Just hours after President Lazarus Chakwera finished his inauguration speech on July 6, 2020 detractors, mostly sore election losers still nursing their wounds, plain supporters, still cavorting in the joy of winning a presidential election after 26 years in the wilderness, and appraisers, mostly academics with no side to take, took to social media to give what they thought of the speech.
Of course and naturally, the sore election losers saw nothing good in what President Chakwera said. One sore commentator found the speech ‘very boring’ as it sounded ‘like standard six poem’; not fit as a presidential inauguration speech. Another sore commentator declared Chakwera and the Tonse Alliance a failed bunch of crooks and cheats. Look, the sore loser intimated, they promised you three meals per day, now they give you three speeches per day; they promised you cheap fertilizers for all, now they are saying only 3.5 million people will have access to the chemicals crucial to agricultural production; they promised you one million jobs, now they are asking you to find your own jobs.
Of course, the sore losers were being corrected in real-time by the election winners. ‘3.5 million households was not the same as 3.5 million people,’ one person said.
The non-partisan academic literary analysts hailed the speech as one that will go down the annals of history and be amongst the greatest political speeches. They loved the commitment and promise of better times ahead. For, a promise is a vision. A vision is a blueprint. A blueprint is a pathway. A nation with a vision, blueprint or pathway gives hope to its citizens that the future will be brighter than today. A vision is expressed in the form of a philosophy and its accompanying theory of change.
The core philosophy of the Tonse government is captured in one statement the president made. He said, “The collective ownership of our problems and collective participation in fixing them is the bedrock of our Tonse philosophy.”
In short, in the new Malawi everybody must shoulder the nation’s problems and everybody must offer solutions. There will be no passengers. All of us will be drivers, katundu boys, touts, mechanics and the fuel to keep the bus called Malawi moving to the promised land of milk and honey.
Those of us who have lived long enough to have witnessed the political change from one party rule to multipartyism will remember how Bakili Muluzi’s inaugural speech inspired hope in Malawians. Muluzi was speaking when most of the young people were employed by productive manufacturing companies in Kanengo in Lilongwe and Makata in Blantyre. By the time he was chased out of office, Muluzi had sold all the manufacturing companies he had inherited from the Banda government. Some of those companies still exist but they are not absorbing enough of the labour-force. The income from the sold companies are not developing Malawi as the profits were externalized.
We were also there when President Bingu wa Mutharika promised to deal with corruption and jail everybody impoverishing Malawians. He worked so hard in the first term to demonstrate to Malawians and the world that Malawians can feed themselves and feed other nations. Through the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), Malawi’s agriculture boomed; construction of infrastructure started and the economy started to improve, absorbing a good section of the labour-force.
Bingu was graciously rewarded for his efforts. He got reelected with nearly 65 percent of the national vote with his DPP gaining seats even in Kasungu and Dowa. But the people’s vote was squandered as he got captured by tribal vultures that wanted everything for themselves.
Even President Peter Mutharika could not repair the damage done by the tribal captors. The foundation that Bingu built was swept under the floor. Instead of finishing the fertilizer manufacturing plant Bingu planned, Peter Mutharika was busy appearing on useless TV programmes and giving self-appraisals that did not match the reality on the ground.
People don’t eat speeches, no matter how loft, grandiose and poetic they sound. People don’t want philosophical utterances, no matter how pleasing to the ear they may be. People voted for food. People voted for equal opportunities across the board. Happily, the president has assured those who lost the election that they, too, will participate in the opportunities provided by the new Malawi. However, the recent cabinet appointments could indicate that in the new Malawi, Tonse inauguration speeches and Tonse actions will be different.