On the readers page of The Nation dated April 15 2013 ,there is only one letter from Charles Chiuye headed “Patriotism needed to Malawi.” In the very first paragraph, he tells the readers that a research made at Oxford recently has predicted that it will take another 74 years before Malawi develops.
By that time, at least half of Malawi’s present population will have died. The forecast is daunting. I guess the research was conducted by professor P.C. who in his book has painted the gloomiest picture for Malawi’s economic future.
Let us not be demoralised, but take heart from what the late Professor Paul Samuelson of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) said about economic forecasts.
What the Oxonians have said about Malawi has a precedent. More than twice, I have recalled on this page how an economist who was sent in 1961 by the British Colonial Office to report on the economic prospects of Nyasaland (Malawi) and Mauritius had reported that the two small countries would only survive as pensioners of another country. How true was the prophecy of that doom? Since that time, Mauritius, a much smaller country than Malawi has developed to the extent that it is now a middle income country. Professor Benedict ‘s(for that was his name) prediction on Malawi have turned out to be too accurate.
Why have we failed where other countries have managed to surprise those who had thought ill of them? The reasons should be sought in our national character which is characterised by inconsistencies.
Last week, I received a phone call from one of the radio stations and was asked to comment on the fact that the American entertainer and philanthropist Madonna, had been deprived of the VIP status over a difference of interpretation with government officials as to whether she had built schools or classrooms. In brief, I said the lady who had generously adopted Malawian children deserved better treatment than that.
A day later, I read what was purported to be a statement from the Kamuzu Palace. The tone of the statement was horrifying. Had Madonna committed a crime by wrongly describing her projects as schools instead of classroom blocks? Perhaps the officials concerned did not think much of the classrooms, but pupils who used to be packed in classrooms like sardine will now be happier to be learning in roomy classrooms. Ten years or so ago, pupils who were learning under a tree were killed when that tree fell on them. Pupils will certainly be happier studying under a roof of a brick building.
There is inconsistency in our national character in that we boast of our country as the warm heart of Africa, but react to trivial annoyances with sound and fury so much that the world begins to wonder whether a hot temper elsewhere is what in Malawi is called warmth.
Whatever is given to us free, we must receive with two hands, we may take a cue from Ngoni (Mazongendaba) chiefs of the past, whenever one of their subjects brought them a gift in the form of a bullocks, he would say ” great chief may you receive this calf for your relish.” The chief would respond, “what do you call this calf?” to me this is a bull. Thank you for your kindness.
Even though Madonna has constructed mere classrooms, let us be as grateful as if she had built a complete school. Let us be grateful that she has given opportunity to Malawian children to grow up in comfortable homes. Who knows she may be rearing potential geniuses.
When you show great gratitude for whatever is given to you, you encourage the givers to come back later and give you something bigger.
The State House statement seemed to suggest that because Madonna rendered philanthropic services to Malawi of her own volition, Malawians were not obliged to be grateful by treating her as a special guest. Remember that when Jesus healed 10 men of their leprosy and only one of them came back to thank him, he was not amused by the behaviour of the other nine. GOD created us of his own will and yet when we go to churches or mosques, we first thank him like Oliver Twist before we ask for some more blessings.
Some people think we should not be grateful for the aid we received because they suspect it has strings attached. There are those who denounce aid as having bred in us the spirit of dependency. The fault is not in aid, but in how we handle what we receive. A rich man gives scholarship to two brothers to study at a university. Student A spends more time studying and less time amusing himself, student B spends more time amusing himself and less time studying. The examination comes, student A passes, while student B fails. Are we to blame the rich man for student B’s failure?
Malawi’s development will depend on cultivating friendly relationships with wealthy countries to maintain those relationships.