During the current sitting of Parliament, a member of Parliament for Dedza North West, Hon. Alekeni Menyani’s remarks to Hon David Bisnowaty, MP for Lilongwe City Centre constituency, raised hell both inside and outside the House. For three consecutive days it was the leading news item on TVM. This was in addition to television discussions about the ills of racism. In general people condemned the remarks. Even the leader of opposition in Parliament Lazarous Chakwera apologised and Hon Bisnowaty accepted the apology. It is now water under the bridge. However, the incident is indeed thought provoking.
So far, it is appreciated that people have unanimously agreed that racism is not welcome in democratic Malawi and must, therefore, never be practised in whatever form. Meanwhile, what is not appreciated is the culture of silence about nepotism, tribalism and regionalism which are being practised and no one wants to seriously talk about. People should know that these practices are just as painful as racism. It can be pointed out that in some isolated cases some people raise the problem of tribalism or nepotism in the country. Such people are blamed by the government authorities that they are trying to divide the people of Malawi. Those who say so deliberately forget that Malawians have never before been divided as is the case now. These days, where one comes from matters most than his/her qualifications. This takes place be it at getting access to tertiary education, government appointments as well as getting a job or promotion in public service. The most recent example is the appointment of the Clerk of Parliament, Fiona Kalemba. From the media reports it is believed that at the interview Justice Charles Mkandawire of the Malawi High Court came first and was the one who was recommended to the President for the position. However, the President picked Fiona Kalemba who came third. Among other reasons, the President suspected some nepotism at the interview. But, what can stop people from suggesting that the presidential choice is also nepotistic because he has shunned away from merit, which he preaches about.
When President Peter Mutharika came into power with a lean Cabinet of 20 ministers Malawians were happy that long at last financial resources will be saved as opposed to having the usual more than 40 ministers. Meanwhile, what disappointed most people is that the Cabinet is mostly made up of people from the same area or region. Some people argue that there is nothing wrong with that because other presidents were doing the same. This is simply shallow reasoning. If nepotism, tribalism and regionalism are bad it cannot be good just because people have been doing it all along. There is need to have a cut-off point. Let President Peter Mutharika be the one to put a stop to this home grown segregation. The government should stick to merit.
It is so sad that even the standards of tertiary education have gone down because of the quota system which ignores merit. It is indeed retrogressive to exempt some students from working hard just because depending on where they come from the government will let them proceed. This is not favouritism but an injustice that the students only realise when they have been weeded from the university. It is very unfortunate that law makers send their children to schools and universities abroad and do not feel the pinch of the good for nothing laws they make for the poor people.
President Peter Mutharika and his government might be well-focused on development. But, if they leave stumbling blocks of nepotism, tribalism and regionalism to flourish as is the case now, not much development will be achieved. Putting a non-achiever in position of authority just because he is a home boy is a catalyst for failure. n