If, as projected, the population of this country hits 30 million in 2030, we desperately need a fresh new way of looking at things or we will end up in one big sinkhole, all of us.
The need to change our ways has been evident for many years now. Each year, well-meaning economists have given a doom-and-gloom prognosis of Malawi, worse than the one the year before. And each year, we are confronted by the evidence of that; there are more crooks today than there were yesterday, for example. More armed robberies, more prostitutes on the streets, more cynics in our midst, more break-ups of marriage and, generally speaking, more mayhem in society.
You read of husbands battering their wives and mothers murdering their newly-born babies more than you did before.
The people who went on the rampage in Chilomoni the other day and set fire to a police station were probably good people last year; they went to church every Sunday and scolded their children for playing violent games.
So how did they come to this?
Firstly, it is because Malawians—on the whole—cannot have a difference of opinion without resorting to vitriol, tribalism, name-calling and, ultimately, violence. Well, with the freedom to think comes the freedom to think differently. Difference of thought, alone, is no reason to take out the daggers. Malawi has to find a way to disagree with and within itself, but without being disagreeable.
Perhaps the government needs to educate its people that they have every right to protest but to do so without being unruly and destructive. Civil society and opposition parties could do this job too, but we all know they would soon be suspected of subterfuge.
People should know that they can protest the sale of MSB, but without wanting to burn the MSB buildings down.
But above all, it is politics that has brought us to this tragic situation.
There was a time in Malawi when differences were turned into physical fights because politicians used ‘rented crowds’ to achieve their objectives. They drew from gullible, undisciplined, desperate and unemployed youths to instil fear in anyone who dared to disagree with their greediness for power. After that, we were on a sliding slope and the country has not really recovered from that modus operandi to this day.
Governance, for our politicians, meant staying in power, at whatever cost, even at the cost of the lives of citizens who were forced to give up hope because there was nothing for them to eat, no jobs to work, nowhere for them to live and—even more tragically—nothing for them to live for.
As this happened, politicians amassed staggering wealth for themselves and lived like kings while the ordinary people scrounged for food in dustbins. These people are frustrated and feel cheated by their government because they were promised the moon, only to get zilch.
Little was delivered to the people because of political parties’ preoccupation with remaining in power until kingdom come. All programmes which could end poverty and usher tangible transformation were postponed, indefinitely.
Maybe now, in 2015, we can start rebuilding Malawi by starting to tell each other the truth.
The truth is known to everyone. Politicians know the truth, just as the church leaders do, but they have not had the stomach for it. The truth is that until the people are given viable options and start to live the kind of life promised them at every election time, we are sitting on a simmering powder keg. There are going to be 30 million Malawians in 15 years and no politician can possibly bamboozle all of them will false promises.
Government must start to truthfully tell the people what challenges there are, what it is doing to end their poverty, to create jobs for them, to give their children a decent education and health services far better than those they have been receiving to date.
The truth, not to put too fine a point to it, is that successive governments through propaganda vehicles like the hapless MBC and the hollow MBC TV, relentlessly tried to conceal the truth from the people—and assumed that the people were willing to be duped.
While Malawi has potential for success, the truth is that success will not come without sacrifices. Or else, brace yourself for impact this year or in 2030. n