A lot has been said through this column about how leaders have failed Malawians in all fronts. This column has not hidden the fact that bad leadership has the potential to undo strides the country has made in enhancing democracy.
On one hand, it is sad that Malawi is endowed with bad leadership almost in all expanses— from traditional leaders to the clergy to government leaders—this country has a leadership curse.
On the other hand, the passiveness of the Malawian citizenry is what gives impetus to the bad leaders to plunder and run down this country with impunity. Other people have said Malawians deserve their leaders—they couldn’t be far from the truth. It seems like there is nothing that moves Malawians to action. The citizenry is so passive that it gets contented with social media rants which end as soon as the Internet bundle ends. Nothing happens beyond the virtual anger. There lies the big problem.
This space will not get tired of reminding Malawians about the importance of being an active citizenship. What Malawi needs in abundance is an active citizenry that gets involved in their local communities and democracy at all levels, from towns to cities to nationwide activity.
Active citizenship can be as small as a campaign to clean up your street or as big as educating young people about democratic values, skills and participation. It is important to have such kind of citizenship to hold the leaders accountable and be able to question some of the decisions they make, that the citizenry feel isn’t done in their interest.
If Malawi had an active citizenry that is able to hold its leaders—be at the community level, accountable, the public resources plunder that has come to characterise democracy in Malawi would have been nipped in the bud. Imagine, an active citizenry that takes to the street and demands the president to step down for being involved in corruption. An active citizenry would have demanded that Mutharika should not just return the K145 million to Pioneer Investments but that he steps aside, be investigated and all of his cronies and those who benefited from such proceeds face the law. The current lukewarm approach to issues of national interest and the lack of public anger is what has helped entrench corruption in Malawi.
Civil society organisations (CSOs) must be applauded for what they are doing— whipping the leaders into line. But, they need to be complemented by an active citizenry. Every Malawian has a responsibility to help make their communities and neighbourhood good places to live in by ensuring that at least the basic amenities are provided. Imagine what K145 million could fix in your community.
Democracy needs active citizens to work, lest it dies. We cannot afford to let that happen.