Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Malawianist Manifesto

Man is what he is. It thus follows that, ultimately, man has no one but himself to blame for his condition. The sum of man makes the society. The society, on account of its natural need for order, creates a government—a monster man for the subjugation of the weaker man.

Accordingly, a government is an extension of man; a representation of his fears and wishes. It is perhaps for this reason alone that governments are theoretically structured in such a way that they pursue the dreams of the people. To do that, however, is to be able to create a sound vision resonating with the cumulative vision of those the government serves—the citizenry.

To this end, I intend to propose a manifesto for the post-May 20, 2014 government that looks deep into the fears and wishes of Malawians; and I’ve, in my liberated thinking, called it a Malawianist Manifesto. It is a manifesto that seeks to dig deeper into the brains and the mores of well-meaning Malawians to restructure the perception and vision of fellow citizens to create a meaningfully progressive Malawi.

To achieve a goal presupposes the existence of a set goal. Therefore, Malawi can talk of making progress if and only if it has set goals. Unfortunately, there seems, from the nation’s information repertoire, to be no set goals for Malawi. No wonder then that the nation has no development campus to direct the authorities to genuine destiny, thus effectively leaving the nation to wander around as it has been and is always the case. 

For this reason, the first thing to do is to develop a national vision; a vision that clearly defines the stages against actors and timeframe. The vision, or better still, the development agenda, should center on the nation and not the political actors. This is not to dismiss the crucial role of political actors in the whole equation, but to just sound a warning, if you like, that the focus on this vision is not who did what, but how faithfully the actors—political, academic, technocrat etc.—helped in achieving the vision.

Equally importantly, anything that anyone ever does should all be done with spirit that it is for the good of the nation, Malawi. By this I propose a-nthu- as an axle of the vision. As a matter of clarification, every chi-nthu-  or zi-nthu- that any Malawi citizen does—in high offices or under the scotching sun, in private or public, in good or bad faith, lettered or unlettered, villagedweller or townmonger—should be for the benefit of mu-nthu- or, patriotically speaking, a-nthu-.

Interestingly, development of a national agenda is only part of the solution. To be precise, there is need to institutionalize the vision. Of course, understandably, people have tried to institute organs—or call them think tanks if you like—solely tasked to run the affairs as to see the vision off the ground, but such organs have largely been a re-invention of the wheel. Such think tanks, in as much as they may have the mandate and the capacity, they are, frankly, a drain in resources as they need infrastructure, finances, time, and other things incidental to their working.

Arguably, the best could be done is to have these people left to their normal duties, and only make them ex-officio members of the organs tasked with the responsibilities of capturing the vision. 

Thus, as can be observed from advanced democracies, the meaningful way to achieve the national development agenda is to use the state structures—the creatures of statute as those in the legal fraternity would say—to have such agenda being made part and parcel of their vision and mission. That, in effect, would mean deliberately creating or procedurally incorporating rules and regulations in statutory corporations and state organs that push for the achievement of the national agenda without regard to the political environment of the day. 

This in a sense means that there is need to couch the Malawi vision in such a way that every person or entity, governmental or non-governmental, politician or non-politician, foreigner or other, will be legally compelled to live the vision. Consequently, every in-coming government will be bound to take actions that further the achievement of the national vision and Malawians will be spared from the socio-economic and political costs of having every government develop its own national development roadmap hence. In a way, if I can borrow Barack Obama’s words, all what is needed to live the dream of a progressive Malawi is have strong institutions and not strong leaders. Why? It’s hard to find strong leaders but it’s not that hard to create strong institutions.

Again, there is need to improve on monitoring and evaluation. It must be said here, as impossible as it may seem given the history of our political leadership, that government business regarding the implementation of national development agenda has got to follow clear and timed guidelines that spells out how a particular item in the agenda will be achieved and how such achievement will be so measured.

To this end, entities charged with fulfilling the national’s desire for a better Malawi have monitor every action of each individual or department and see to it that the tasks so given to such individual or entity are earnestly and effectively done. Additionally, there will also be need to synchronize the activities of all the implementing entities so that there is oneness of purpose as well as sameness of action.

For sure, Malawi has been run haphazardly. And, regrettably, its policies have largely been developed and imposed by foreign nationals. Unassertive and directionless as it perhaps is, Malawi has failed to resist the temptation to plead its case; and, consequently, it has miserably failed to live its own dream—it has goofed. For this reason, it has reaped what it sow—underdevelopment. 

