Hon Folks, a stitch in time saves nine, they say. As politicians have hit the campaign trail, trying to woo voters with lies and pledges, it’s up to us voters to realise that what is at stake in the 2019 Tripartite Elections is our destiny.
Already, we are the world’s case study of a country where peace and abject poverty live side by side, juxtaposed, for more than 50 years we have taken our destiny into our own hands as an independent sovereign State.
Hard-working Malawians have been short-changed by the politics of mediocrity and cronyism that has prevailed since the days of Kamuzu Banda, the know-it-all dictator who turned the region’s cradle of education and civilization into a land of the living dead, the zombies.
All those who came after Kamuzu spent their energies and our resources to be like Kamuzu—an accomplished scholar (even by acquiring honorary doctorates through the back door) God-send to own what collectively belongs to us all and share crumbs to only those citizens whose unflinching loyalty, not merit, is beyond question.
Which is why, today, we are ranked with war-torn South Sudan and failed-State Somalia as the three poorest countries in the world, by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
People say developing Malawi is our collective responsibility. I agree, but the starting point is having a leader at the State House who realises that beneath the power and opulence associated with the office, there is a lot of stitching to do.
The fabric of our society and the fabric of our vision to become a middle income economy by 2020 are so worn out that virtually every part of it would require patching. That process will definitely take time, more time than the constitutionally stipulated maximum of two consecutive five-year terms a president can serve.
But when the cloth is torn in so many areas, priority when stitching should be to those parts that cover our modesty, right? Yes, we don’t want show the world what all humans out there are trying so hard to cover up.
Africa where we belong has moved on. Rwanda, a land-locked country like Malawi which also has no oil wells or gold mines, was ablaze in 1994 when we were peacefully transiting from the one-party to the multi-party system of government. It’s a genocide that claimed 800 000 lives, destroyed the economy aggravated animosity between the Tutsi and the Hutu.
When President Paul Kagame came onto the scene in 2000, he had to first douse the fire, unite a divided nation and start building the economy. All there was at the time was tea, coffee and a tourism sector to develop.
Rwanda’s per capita GDP (PPP) in 1994 was at $416 and by 2017, it was estimated at $2 090! By comparison, per capita GDP (PPP) for Malawi was at $711.20 in 1994 it only grew to $1 095.04 by 2017.
The joke making rounds is that Malawi came up with a brilliant 2020 blueprint and left it on the shelf to gather dust. Kagame saw it when he came to visit, dusted it and put it to good use. Today, Rwanda is almost where Malawi wanted to be by 2020: a peaceful middle income economy of milk and honey where the rule of law of prevails.
On its part, Malawi, the author of Vision 2020, is almost where it was in 1994, very poor, shunned by both donors and investors. Its only asset: peace!
Kagame showed us it’s possible to pick up the pieces and hit the road running towards sustainable development and improved living standards. The choice we have is to emulate and transform or do things in a business-as usual manner and be where we are today 20 years to come.
Kagame is no perfectionist and his legacy is weak on the human rights side. But he created an environment in which many women moved from the kitchen to the boardroom where their transformative energies have contributed to the Rwandan developmental miracle the whole world admires.
The world also bears testimony to the spirited fight against corruption that Kagame has mounted. He sends a clear message to all and sundry that the only sure way to keep your job in government or Cabinet is on merit, not by boot-licking or nepotism.
Some of the names ready for the presidential race in Malawi in 2019 are: Peter Mutharika, Lazarus Chakwera, Joyce Banda, Atupele Muluzi and Saulos Chilima. We should listen critically to their campaign messages, scrutinise their manifestoes and eliminate from our list of favourites those who want to tackle our lingering challenges using the same old and failed methods. Our destiny is in our hands!