Honourable Folks, Blantyre residents, and indeed the people of Malawi, shall remain indebted to National Bank of Malawi for putting up a magnificent building next to an equally beautiful Reserve Bank structure along the Hannover Avenue in the industrial capital.
The two structures and a hotel metres away have transformed this backyard part of the city which, until now, was characterised by very old residential structures, some pretty ugly and unsightly.
Already, other enterprising folks have been inspired and are busy building structures that appear to be an extension of the central business district.
This is welcome and it was right and proper that our President, Madam Joyce Banda, should officially open the head office of National Bank last week.
That said, while our eyes still savour the grandeur of the new building, the discerning mind will definitely cherish the speech made by Press Corporation CEO Dr. Mathews Chikaonda, if only because for once in the 48 years we have been an independent sovereign State, someone stood up at a presidential function and addressed real issues instead of telling the President sweet lies and empty praises.
Since the opening ceremony came hard on the heels of the marathon celebrations by Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) of JBâ€™s 100 days in office, I have no doubt that PP leaders, who took umbrage at Chikaondaâ€™s statements, describing them as â€œdisrespectfulâ€ to the head of State, expected such a prominent Malawian to stop at thanking Her Excellency for taking bold measures that are helping to put the economy back on course.
Which politicians do not want the work of their hands juried by eminent people who command respect among the voters! Considering that 2014 is only around the corner, PP would really kneel down and beg for positive rating of its performance because that can help influence votersâ€™ choice.
But who can blame Malawians for being a bit pessimistic and cautious? First Malawian head of State Kamuzu Banda started very well, made Malawians lose our heads and declare him Life President. Yet, by the end of his tenure, we were still a predominantly illiterate, languishing in abject poverty and dying unnecessarily early of easily curable diseases even by African standards.
We had nothingâ€“not even the inalienable rightsâ€”to show for the praises we lavished on him. He simply used our blind loyalty to his advantage, playing God, amassing more power and personal wealth at our expense.
Then, came the second Malawian president Bakili Muluzi in 1994; he promised to eradicate poverty, uphold to the letter human rights and use the power we entrusted in him to serve us. In turn, people chose to bury the mediocrity that characterised his leadership and used presidential functions to praise his leadership.
As a nation, we even allowed UDF to enjoy the monopoly of using MBC and TVMâ€”State broadcasters that run on taxpayersâ€™ moneyâ€”for propagating lies, rebuttals and empty promises. Nobody ever stoop up at a presidential function to point out the real challenges that needed addressing. Instead, such occasions were used to declare falsely that he had accomplished everything and that we should be thankful for that.
Yet, by the end of Muluziâ€™s tenure in 2004, UN Human Development Index revealed we were worse off than we had been in 1992! Muluzi made sure he used our trust to amass wealth and powerâ€”he even had the audacity to try and change the maximum two consecutive five-year- term limit to open terms so he could rule forever!
The third Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika started with an exciting promise to be everything that Muluzi wasnâ€™t; to fight corruption, transform the economy from import-based to export-based, ensure food security, unite the nation, respect the rule of law and give government jobs and business on merit.
He rated himself very successful while the citizens were spending nights at filling stations and businesses were scaling down or closing altogether due to acute shortage of foreign exchange. At his untimely death, we were left so poor that neighboursâ€”Mozambique, Zambia and South Africaâ€”had to come in and help with almost everything needed for the State Funeral we accorded our head of stateâ€”transport, casket, fuel, food.
Now, hardly four months after Mutharika diedâ€”even while Malawians have just finished harvesting this yearâ€™s maize which, we were told, was much more than we could eat, thanks to the fertilizer subsidy of the former presidentâ€”we hear 1.6 million of our people are on the verge of dying of hunger.
Whatâ€™s there to show for the praises we showered?
JB would do well to bear with us and accept that Malawians will be just as critical as donors are. This is not for lack of appreciation for what her administration has done. Rather, it is for the sake of giving government a good mirror which will show the pimple on its beautiful face.Â