President Arthur Peter Mutharika has appealed to the Malawi nation to embrace patriotism. What is patriotism? It is love of one’s country, love for your father’s land.
We usually think of patriots as people who are ready to fight and die for their country. Politicians and soldiers tend to monopolise that role, yet there are many other ways of showing love for your country. Merely refraining to put your country in danger is patriotism. It is patriotism if you do something that brings honour, wealth and welfare to your country even if you are neither a soldier nor a politician.
At the just-ended indaba convened by the Public Affairs Committee (PAC), controversial suggestions were made by some delegates, especially those that demanded the President to resign. By and large these suggestions have been condemned by influential members of the public such as chiefs.
In a democratic country with a parliamentary system such as that of Britain, calling upon the ruling party or its leader to resign is not taboo. These demands are occasionally made in the House of Commons. But there are constitutional conventions behind them. The calls are never meant to force out those in power. The use or threat of force is excluded.
Those who were making such demands at the Indaba went too far by giving ultimatums such as that the President should resign within so many days. This implied that if he did not do so he would be subjected to some unconstitutional pressure, not ruling out violence.
Those whose duty it is to preserve law and order justifiably got alarmed, so were those who cherish peace and tranquility even in the midst of famine and poverty.
Respect for rulers is part of our African traditions. If someone holds an official position as chief, king, prime minister or president according to rules he or she has earned the right to be respected. By tradition, a king is to be addressed as ‘your majesty’ and a president as ‘your excellency’.
Some people are misusing the term freedom of speech. They think there are free to abuse anyone no matter how exalted. This is Stone Age behaviour. Civilised people are tactful even when they want to criticise someone. Through tact, thorny matters can be settled amicably. Vulgar language provokes violence.
Those who criticise the president severely should have second thoughts. In many professions, there are days when the newly-appointed must learn the rudiments of his or her job. These are known as salad days. In a five-year term, the first two years should be seen as probationary. It is when he has completed the full five years that we can judge whether he has performed or failed. Let APM complete the five year term; forcing him to resign will usher in political instability.
The problem about maize shortage is indeed burdensome but we should take into account the wherewithal for solving the matter. Now and again we read of vendors who hire women and children to buy maize from Admarc depots and resell at exorbitant prices. Greedy people are unpatriotic; they frustrate the efforts which are well-meaning.
Malawi is a secular State. This does not mean it is a sinful State or a State which is permissive, where anyone can behave anyhow. Morals and laws are necessary for social cohesion and civilization.
Homosexuality is anathema thoughout Malawi and in most African countries. We do not want to ill-treat or harass eccentrics among us. They will not be harassed or threatened if they practice their eccentric behaviour in private.
A patriotic appeal must be made to these people not to arouse the wrath of the people by openly engaging in same sex marriages. Those who feel disgusted might attack them, and donors would find this as an excuse for withholding aid from the needy people of the country. If this happens, some people will blame the homosexuals for provoking the public.
Some people in donor countries are die-hard hypocrites. It is only in the past 30 or 40 years that they have accorded equality of rights to homosexuals. Before that they were imprisoning such people, sometimes executing them. Even now they impose their morals on poor countries like Malawi. They dare not pester oil-rich countries of the Middle East.