house demolition gig has proved.
Yes, Malawians are getting poorer and poorer, and our infrastructure and social services continue to crumble by the day.
We are teetering towards a failed State save for our stable democracy. One fears, handing this government another mandate, is the surest ticket to complete the demolition of the country altogether, on contrary, voting it out, like PP in 2014, shows that as a citizenry, we won’t be complicit to the destruction of our own homeland.