Almost everyone agrees that our country is in a state of a man-made crisis which has affected nearly all Malawians. Almost everyone also agrees that this crisis is resolvable, and that dialogue, not violence, can resolve it.
Since almost everyone knows about these facts, it is difficult to say anything new or bring any nuanced perspective to the grave issues that we face as a country. But granted, I would like to offer a view of the state of our nation through the eyes of a middle-aged father of two boys who, at the same time, is attempting a decent shot at some semblance of a professional career.
I mention my two sons (aged 12 and 10) because I have had awkward filial conversations with them. They once asked me when I am going to become a judge because they know that judges are escorted to court by the army. They saw this in Lilongwe.
They have also asked me if now that Malawi is no longer a peaceful country, I can reconsider relocating to
a ‘better country’ because the main reason I told them I decided to stay in Malawi is because of the peace. My retort that it remains peaceful was met with examples of a dead protester, a murdered police officer, torched buildings and looted shops.
I also mention my sons because we, adults, are trustees managing the affairs of our nation in whatever capacity, in public or private sector, for the next generation of Malawians.
The current political stalemate and its associated violence and lawlessness must arouse in us actionable contempt and indignation. Even the middle class living in segregated compounds must understand that the current stalemate poses an existential threat to life as they know it.
Professionals, while remaining largely isolated from the daily struggles of the ghetto, must not detach
themselves from the sad reality. The belief that this toxicity and polarisation shall, on its own, taper and fizzle out may be a tad too naive. I would rather wear the tag of being alarmist than remain indifferent to the challenges we face
As a professional running a small practice, I also harbour frustrations with a society that is getting increasingly polarised. It is not easy to be frank about our frustrations without running the risk of offending our ‘political connects’. But truth must be told. Not only because it frees us, but more importantly, it enriches our national conversation.
The current political squabbles are making our nation much less attractive as an investment destination. At national level, the challenges are well documented. But I would like to see the economic malaise through the lenses of a dutiful father and uncle struggling to pay school fees; a smallholder farmer at Chimbiya in Dedza who can hardly afford seed nor fertiliser and is perennially ripped off by errant traders; a family in Hewe, Rumphi which has to walk a long distance with their sick child to a public health centre; and an overworked young doctor at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre saddled with the responsibility of hundreds of patients without sufficient medication and equipment and for a paltry pay.
Of course, these challenges do not necessarily emanate from the post-May political quagmire. Rather, the present situation is preventing us from facing the real major challenges that affect ordinary Malawians’ lives such as rampant corruption, a crumbling justice system, increasing use of a tribal base by politicians from both sides of the aisle and general despondency among this country’s populace.
It is all-too-inviting to lay the blame of this at the gilded doors of one man or woman. But it is an invitation we must be slow and reluctant to accept.
I now speak to my fellow middle-aged parents and professionals to demand, through our professional associations, our chambers of commerce, our trade unions, our churches, our communities and our political parties, a more sober and reasoned resolution to the political quagmire. It is not weak to concede that the present tactics by both sides of the divide have not yielded the desired results.
We have no more minute to waste. Mubviwu tikuwuyang’anira zedi. Utilasa m’maso.