Hon Folks, drive past the clock tower in Blantyre and you’ll see a huge billboard on which is displayed APM’s paint-brushed portrait and his vision of creating a “progressive” Malawi using patriotism, integrity and hard work as cornerstones.
The message may be replicated on billboards elsewhere. If you see one with a portrait of His Excellency the Professor, check the caption.
Being a nation where 85 percent of the population is rural-based and adult literacy is about 65 percent, one would expect such messages at least in Chichewa (the national language) and Tumbuka (the language widely spoken in northern Malawi).
It’s important that we all know how the President intends to lead us in creating a progressive Malawi, an agenda we’ve pursued with a passion since attaining our independence in 1964 with very little, if any, to show for it.
Take the Vision 2020, for example. We envisaged moving from abject poverty to a middle income economy where there’s a prevalence of unity in diversity by the year 2020.
It’s now 2016, only four years before 2020 and 18 years after mooting our collective national vision yet we’re anything but a progressive country. How Africa earlier in the week posted on its online platform an article titled ‘Top 25 poorest countries in Africa’.
Ranked by GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power, the 25th poorest country is Chad then Tanzania, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Comoros, Benin, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Rwanda, Togo, Mozambique, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Ethiopia, DRC, Liberia, Madagascar, Niger, Gambia, Central African Republic, Burundi, Malawi then Somalia.
Look at it this way. Africa, though showing great potential to claim its place in the sun, remains the poorest continent in the world. Yet, our country which should have been heading towards being a middle income economy, is in reality rated as the last but one poorest of the 54 countries on the poorest continent!
Somalia, CAR and Burundi are war-torn countries that export more refugees than commodities. How come that Malawi, a beautiful, resource-rich country that has never experienced civil strife, is sandwiched by them?
Why are we the last but one poorest country? How come that Rwanda, a country rocked in civil strife in which 800 000 people were senselessly butchered as we were enjoying a smooth transition from one party to a multiparty democracy in 1994, is now 12 places higher up the economic ladder?
All along, my argument has been that we are where we are—enmeshed in abject poverty where we can’t even feed ourselves despite being an agricultural economy—because of mediocre leadership.
My argument is steeped in the management theory that attributes 80 percent of an organisation’s success to good leadership or management. I guess this is why formal leaders, who don’t even get dirty at the operational level, cart home hefty salaries, bonuses and various other perks from an organisation.
They get paid a lot simply for their ideas, their strategies. It follows in my opinion that if an organisation is a failure, 80 percent if not more of the flop should also equally be attributed to poor leadership or management.
In the context of Malawian politics, the issue of leadership can be looked at in this way. In 1993 the majority of us rejected the one-party system which Dr. Kamuzu Banda championed so passionately. In the following year, we also denied him the vote. He was a hopelessly bad leader, a dictator.
Since that time we’ve had Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika, Joyce Banda and now, Peter Mutharika. But, if the truth be told, none of those who have come after Kamuzu has performed any better than him.
Simply put, if Kamuzu was a bad leader and all the others after him have been worse, then our woes are a reflection of our losses in quality leadership.
But I’m tempted to also see those being led as a significant 20 percent. Take Malawi with a population of nearly 17 million. If the majority cherishes such high values as patriotism, integrity and hard work, that will serve as the fertile soil on which the ideas from good leadership can quickly grow and bear fruit.
If instead of hard work people look to government for everything—the food they eat and the houses they live in; if instead of integrity, people support ignoble causes based on what’s-in-it-for-me; and if instead of patriotism people strip mother Malawi naked by wanton cutting down of trees or rob her through Cashgate and drug pilferage, etc., then good leadership is a mere voice of one crying in the wilderness.
But again if patriotism, integrity and hard work are cornerstones for a progressive Malawi, then our leaders should be the first to embrace them. Talk is cheap, good leaders walk the talk and lead by example. n