During the one-party dictatorship under Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, people lived in perpetual fear of facing reprisals on assumptions of being disrespectful to the leadership. However, the fear aside, Malawians were really united. In fact, unity was one of the four cornerstones that Kamuzu used to run the country. The other three were loyalty, obedience and discipline. Indeed, the four cornerstones which were followed to the letter had helped to bring development in the country of which so far no subsequent government has surpassed it. It goes without saying that in following the cornerstones, people had no chance to get involved in corruption or stealing public resources.
Unity in Malawi, with so many ethnic groups, is not automatic. It requires the President and his government to create a conducive environment that can promote unity, by treating all Malawians as equal, especially in getting opportunities.
Meanwhile, the problem in this country is that since the advent of multiparty democracy in 1994, those people who belong to the party in power, think they are the only genuine Malawians and the rest are second-class citizens.
The opposition parties, civil society organisations (CSOs), and those who are critical to government are taken as enemies. This is very unfortunate. Any reputable leader and his government must know that the groups mentioned here are government watchdogs and very necessary. Without watchdogs, most of corruption and stealing of government money would not have been exposed. Despite this positive side, the government and its agents look at the CSOs as if they are fighting for the downfall of the government. It is against this background that the appeal for unity by President Peter Mutharika usually falls on deaf ears.
If the President is serious about unity, he must be prepared to condemn people who are sowing seeds of disunity. For example, time and again there are stories in the media about certain chiefs who publicly ban opposition parties to hold rallies in their areas. Maybe by doing so, they think that they are showing loyalty to the President, the ruling party and government. They forget that some of their subjects belong to opposition parties. Chiefs must know that governments, ruling parties and presidents come and go while societies remain intact. Therefore, it does not make sense to make an exclusion zone and deny people from making informed choices by listening to all parties. So far the President has not openly condemned such chiefs.
The other people who express fear of the unknown are groups who do not want to give a chance to CSOs to express their views about government through demonstrations. What these groups do not know is that CSOs are doing this on behalf of all suffering Malawians, including them, by petitioning the President to do something about the unprecedented levels of corruption and stealing of public resources. The demonstrations are peaceful but, surprisingly, groups such as DPP cadets, want to disrupt them. For example, during the September 21 2018 demonstrations in Mzuzu, DPP cadets decided to sweep the street adjoining the one demonstrations were using, in order to meet them head on and exchange some nasty words. Such behaviours are just creating hatred and disunity. Once again, the President has said nothing on this. His silence can wrongfully lead people to conclude that his government is promoting the divide-and-rule principle.
Lastly, this country needs unity now than at any other time in order to solve the numerous problems and achieve meaningful progress. There is need for a leader who can get rid of politics of ethnicity and treat all Malawians as equal partners in progress.