It is thus about time that this nation of ours obeyed the demands of the 21st century world; that every nation should redefine its own vision in its own way. And the way to it, and perhaps the only way, is to develop, institutionalize, monitor and evaluate a national development agenda. Otherwise, Malawi will remain to be a Peter Pan of the development world.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Politics of a Sadist Govt: Cry Our Beloved Maula Prisoners!

The food shortage in Malawi has had no real face until recently. Reports are now inundated in the media—print and online—of how our fellow Malawians are in dire food need in almost all corners of our silent nation. 

Of great concern about the food shortage curse, however, is how it has affected Malawi’s prison service. At Maula prison in particular, it has been widely reported that inmates have gone days without food. This prompted some well-wishers to do something to save the starving souls from their near-death food shortage experience. 

One such well-wisher is democratic progressive party’s Peter Mutharika, who, upon pondering about the situation, organized food and drugs to be donated to Maula prison. But alas the food and drugs were rejected on grounds that do not add up at all. 

Maula prison officials have been quoted as saying that they got instructions from the authorities that the food and drug Peter Mutharika was donating has poison. One wonders, “Really?” You mean to tell the nation that Peter Mutharika, or any reasonable person in his stead, would dare donate poisoned food and drugs in that way? Just like that. What a cheap propaganda!

Malawians maybe gullible, but surely, will never go down to buy this obvious propaganda. Unfortunately, all what this cheap politicking on the donation will do is dip deeper the hunger situation at the prison.

This is unthinkable! Here is a prison that has been neglected by authorities as to leave the inmates for days without food. And here is someone who wanted to help. That Mutharika somewhat wanted to sell his political career through the donation should be clear. But the political overtone, planned or implied, should not, especially in the circumstances, be a justification for the rejection of the donation.

It is funny enough that those issuing the rejection-order did so with a full belly fed by cashgate. Furthermore, it is certainly the case that those implementing the order came to work with full stomachs. It is therefore disgusting to note that the beneficiary of the donation—those inmates who had braced a week from an empty stomach—had no say on the crazy politicking surrounding the donation.

It appears, and of course is the case, that the government gets joy from the sad prison situation, and would want to play Big Dad to the solution—always claiming to do the needful but always doing nothing.

It simply does not make sense that after playing blind to the food shortage at the prison the authorities were galvanized into doing something about the situation after learning about the Mutharika donation. Where were they all this while? Where were the unpoisoned food and drugs before the ‘poisoned’ Mutharika food and drugs?

Observably, the authorities appear to have had no clue about the whole thing and only acted to save their muddy faces. You would wonder how quickly the whole machinery acted after the rejected Mutharika donation. In just no time the authorities were roused to act all in the name of acting as a government. Perhaps, they were waiting for someone to act for them to realize that something had to be done. But hey, is this how government should government? Nope! Only to add that this type of governance is a sign of failed leadership.

If indeed the authorities were serious enough as they should, one would have expected them to do the expected by ensuring that there is adequate supply of food to these precious lives. But they never did. They are only doing it now, in bits and haphazardly.

So, all we learn from the Maula prison donation saga is that we are under a government that finds joy from the suffering of its citizens. In fact, we have a sadist government that leaves no room for one to be happy for the good of the nation. Little wonder then that everything this government is all sadness.
Whatever the Peter Mutharika’s wrongs, and however bad his party maybe, the donation, undoubtedly, would have somehow eased the food shortage scourge at Maula prison. And rejecting it was not only inhuman to the welfare of the inmates but also was a tell-tale of a sadist government feeding its political macho at the sadness of its citizens. 

Whether to Re- or De-Bandaize Post May 20, 2014 Govt

As the May 20, 2014 elections draws closer and closer, there is something exercising Malawians’ mind—re-or de-Bandaize post-election government. In as much as this is a pretty tricky case to decide, one cannot play escapist to reality; that is, either ‘re-‘ or ‘de-‘ will most certainly be the case.

And which is better: re-Bandaization or de-Bandaization? Undeniably, there is a lot to consider before answering this question. This be true as it may, one way to doing this would be to consider how President Joyce Banda has fared in the two years of her leadership.

