On December 30 2017, this column published my piece entitled ‘The religion of nsima’. The piece was re-published on 27 January, 2018. The piece is, at once, a frustrated tirade, and, at the same time, a call to action.
The frustrated tirade side of it highlights the nation–wide self–hypnosis afflicting the motherland. The call to action stressed that, in 2018, we must get back to work. And, harder. I further stated that the State ‘expects’ each citizen as an individual to be responsible. Similarly, the exercise of the legal and political authority of the State must be done, responsibly.
The ‘exerciser’ is to be responsible to the citizen as an individual and as a collective.
I further stated that the challenge in Malawi has been that the strategy of holding the ‘exerciser’ of State authority to account happens at the collective and not the individual level of citizenship.
2018 draws to a close in two days’ time. It seems to me that some of us did go to work in the year. And worked harder. But unfortunately, it was never in advancing the agenda of the country. Throughout the year, we have had one disheartening story after the other.
The electricity sector in this country continues to disappoint the citizenry. We have been reduced to ‘proudly boasting’ about an hour’s power ‘ON’. The other day, we even went to that border town, clad in specially made golf shirts and zirundu, to jump and prance about some 20 megawatts from ba-Lungu. All this has happened in the wake of the pomp surrounding the arrival of majeneleta. All this has happened in the aftermath of the story of alonda who ‘drunk’ themselves silly on 3 million litres of mafuta.
Various pieces of this column have proffered critiques, opinions and what not on a plethora of subjects: The 50+1 debate on the determination of the presidential vote rages on. All parties seem unanimous in their preference for the first-past-the-post system. We shall, therefore, one day have a President Elect with as little as 10 percent of the national vote. (What with 50+political parties registered under our law.)
The quality of governance can be better. True to form, the State President and the State Vice- President have fallen out. (The State Vice-President is now the leader of the Muv’menti.) The constant fall out of the State President and the State Vice President points to the failure of our podium–politics to recognise and embrace the constitutional conventions that must complement the text and practice contained in the Constitution of the Republic. Our podium–politics can be super–petty at the expense of the national good.
The intraparty democracy in this country remains a challenge. Our main political parties have a story or two they wish never found the light of day. ‘Primaries’ for the election of ma-shadow have not been drama-free. The 50:50 campaign for the empowerment of women politicians seems to have been sabotaged by entrenched patriarchal tendencies. Women are even at the wrong end of insults from members of Cabinet. (Sorry; it is not all women. It is two women.)
Our political public officers continue to take the citizenry for fools. The purported explanation of the K4 billion bounty in Parliament; The 145; Kaloshwe; and them. All of these leave a lot to be desired. Za-Esikomu sitinena. Not only are our political public officers taking us for granted, they have gone a notch up and are now re-writing the country’s history of the nationalist, independence struggle. Public finance mismanagement continues like nobody’s business. Sometimes, one has to ask: Where is our umunthu?
In this column, I have previously contended that a good education implies attainment of knowledge. An uneducated general population lack knowledge. Knowledge is a resource of power. A ‘knowledgeless’ society is powerless. A lack of ‘power–knowledge’ shall imply that a whole general population is incapable to critique. Critique is an integral part of governing. Political yobism, in this country, has arisen out of paucity for critique among the citizenry. Critique shall be important as the political campaigning gets fierce in the New Year.
My mother, like most folks of her generation, is extremely religious. This generation has passed on their fierce belief in a Supreme Being to their offspring. So; every 5.30 am, it is morning devotion; at 9 am, women’s choir meeting; at 2pm, church projects committee meeting; at 5pm, evening devotion; and at the weekend, Christian warriors meeting. Week in. Week out. I think my mother and her friends at her church have already negotiated the narrow path to Heaven.
My mother and her friends symbolise the typical Malawian. (You can substitute the reference to Christianity for any other faith.) The belief in God in this country is palpable. There is no prize for guessing that in 2019 there shall be a national day of prayers for free and fair elections.
It is okay to pray. It is actually cool if you are that inclined. But God gave us a brain. After all the praying; speaking in tongues or whatever it is, is done, let us remember to use our brains.
The stones must cry out.
Paja–nso Nsimayi tisiye. Wawa.n
* Chikosa Silungwe is a lawyer & consultant at The Mizumali Foundation. He holds a PhD in Law from The University of Warwick in Coventry, England.