Hon Folks, he may not be the first one to say it but as a leader, Vice-President Saulos Chilima delivered a message we can’t ignore as we enter a brand new year, 2017.
Chilima said in a Christmas/New Year message: “For us to achieve greatness…we must bear in mind that doing the things we have done in the same way over and over again will produce the same results we have gotten before; hence, the need to change our attitude, approach and practice if we desire a different, progressive and positive result.”
Inherent in the VP’s message is the call for change in mindset and the way to we do things for us to make progress in developing our economy and improve our living standards.
But one huge gap in Chilima’s message is that it exempts from the call to change a privileged group that needs it most—the leadership, especially the political leadership where Chilima, President Peter Mutharika and other Cabinet members belong.
Whether it’s donors, investors or the critical local mass, there is no doubt that this very powerful and most influential group is averse to change for the simple reason that the status quo offers them a comfort zone.
Which is why the VP sounds less serious when he makes a cryptic claim about the new year, saying if it “brings with it challenges we have faced in the past, it will find a resolved man in our President [APM] who is prepared to venture into the unchartered terrain and prove to the world that the mind of the master is the master of his mind.”
Is that a promise APM will do things the John Magufuli or Paul Kagame way? By the way Mr. Veep, even Jacob Zuma flew commercial to the UN General Assembly. Did you hear that Kagame drove a fellow Head of State who was on a State visit to the airport in his Range Rover?
African leaders who are serious about transforming their economies and improving the quality of life of their people cut wasteful spending on their comfort and channel the savings to health, education, agriculture, the environment, etc.
What exactly is APM’s out-of-box strategy that can give us hope in 2017? By not spelling it out, Chilima denied Malawians an opportunity to know the policies they are called to support with a changed mindset.
Instead, he appears to be finger-pointing and patronising as if saying our woes are solely a result of the people’s failure to embrace change.
In case trappings of office have had the effect of detaching the Vice-President from reality on the ground, allow me to humbly spell out for him and other political leaders, especially on the government side, what our problem is.
In a nutshell, we are an impoverished, deprived and hungry people. Despite being lied to by our leaders that they have developed the economy and improved our living standards—a lie initiated by founding president Kamuzu Banda and echoed by all his successors—the fact remains that we are at the bottom of the 10 poorest nations in the world.
Although figures vary, there is consistency on the fact that our GDP per capita can only compare with that of war-torn Somalia and Burundi. Yet, for the entire 52 years we have and independent sovereign State, there is never been a coup or any civil strife here.
Besides, a huge chunk of our beautiful country is fertile arable land. In addition, God blessed us with an expanse of fresh water running along the entire length of Malawi from Karonga to Nsanje with many tributaries in between. We also have mountains that exude raw breath-taking beauty.
Yet despite all this, we are unable to feed ourselves nor are we able to meet half our import requirements from the sale of tobacco and few other cash crops we grow.
Mr. Vice President, whether you like it or not, our curse in Malawi has always been mediocre leadership and that is where change must start. n