Last Tuesday, a woman from Ndirande fainted after queuing for hours on end trying to buy maize at Ndirande-Chinseu Admarc Depot. This was after she had also braved a cold and wet weather that Blantyre experienced that day. Getting drenched was perhaps the least thing on her mind, all she wanted was food for her household.
This could just be one case and I am sure there are many such cases across the country as the food crisis continues to batter many Malawians. The grain storage facilities such as Admarc have been of little help as most of Admarc depots have run out of maize stock.
Calls have been made before for government to intervene but as usual, government dragged its feet. When one media house reported that a Malawian had died of hunger, it was trashed by government as mere political witch-hunting aimed at tarnishing government’s image. No one in government was willing to accept that there is acute hunger and maize is in short supply. This is despite several reports by local and international organisations’ hunger forecasts. One would expect that government was prepared for this, but no. Perhaps they were waiting for miracle maize to fall from heaven.
So when it was announced on Wednesday that the President wanted to address the nation, social media was ablaze with people airing their views on what they expected to hear from their President. Many expressed disappointment at the President and government’s slow and casual approach to the food crisis. Most of those who commented expected the First Citizen to provide solutions to the current situation and nothing less.
But, I am sure by now we all know that this government is good at issuing colourful statements of intent that look so beautiful on paper but are void of tangible action.
Listening to President Peter Mutharika’s speech, it was hard, it still is, to point exactly what the purpose of the national address was about. He failed to provide leadership on this urgent matter. All he did was to issue vain warnings.
Now, I appreciate that at least the President accepted that he knows there is a food crisis in the country. He also acknowledged that the shortage is exacerbated by both Admarc officials and some citizens who are conniving to deplete the stock before people such as the woman in Ndirande have a chance to buy the grain. I liked that he knows that the grain, now mostly in private hands, is way too expensive for most Malawians.
Sadly, the President failed to handle the situation with the urgency it deserves. The speech was the usual political rumbling which only fail short of pointing a finger at political opponents as the cause of the problem. Mutharika also failed to provide urgent solutions to the problem. Asking people to report the vendors and Admarc officials to police is part of the solution, but is it the most urgent solution? The most urgent solution as we deal with the ‘criminal vendors” is to ensure that there is maize in Admarc depots at a price people can afford.
This is no time for politicking. People’s lives are at stake. Mere warnings won’t bring food on people’s tables. They are looking up to you Mr President to provide solutions to the crisis. And, Mr. President, you would also do good to sit your men and women down—those overzealous Democratic People’s Party (DPP) cadres, and advise them not to try to score cheap political mileage. This is not about politics, it is about people’s lives. I am sure you have heard what DPP officials did in Mangochi and I hope you will not just warn and condemn them, but you will do something about it. n