In this age and era throwing racist remarks at someone in whatever form is unacceptable. It is for this reason that I wish to add my voice to the many Malawians who have condemned the racist slurs by Malawi Congress Party (MCP) legislators on Lilongwe City Central David Bisnowaty.
Even in the face of serious provocation, one expects that members in the august house will behave honourably. That calls for self-restraint from members of Parliament. Of course, Bisnowaty may not have been very right to condemn the founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s rule in the manner he did. Admitted, Kamuzu’s rule had its excesses which are well documented. They include lack of human rights observance, penchant for opulence, to mention but a few. Certainly in the democratic dispensation that we are, Malawians do not expect to be visited by the same atrocities.
To that extent, one would say Bisnowaty was not quite out of his senses. He, however, should have realised that it is not honourable to waste time for the 192 members of Parliament reminding them about what everybody already knows, and what has been condemned a million times. It should also have dawned on Bisnowaty that he did not have to provoke anger from anyone by exaggerating the extent of the problems that are now history.
Hunger that afflicts many Malawians year in and year out in the democratic Malawi can hardly be compared to the food security situation during the Kamuzu era. It was not as bad as it is today. Kamuzu promoted agriculture in a manner no leader can compare with today. Examples abound. The many farming enterprises across the country—whether through the infamous Malawi Young Pioneers (MYP) or not—ensured that people had enough food on their tables all year round. But these institutions disappeared at the blink of an eye thanks to Operation Bwezani.
For all the bad names they earned, the MYP bases were undeniably bread baskets for the country. Food shortages of the magnitude Malawi is famous for today were unheard of save for 1992 when there were floods in the country, especially the lower Shire.
Kamuzu’s song in his speeches that whatever people might lack but at least three things they needed to have, namely, good houses that did not leak when it rains, good clothes and food, was not empty rhetoric. To that extent, I would fault Bisnowaty for misrepresenting Kamuzu’s rule on food security.
That said, I wish to also put on record that in my understanding, the statement that the MCP president Dr Lazarus Chakwera made following the racist slurs from some of his members fell short of condemning the unfortunate remarks in the strongest terms. Chakwera’s statement, in my view was very vague and for the most part bordered on ambiguity. Chakwera should have condemned in no uncertain terms the racist remarks and apologised on behalf of his party. He did not. I am sorry to say this. He just made a statement that seemed to say it has happened. Let bygones be bygones. But he should have gone further than that. His speech created the impression he did not have his heart in it. It was as if he was just forced to make the statement to appear he was concerned. I certainly need to be shown what constituted a condemnation and an apology in that statement.
But if Bisnowaty is satisfied with the apology who am I to make him think otherwise. Let us move on. We have many teething problems in Malawi which should be exercising the minds of our MPs. During the current session, Parliament is supposed to review the budget, specifically to revise it downwards. Not an easy task. What does that mean? What are the implications? What will be chopped?
Donors whom we need badly have hinted on resuming aid to Malawi if government fulfils its part of the deal. They have set 20 conditions including passing the Access to Information Bill (ATI). They are all doable. For example, the President promised that the ATI bill will be tabled during this session of Parliament. That he backpedalled a few days later, smacks of hypocrisy. ATI should not just be tabled but also passed into law. Members of Parliament should weigh in and ensure the needful is done. As for our development partners opening the aid tap, the ball is in the Executive’s court. n