Please allow me to express my reservations over the newly formed 23-member High Level Development Committee (HLDC) chaired by Dr. Matthews Chikaonda, group CEO of Press Corporation Limited.
Put together by President Joyce Banda, the HLDC, which has academics, religious and business people, among others, is expected to convene sector specific consultations which form part of the agenda for a Nation Forum on Malawi at 50 set for March this year.
A great number of development conscious people, including myself—who has formally studied international development — agree that since Malawi attained independence from Britain 50 years ago, our people still live in deep poverty.
Nobody but us has the responsibility to wash away tears from our eyes as 50 years on, Malawi still struggles to find answers to problems some people, both local and abroad, already resolved.
Malawians who have had the opportunity can see for themselves what is happening around them. They, for example, see tangible improvements next door in Zambia, which is the same age as Malawi. President Banda has said northern neighbour, Tanzania, which visited Malawi to learn how we were implementing Malawi Social Action Fund (Masaf) is doing far much better.
In southern Africa, there are many positive stories emerging from countries which suffered civil war and similar problems and these include Mozambique, Rwanda and Angola.
The question that could be raised is: Just what is wrong with Malawi? A lame excuse for the country’s retarded development would perhaps be that it suffered immensely under the dictatorship of Kamuzu Banda, the country’s founding president.
One positive development we can point to 20 years after Malawi democratically removed Kamuzu from power is the revolution in the communication sector in the form of cellphones.
Today, in many remote areas in the country, you find people talking on a cellphone. I can hazard a guess what the hard-working people, betrayed by their political leadership, are often talking about over their cellphones. They are discussing where their next meal would come from given the never ending hunger in a country that ironically sits on its hands as fresh water from a lake that runs the entire length of the country and could be used for irrigation, flows out into Mozambique.
What else could they be talking about?
The high cost of living, lack of medicines in hospitals, no teaching and learning materials in schools and the big scandal of siphoning huge sums of money by government departments. Allegations have been made that the massive corruption was orchestrated by President Banda’s ruling party. Some donors have since withheld aid which makes up to 40 percent of the budget of Malawi.
While some applaud the setting up of the HLDC by the President in this election year, I dare posit that Malawi does not need it. Various stakeholders have over the years studied Malawi’s development problems and made recommendations which continue to gather dust somewhere.
I understand Chikaonda wants cooperation and non-political interference as his group gets to work. I would be foolish to argue against that for we all want to win, supposedly. But what are the 23 people for? Does the group really need all those people to discuss what has already been defined and solutions suggested? There is no need for another talking shop. Not again!
With a strong hand at the steering wheel, the presidency that is, what is needed is a very small team of social scientists, engineers and money people to get into a huddle and strategise on how to implement what is agreed from the many proposals made in the past. This is 2014, and after 50 years of self-serving talk, collecting allowances at workshops, eating, getting drunk and having plenty of sex at great taxpayer expense, quit wasting time and get down to work!
—The author resides in the USA. He just concluded a month-long private visit to Malawi. He is the former founding editor of online publication, Maravi Post.