Malawiâ€™s fallen president Bingu wa Mutharika must be commended and remembered for his unrelenting efforts to transform the country from a consuming and importing economy to a producing and exporting nation. To realise this dream, he introduced the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp). The success of this initiative is there for all to see. Malawi is now food sufficient.
Believing in his vision, Mutharika defied world economies and other powerful international bodies like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to subsidise fertiliser and other agricultural inputs for the common Malawian.
Malawians will also remember his zeal to improve the countryâ€™s economy by declaring war on corruption, constructing new and upgrading existing roads and other infrastructure such as the new Parliament Building in Lilongwe. His achievements are plenty. May his soul rest in eternal peace!
Nevertheless, the Mutharika regime fell out of grace of most Malawians because of its growing autocratic tendencies, its crackdown on dissent and bad economic policies evident during his second term of office.
President Joyce Banda must make history. She must always remember that she took office at a time when most Malawians were agitating for regime change. She was forced into opposition when the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) fired her from the party alongside incumbent Vice-President Khumbo Kachali. She must not redo the very things that she vehemently criticised.
Memories are still fresh of how she opposed bad governance, biting economic policies such as punitive taxes, violation of human rights and disregard to constitutional provisions. President Banda and her Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) must tread carefully on these bad tendencies if they are to win peopleâ€™s trust and satisfy the popular desire for change. Malawians want to experience real change economically, politically, socially and administratively.
Going back into the history lane, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), United Democratic Front (UDF) and DPP regimes executed similar policies on public resources.Â They all monopolised and abused State resources, failed to differentiate between State and party resources and unorthodoxly suppressed dissenting views.
Regarding monopoly and abuse of public resources and institutions, the three previous regimes held a tight grip on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and other statutory corporations.
Malawians witnessed how Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) and Water Boards concentrated their energies on ferrying party supporters to party functions at the expense of continued blackouts and dry taps across the country. Instead of transporting electric poles to replace or create new electricity grids, bring new water pipes to areas in need, vehicles from these important entities were busy conveying praise-singers to rallies conducted by ruling parties.
When Malawians unanimously ushered in multiparty democracy in 1994 and the subsequent enactment of the Communications Act in 1998, they thought MBC would discharge its duties as professional and public as possible. Unfortunately, the two previous post-multiparty regimes continued to use MBC as a personal estate, propaganda tool and a platform to castigate the opposition and anyone deemed critical of government.
MBC was unpalatably synonymous with government and ruling party spokespersons brainwashing the public with lies in praise of government, ridiculing, and vilifying the opposition, civil society organisations and other government critics. MBC must be relieved of this undeserving yoke. It is high time MBC opened to all, broadcast fair and balanced news, allowed dissenting views and its editorial team used conventional news values in determining newsworthy issues other than going by the whims of some greedy ruling elite.
The country has always been looking for a leader who would set the right precedence in the role of MBC and other public institutions. Every journey, no matter how long, starts with a single step. Banda must make this step.
President Banda must walk her talk on seeking no praise-singing from her Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu. It is quite encouraging that Kunkuyu himself has vowed to allow MBC to discharge its duties without political interference.
The PP led government must let MBC exercise media independence and professionalism, uphold the rule of law and constitutionalism, promote human rights and respect dissenting voices. The new President must stamp out repressive laws, fix the ailing economy and draw a line between party and State functions. That is the new era Malawi needs.