Like most families in the Northern Region, particularly Karonga, I too used to have an uncle who trekked to the Copper Belt in Zambia to look for greener pastures in the mines.
While there, he picked up some English words which he used to deliberately spice up with some Bemba just to display some level of sophistication.
Indeed, upon his return to the village after retirement, he brought us clothes, fish nets, some worn-out shoes for us to Ã¢â‚¬Ëœfinish offÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and a few memorabia.
My old uncle, now pushing 80, also built himself the only iron-roofed house within the immediate communities and helped his local church to complete the construction of a prayer house.
Everyone appreciated what he had done. He was well respected within the community, a returning son who had done well for himself abroad and was now helping his folks. The only problem was that he started talking too much, bragging about his benevolence to the community.
He even became jealous of other well-wishers who also wanted to help his relations, telling everyone with an ear that he was rich enough to support his folks. Unfortunately, my uncleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wealth started eroding so much that he could not continue supporting people.
People started grumbling. It did not take long before members of the community began to get fed up with this erratic behaviour and bellicose rhetoric.
Today, my uncle is so broke that even when his child is sick, he cannot take her to hospital. His children are fighting for the little food in the house and none of them is going to school because of school fees problems.
The man is now a shadow of his former self. No one really cares about the goodies he dished out several years ago on his heroic return from Zambia. All they care about is today and tomorrow.
My uncle has now resorted to dishing such mantra as “Nkhaya munthu kale ine,” or “ndinali munthu kale“, roughly translated to mean, “I used to be” powerful around here and goes on to remind people of what he once did for them.
My uncleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s behaviour reminds me of President Bingu wa Mutharika, who remains stuck in the past when everyone is worried about their daily bread.
Speaking when he opened this yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s session of Parliament, Mutharika claimed that by all standards, Malawi is a success story. He then narrated how the country used to be.
“We are peaceful, secure and hunger-free. We also have highly developed infrastructure like this new Parliament, the five star hotel,” said Mutharika. He even mentioned, to boos from the opposition benches, the collapsing Shire Zambezi Waterway Project and the Karonga/Chitipa Road.
“I have reduced maternal deaths as well as HIV and AIDS-related deaths following the introduction of free ARVs. I have built more schools and hospitals and we have increased the number of people accessing safe drinking water,” he said.
This is nice recitation. But regurgitating all these things over a five-year period is a bit of a stretch. And frankly, people are tired of this Ã¢â‚¬Ëœused to beÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ rhetoric.
By the way, last weekÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Cut the Chaff on the ineffective Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) generated a lot of debate both within the grouping and other forums. My inbox was also flooded with feedback. Due to space, I will just pick and publish one that I hope captures the general thinking of economists in the country regarding their association.
I wish to put forth my feelings on the article you just had in todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢sÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ paper. I agree that we remain no different from non-economist as far as our work on mother Ecama is concerned. The last time I heard about an activity to do with Ecama was long time ago.
We need leadership which is not afraid to be criticised for the things that are worth pointing out and advising on. I am one economist who used to associate with Ecama as a student. Now I have little interest in such a dead body.
What you call the January 19 statement could be something emanating from just a few leaders in Ecama.
Ecama is rich in knowledge and if tapped, it can help the country to make progress. Let the current Ecama leaders know how to tap the knowledge from its members for informed and consistent policy advice.
I know some people will take your article personally. They will say many bad things about you. But you raised an important issue on behalf of the majority of Ecama members.