Civilised life is based on leadership and leadership is subject to principles. Where most people have no respect for their leaders, it is either the fault of the leaders themselves or that of the people.
A leader teaches by example. If he says one thing and does another, his followers will treat whatever he says casually. In his book The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote: “We Italians have to thank our priests that we are not religious.”
We can infer from this that Italian priests of his time were not serious about religion, perhaps they were in priesthood merely for material gains.
The head of the Legislature is the Speaker. If members can absent themselves from sitting without his authority or valid reason, there is violation of two of the four cornerstones of political life that Malawi’s first President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda decreed time and again, namely obedience and discipline.
The absentee MPs do not obey their leaders, the Speaker and the party whips. They have no sense of discipline nor of duty.
Why do we have such people in the august House? The immortal Benjamin Franklin wrote in his Poor Richard’s Hemanack: “In rivers and bad governments, light things swims on the top.”
We have witnessed of late top civil servants entrusted with funds to administer their ministries and departments, use that money to build private castles. Now we are having members of Parliament (MPs) collecting allowances meant for attending to official business, but they go to attend to private business. What difference is there with cashgate practices?
Are these MPs leaders? Do they make effective leadership? What example are they giving to their followers? The reforms taking place in the civil service should be extended to other branches of government, particularly the Legislature.
Our Constitution is supposed to be both parliamentary and presidential. The parliamentary aspect allows MPs to become ministers; the presidential aspect requires that a president be directly elected by the people. The Constitution enshrines the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances between those powers.
Good leadership is essential for the success of a nation, but people themselves must uphold certain virtues. They should have a sense of duty to the community. It is easier to lead such people than those who are selfish and unpatriotic.
Though democracy allows us to have opposition parties, the freedom to express opinions that are at variance with official ones does not include unpatriotic behaviour.
Where security and reputation of the nation are at stake, political parties and newspapers—which are often at loggerheads—must close ranks. They must not take advantage of each other’s difficult times if doing so would be inimical to the development or safety of the nation.
Honest dealing with other people is what we call integrity. A vendor who uses a defective scale, giving wrong weights of what he sells is dishonest. Employees who claim allowances for meetings they have not attended or who create ghost workers and pocket the salaries are behaving contrary to integrity.
Whoever said ‘we pretend to work because they pretend to pay us’ was a rogue. A good pay should follow a job well done. When employees’ efforts have contributed to the profitability of the business, employers should give them corresponding rewards.
Great leaders are hard workers. Usually, they work harder than their subordinates or employees. Here the word leader refers to any situation where some people do things under the guidance of others. In the State and the church, there are leaders; in business and leisure activities, there are also leaders and so on.
In political biographies we read that during the Second World War, British second war Prime Minister Winston Churchill was working 18 hours a day. Peace time Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher says in her autobiography she was faring well with four hours sleep a day.
Napoleon used to start his day at 3am. Jean Paul Getty, who was the richest American of his time, wrote that American chief executives used to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week.
Do we want to develop Malawi? Let us work with patriotism, integrity and dedication.