Vice-President Saulos Chilima has said ordinary Malawians will not improve their lives in the New Year unless they stop being mere praise singers to mediocre leadership, and resolve to seriously hold leaders accountable for service delivery in transformative development.
He was speaking to The Nation yesterday afternoon at St. Patrick’s Catholic Parish in Area 18B in Lilongwe. At the time of the interview, Chilima was dressed like a chef after he had just finished serving at a New Year braai to some of the 13 000 Catholic faithful who had congregated at the parish.
Chilima was in a spirit of servitude in line with the church’s celebration of the Feast of Mary. In the celebration, the church leadership and members try to emulate Mary’s outstanding character, including speaking the truth with love, serving others faithfully, humbleness and boldness.
“When the ordinary people press for accountability, leaders in various political parties and in all positions in our communities will stop behaving like shareholders. The truth is that it is the ordinary people who are shareholders because they gave us these various positions. We need to be accountable to the ordinary people by delivering substantive results,” he stated.
The Veep stressed that the country will not progress if people tolerate mediocrity among any of their leaders.
Chilima said: “In 2017, for instance, we need to make great strides and the ordinary people can ensure this by condemning and rejecting any wrongdoing and by commending the good things their leaders do.”
Yesterday afternoon’s remarks by Chilima gave his message a broader national context after he had, earlier in the day, endorsed a hard-hitting homily during the parish church service by Father Frank Phiri.
In his sermon, Father Phiri said the best commemoration of the feast by Mary should prompt Catholics to root out social ills such as poor leadership, laziness, hatred, greed and jealousy.
“As Catholics, we ought to be transformative and be the [Christian] light to the world by reforming as individuals, family members and members of our communities,” he stated.
Father Phiri also said most of the nation’s socio-economic challenges, which have trapped ordinary Malawians in poverty, have come about because people choose and clap hands for incompetent and crooked leaders who are hardly held accountable as they drive the nation into the mire.
“We cannot continue doing the same things and expect different results [of effective national progress]. Let us resolve to make 2017 a year when the spirit of Mary will make us love our fellow human beings, and our country, much more,” he said.
Commenting on the issue, University of Malawi lecturer of political science, Boniface Dulani, said it is not surprising that the bold and welcome statements are coming from the Catholic Church, which helped to guide the nation into embracing democracy from the 1990s when it spoke out against autocracy.
“I think it is true that, as a country, we stand to benefit if the populace were to be more critical of the leadership. I think, oftentimes, we have rather been leaving the fight to the media, maybe a few political commentators, the academia and civil society organisations, while the majority suffer in silence or they applaud mediocrity,” he stated.
Dulani lamented that Malawi’s political culture is rather indifferent to ensuring that the masses question their leaders beyond the ballot box results, hence the poor leaders not being held accountable for their misdeeds.
He expressed surprise that the Vice-President came up with the bold statement.
“Some of the mediocre leadership starts within the ruling [Democratic Progressive] party itself and you would hope that the Vice-President would stand up and challenge some of his colleagues within his own party.
“Applauding mediocre leadership is not only the rank and file members clapping hands and ululating. But it is also a kind of dormancy when there are [from top leadership] attacks on the media and those holding critical voices. When people attack critical voices, that, in my view, is also accommodating mediocrity; we need to accept critical voices,” Dulani stressed. n