Fifty one years after independence from Britain, Malawi is tethering on the brink of becoming a colony once again. This might sound outrageously provocative to some Malawians, but as Nicollo Machiavelli said: “There is no other way to guard against flattery than by making men understand that telling you the truth will not offend you.”
So, patriotic Malawians must acknowledge the reality on the ground that points to the unpalatable possibility above.
One needs to get out of the comfort of their air conditioned offices, travel across the country and observe Malawi at work to understand the fact that Malawi is poor not by accident, but as a result of its habits. Unless there is a revolution of thinking, chairperson Mao or Paul Kagame style, Malawi is heading into the possibility of being re-colonised within this century.
The past week I found myself out of my Blantyre base in Mangochi, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and back to Lilongwe.
This trip opened my eyes to why Malawi has stagnated socio economically.
The first point to that reminded that, to borrow from the Holy Bible, it is easier for a horse to go through a hole of a needle than for Malawi to develop into an economically advanced country was an experience at a highly respected and well established hotel in Mzuzu where, over breakfast, the only tea bags we could get were from Kenya.
The hotel waiter lamented that they could not find any respectable brand of Malawi tea in the shops, so they had no choice but to buy/serve foreign.
My supervisor and I sympathised with the hotel in this sad predicament. It resonated with our experiences in Blantyre. All shop shelves have long been colonised by imports.
With a feeling of melancholy, we concluded that if Malawi cannot put its own home grown and packaged brands of tea on breakfast tables of its middle class, when it is among the leading tea growing nations in the world, then it truly is the case of “in the abundance of water a fool is thirsty “ as Bob Marley sang.
I then came to a cynical conclusion that at this rate, hoping for Malawi to become economically independent within our children’s lifetime is more farfetched than the Indians landing a man on Mars.
The foregoing example is just but a tip of the iceberg about the miserable failure of Malawi to have a pro homegrown products oriented consumption (aka import substitution) economy. It must come as no surprise that we are nursing a heavy negative balance of payment position.
We import even the most basic of things, including tomatoes, onions, green pepper, cabbages, turnip, potatoes, tooth picks and even water (when we have one of the best freshwater lakes in the world) from all over the world. Shortly, we will be importing wadawada hard soap as well.
Now if a country cannot manufacture enough of its own wada wada hard soap and have to import such basics then very shortly it will be colonised by its debtors, and in our modern era it is most likely going to be a Chinese colony.
Cry my beloved Malawi for one fear to imagine what being colonised by China would be like. One is sure that it would be a horrendous nightmare considering how poorly and ruthless China treats its own people. Now for us who will be in its debt and not of its kin and kith, we will be treated in a viciously punitive fashion. Tears of blood meander down my cheeks for our children.
But then we can start acting now to avert that calamity visiting our posterity. First the basics. We need to borrow from our potential colonisers, the Chinese and the works of their founding father, chairperson Mao. He transformed China from an impoverished rural state into the super class of modern economies.
Today we need a benevolent chairperson Mao that will dear decisively with all the self-inflicted vices that have crept into our society like Cashgate, we must root out all lazy and cynically conniving public servants, we must deal ruthlessly with all those that usurp the course of justice by being corrupt, we must punitively purge our society of all those with subversive appetites like the vagabonds that vandalise public infrastructure; power and phone cables, road culverts, signs, street lights and bridges.
The rot in our midst has festered for too long and uprooting it must be done decisively no matter how deep the pain it will cause, because as Machiavelli said “the new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all” n