Ella Wheeler Wilcox in the poem Protest from Poems of Purpose said: “To sin in silence when we should be protesting is to make cowards out of men/The human race has climbed on protest.”
Thus, a move to permanently relegate to the graveyard mediocrity—with all its associated evils—that has served only to thwart Malawians’ reasoned existence cannot come quickly enough if the public continue to remain silent on sticky issues, and vote for parties and presidents that do not really care about the people, but rather their own ways of life; parties infested with second-hand leaders that abruptly switch from one party to another, more especially chasing the ruling party like some players change football clubs.
Head of European Union (EU) delegation Alexander Baum speaking in Blantyre during the opening of a week-long National Training and Planning workshop of National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust last month said: “Fifty years is a long time. Malawians need to ask themselves serious probing questions and draw conclusions. There is a need for home-grown deliberations on how the country should be run by people who should not loot public money. This should not be externally driven.”
Despite the low turnout, the 27 February demonstration against the Joyce Banda government on some issues of national concern organised by the civil society could be a start of the country’s embodiment of Wilcox’ viewpoint and a response to Baum’s appeal.
The march served to remind the current leadership and to convince subsequent leaderships to treat their true bosses—the general populace that put them in elective office—with genuine reverence, adoration and appreciation.
Again, the protest reminded the ruling elite and future leaders that it is this general populace that the county’s leadership needs to be accountable to for the exercise of all ‘public power’ and whose ‘trust and confidence’ it must enjoy at all times, and convince it that it is not using their public positions for personal gain and avoid any conflict of interests between their private and official undertakings.
Certainly, Malawi has not had the kind of leadership that the country deserves to engineer the sort of social, economic and political transformation it so desires.
Thus, every new government while trying to dismantle the one that came before is bent on repeating the same mistakes with few additions or new fashions.
Bakili Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF), for instance, while fighting the life presidency of Kamuzu Banda of Malawi Congress Party (MCP), embraced the quest of the third term as a matter of life or death.
While Bingu wa Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wanted Muluzi imprisoned of grand robbery, it is reported Mutharika put aside in excess of K60 billion not actually gained through an honest monthly salary.
Banda and her People’s Party (PP) have on several occasions accused Mutharika’s rule of lack of accountability and freedom of expression, yet the sitting President is neither taking stocks of her assets nor making information free in the country.
Besides, Banda’s government is embroiled in the public money plundering scandal that Norwegian Ambassador Asbjorn Eidhammer, in his address to the Public Affairs Committee (PAC) Third All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference in Blantyre last month, said “has hardly been seen in countries we would naturally compare with”.
Yet again, recently, Southern Region chiefs led by Paramount Chief Lundu from Chikhwawa took turns censuring Banda’s critics and asked the public to let the President, a self-proclaimed sincere admirer and practitioner of the late Nelson Mandela’s ‘servant leadership’ doctrine anchored on the three pillars of selflessness, honesty and people-centredness, continue crisscrossing the country distributing mbuzi, ng’ombe, ufa, chimanga, mbeu, mabulangete, malata, njinga zamoto, ‘zisani’; and elevating chiefs day in, day out in the name of ‘bringing rural development’.
Perhaps Chief Lundu and his associates need to be schooled that it is quite a stretch to describe what the President is doing as, in any manner or form, ‘bringing rural development’ or ‘alleviating people’s hunger’.
One would like to think that the President’s job is to formulate policies, assisted by her Cabinet, that if implemented successfully, will allow the rural masses to acquire by and for themselves such livelihood requirements as nkhunda, nkhuku, nkhumba, mbuzi, ng’ombe, ufa, chimanga, mbeu, feteleza, mabulangete, njinga zamoto, nyumba, and even thoughts of elevating their chiefs.
To believe that a President’s job is to be going out in the rural areas, every other day, to give out handouts of all manner and description is the summit of cluelessness about the President’s duties.
But Chief Lundu and colleagues’ act is a déjà vu of not only Muluzi’s abuse of chiefs in his third-term rule chase but Mutharika’s manipulation of the traditional leaders to pressurise the public into believing, for example, his flag change and anti-devaluation of the kwacha campaigns.
As earlier said, the reason behind the country’s refusal to learn from its past mistakes, despite Winston Churchill’s warning, and electing to remain in the swamp of mediocre leadership is second-hand politicians that have no scintilla of principles, and take selfish advantage of circumstances with no regard of the consequences for the masses.
The political template of these recycled politicians is premised on a line in John Milton’s Paradise Lost Book 1: “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”
For example, based on The Daily Times of October 16 2013 analysis, the current Cabinet brings to light the crop of leaders that the country has.
Save three ‘technocrats’—Maxwell Mkwezalamba, Finance; James Munthali, Agriculture; Rachel Kachaje, Disability—the remaining full Cabinet ministers comprise the following second-hand politicians: Banda, President (UDF, DPP, PP); Khumbo Kachali, Vice-President (UDF, DPP, PP); Sosten Gwengwe, Minister of Industry and Trade (MCP, DPP, PP); Fahadi Assani, Justice (UDF, PP); Catherine Gotani Hara, Health (DPP, PP); Ulemu Chilapondwa, Transport and Public Works (DPP, PP); Ephraim Mganda Chiume, Foreign Affairs (DPP, PP); Henry Duncan Phoya, Lands and Housing (UDF, DPP, MCP, PP); Anita Kalinde, Water Development (DPP, PP); Ken Edward Kandodo, Defence (DPP, PP); Uladi Mussa, Home Affairs (UDF, DPP, Maravi People’s Party, PP); Halima Daud, Environment (DPP, PP); Ralph Pachalo Jooma, Economic Planning (UDF, PP); Grace Maseko, Labour (DPP, PP); Chris Daza, Good Governance (MCP, PP); Enock Chihana, Youth and Sports (UDF, DPP, Alliance for Democracy); Rachel Mazombwe Zulu, Local Government (MCP, PP); Mary Clara Makungwa, Gender (UDF, National Democratic Alliance [NDA], PP); Moses Kunkuyu, Tourism (DPP, PP); John Bande, Mining (DPP, PP); Ibrahim Matola, Energy (UDF, PP); Brown Mpinganjira, Information (UDF, NDA, PP); Luscious Kanyumba, Education (DPP, PP).
This scenario should provoke thinking among Malawians that indubitably Malawi needs some serious ‘transformative or restorative rebirth’ in how it perceives ‘elective office’, ‘public service’ and the ‘public good’.
The country also needs some ‘creative destruction’ and removal, through permissible and better ways possible, of second-hand politicians tumour—the tumour that has flooded the country with politicians that, for decades, have failed to satisfy the public current needs, much less cannot satisfy the public future needs—for the country to make any headway with any development agenda it aspires to.