Hon. Folks, this is August and four months later we’ll bid ‘bye to the year 2019. I wonder what this invokes in you: a feeling of joy or a subdued mood of fear and trepidation?
If you asked me, the year 2020 is sacrosanct in one particular sense—it’s when we can unveil to the world what we’ve achieved by the “scooping and polishing” of the past two decades of our big and colourful dream.
Amid the euphoria of emancipating ourselves from Kamuzu’s dictatorship, we realised rather early in the multiparty dispensation that it wasn’t enough just to change guards and the system for running the country. Rather, the change was an opportunity for Malawians to dream big and in colour.
Here’s how colourful our dream—the Vision 2020—was for the first two decades of this century:
“By the year 2020, Malawi as a God-fearing nation will be secure, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, self-reliant with equal opportunities for and active participation by all, having social services, vibrant cultural and religious values and being a technologically driven middle-income economy”
As the year of reckoning is only a few months away, it’s clear the perception of many Malawians is that we’re way off the mark. Instead, the world has ranked us together with failed or war-torn states in the category of poorest countries. Boy, isn’t the humiliation a justifiable cause for national despondency!
The question is: why have we failed?
It can’t be that Malawians are lazy. It’s a fact that Malawian labour has built economies in the region and beyond. It’s also a fact that we use the hoe—the crudest farm machinery invented in the Iron Age—to till the land and grow crops on which our livelihoods and the national economy largely depend. We work like beasts of burden!
It also can’t be that we are trapped in extreme poverty because we’re landlocked. Rwanda is equally land-locked and without gold or oil just like Malawi, yet in the past 20 years they’ve made strides on development that have only left the wow factor on their trail. They, not us, are migrating out of poverty! Yet, as we’re ushering in the multiparty system in 1994, Rwanda was rocked in senseless genocide that claimed 800 000 lives, if not more!
Our woes are largely due to a broken governance system of patronage and cronyism which has bred rampant corruption and impunity. Although the Constitution upholds the principle of all humans being equal before the law, in reality you get arrested for a crime if you’re in the Opposition and get heavily rewarded despite the same crime if you are in government. Ask Uladi Mussa!
It’s also probably five times harder to get a job in or business contract with government if you are in opposition than it is if you are in government. They call it kudyelera (payday for the political support rendered) .
By the end of the day, those in opposition are subjected to alienation in their own home country. The corrupt system of patronage makes Malawi “belong” more to those in government than those in opposition. We need a governance system that reflects the will of the people as expressed in the 1993 national referendum.
What exacerbates the pain of belonging to the opposition is the mediocrity that has largely characterised the broken Malawi since 1994. Our public school system is broken; our public health system is broken; our agricultural system is broken; our public finance management system is a “leaking bucket.”
What seems to be working well in our country is the system for collecting tax and non-tax revenue from everyone, regardless of their political leanings. And government doesn’t seem to harbour a sense of guilt at all offering to heavily taxed Malawians substandard public services at market value.
It’s not for nothing that presidents and their cronies have all along been accused of “executive arrogance”. They do as they please, rock the boat then push the huge cost of recovery on the same people whose views they ignored.
I believe this is why we’ve heard of calls for cessation and federalism in the past. I also believe the current situation whereby the outcome of the May 21 presidential results have been rejected outright and triggered the #JaneAnsahmustfall demos is steeped in the frustration built over the past 25 years of being governed unfairly by leaders who appear to put personal interests above what’s good for the nation.
We definitely have missed the target of being a middle-income economy by the year 2020. But now, with all these petrol bombs being thrown at each other’s homes and business places; with these incessant violent demos now being taken to the country’s airports and borders, we also risk losing what has been ours all along–the peace.
Wake me up, please. Vision 2020 has turned into a mightmare!