‘A leader who relies on nepotism, tribalism or regionalism for support to get power or remain in power can best be described as being politically bankrupt’.
This is what Prof Patrick Lumumba, a renowned social/political commentator said when he was interviewed by Brian Banda on Times Television recently. What Lumumba said is very true even in the Malawi context. In fact, experience has shown that a politically bankrupt leader seems to think that his or her main agenda is to perfect nepotism and tribalism, instead of thinking about meaningful development of the country. The worst thing is that in the process of perfecting nepotism and tribalism, a lot of public resources are wasted through bribes and favouritism in maintaining the power base.
When Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was voted into power as the first post-colonial leader, his power base was from all Malawians and not just Chewas of the Central Region. Therefore, his leadership was about merit. If there was any tribalism or nepotism, it was so insignificant to make much impact on progress. Kamuzu’s fearlessness and intelligence was enough to get him the leadership position. His agenda was to prove to the whites that he was capable enough to bring positive change to Malawi. This he did by bringing in economic development. At that time, Malawians naturally felt that they owned the country and; therefore, they always worked hard to achieve more.
As it were, political bankruptcy started setting in after attaining multiparty democracy in 1994. Since then home-boy syndrome has been practised during elections. This has been perfected and it is now full-blown.
When talking about presidential elections, people can even predict that the winner will come from the populous region. Experience has shown that even the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) dances to that tune and try to bend the rules to make sure the candidate from a region of many people wins. Presidents are no longer elected for their skill, intelligence or capabilities. Sadly, the result of this is lack of development in the country.
At the moment, political bankruptcy is at worst in Malawi. The alleged nepotism and tribalism by the Democratic Progressive Party-led government is at its peak. People have only talked about it with examples and, likewise, President Peter Mutharika has denied that it is happening. But the reality reveals it all. Most of the lucrative government businesses and appointments go to the people of the South, where Mutharika comes from.
The result of this is that people who are left out do not work hard and, likewise, those who are favoured work at their own pace since there is no one to take them to task because they are under the protection of the President. It is likely that DPP cadets came into the picture to protect nepotism and tribalism. Sadly, the cadets do not benefit much apart from the leadership thrown at them. This is temporary and can hardly raise their living standards. In fact, party militias are doing very risky jobs, which are life-threatening, and their families have nothing to fall back on.
It must be noted that swearing in a Head of State before all the election queries have been cleared is the start of political bankruptcy. MEC defends itself that it follows the laws. For goodness’ sake, MEC should not act like a robot. Laws are not permanent and can be changed as the case may be.
Lastly, for Malawi to have meaningful progress, this country needs people that have a national agenda, and not a tribe or a region. Failing which, Malawi will be history as it has been seen that politically bankrupt leaders have destroyed the country.