Without doubt, President Peter Mutharika’s address on July 12 2015 at a rally at Thyolo Community Centre ground sounded as if he were in the middle of campaign. This was more so when he said he is going to be the DPP candidate for 2019 elections and will win by landslide.
Naturally, people might have silently wondered why so early since he was just elected. But what must be borne in mind is that in Malawi leaders are permanently in a campaign mode. Even those who have just won an election, keep the campaign fire burning. They do this by promoting strategies which are veiled as development plans.
Most Malawians are aware that for some years now tobacco growers have been complaining about low prices at the Auction Floors. Anti-tobacco global campaigns aside, Malawi has been producing poor quality tobacco since the liberalisation that anyone can grow tobacco anywhere. During the one-party rule, tobacco was a restricted crop—grown only on leased land and each grower given a quota to produce. But after attaining multiparty democracy under Bakili Muluzi, all hell broke loose. People have been growing the crop anyhow and anywhere. Politicians used this as a breakthrough under the dynamic and foresighted leadership of Muluzi, so they would say.
Then came the middle men who used to buy tobacco. They could mix the good and the bad. The overall quality presented at the floors was poor; hence, the low prices. Blaming the World Bank for recommending the liberalised system does not hold water. Malawi as a country should not have acted as a robot, but argue its case with the knowledge that the break-even point for burley tobacco is eight (8) hectares of a well managed crop. Therefore, growing few ridges here and there without resources does not make any economic sense.
During the same Muluzi era, there was construction business boom. Honestly, this was the genesis of corruption and Cashgate. Every Jim and Jack registered as a construction expert so as to get government contracts to build schools and construct roads, yet some contractors had nothing more than just hoes, axes and borrowed shovels and wheel barrows. If this was a strategy to show that it was developing the country, then it failed. It is common knowledge that some of the roads were not constructed and schools not built, but contractors were paid in full.
The other failed strategy is the subsidised fertiliser and seed. Since it started some two decades ago, there is nothing to show for it. The poorest of the poor being targeted have remained poor and hungry. The other side effect is that so many people opted to be chiefs to have access to coupons of subsidised inputs.
The other good for nothing fashioned strategy has to do with treadle pumps. This old fashioned method of irrigation is just for watering a few beds of vegetables for households use, but politicians are torturing poor people with obsolete technologies for the sake of winning votes.
Lastly, while some people appreciate the cement and iron sheets donations to the poor, looking at it closely, it is neither here nor there. Most of the targeted people are weak and helpless that they cannot even mould bricks as their contribution. May be what President Joyce Banda was doing, by building modest houses for such people, was better. Since the cement and iron sheets strategy started a year ago, it seems it is just a drop in the ocean and not bringing any meaningful development.
What has been raised in this article shows that if there is to be progress in Malawi people should stop wasting time with strategies which are just aimed at giving credit to politicians so that they remain in power.