Debatably, president Banda has had a rough ride in the presidency. In fact, unlike her predecessors, she has learnt it the hard way that the glamor and thrill of being president has its own share of attendant discomforts. For instance, Malawians woke to witness a kids revolution, braced the unmitigated kwacha devaluation, and had their patience tested in the infamous cashgate and all that jazz. 

Hardly ever has in Malawi been a kids revolution. Thanks to the Banda-led government Malawians have come to see one. It was a sad scene, a disgraceful scene so to speak, to see the streets in Blantyre filled to the brim by Primary School kids protesting the leadership style of president Banda.
Before the kids revolution there was the citizens’ general discomfort with the skyrocketing commodity prices due to the devaluation of the Kwacha without any set out let alone rolled out cushioning measures. To this day, prices of commodities are ever raised every passing day and people’s salaries remain as far stagnant as never before.

As the above is not enough, president Banda has been widely blamed for blowing taxpayers’ money on trips whose costs far exceeds its benefits. In just two years, president Banda has globetrotted like she has been contracted to write a travelogue. Just imagine, in just two years, she has travelled to Nigeria—for spiritual (and state?) purposes—more than five times. All the travel for whose benefits? Friends and family perhaps. But surely, not for the benefit of the common man and woman—to be precise, you and me—as there has been no or little national interests in these visits.

To add insult to injury, president Banda is said to be the only president, and history is witness to this, who seems to have no original idea of her own. It is common to hear from her that so-and-so had advised her to do a b c d and blahh blahh blahh. Malawians have wondered, arguably for the right reasons, as to what will come of Malawi should the wells of her ideas run dry. Will she then tap into her inner self and direct Malawi towards progress and prosperity? “If she has that inner self to tap from, why not tap now”, some may ask.

And now the Capital Hill looting. It is saddening to note that there is too much singing and dancing and little drumming on the cashgate bash.  Frankly, there is just too much noise and little progress on the cashgate saga. Is it that there is no evidence? No! Is it that there the state machinery has no resources to timely conclude the investigations? No! Is it that there is no political will? Yes! And a lot of cover-ups? Yes! Or is it that all this is because the mother-cashgator is untouchable? Absolutely!

No one should pretend that President Joyce Banda has done literally nothing to be remembered for in Malawi. It is obvious that president Banda will go in the annals of Malawi history as the only president to have elevated chiefs to senior chieftaincy. It has been discussed elsewhere that at the rate president Banda is elevating chiefs, all chiefs in Malawi would be senior chiefs should she be given another two years.

Of course this author is not blind to the fact that president Banda has worked hard to restore bilateral relations. It is a plus for her on this one. Though, sadly, donors are fast losing confidence in her administration thanks to….

Again, the Mudzi Transformation Trust is still another positive achievement of Her Excellency’s government. The only minus here is that the Trust seems to be on tract on the theoretical level but practically the infrastructures born of the Trust are of substandard quality and hardly worth writing home about.

And now back to the question: given our considered view about President Joyce Banda’s standing in the past two years, is re-Bandaizing the post May, 2014 government a good way to go? Or, sorry to the undecided voters, de-Bandaization is the option? Here, your guess is as good as the author’s.

Malawi Gone Awry: Run for Cover, President Joyce Banda Already Has!

2014 has come to start on a low note for Malawi’s President Joyce Banda; her life is under threat. Realistically, it is common to learn of a president’s life being in danger. What is uncommon though is to hear a president telling the nation of this danger. 

Many a time the citizens of cantankerous United States of America have learnt of the death threats their president—Barack Obama—faces, not just occasionally, but daily. And yet there have been no recordable instances that Obama rose to the occasion simply to announce to the American nation that his life is in danger.

It is true that Malawi might be immature democracywise, but, like seriously, not this immature as to hear the president announcing death threat aiming at her life to the public. The populace’s logical reaction to such an announcement would be almost choral: if the president’s life—with all the state of the art security apparatus, all the security personnel, and all the intelligence at her disposal—is in danger, how safe can the local man and woman be?

Interestingly, the president has beefed up her security team in an attempt to foil this threat. And one wonders if she has also beefed the security of the populace. The president has been widely condemned by analysts and academicians alike that death-threats public pronouncements will not only cause security discomforts among the citizens but will also induce a general state of uneasiness in the population. 

Let’s assume, and this is simply an assumption, that the president made the public statement about the threats to her dear life with full knowledge of the resultant insecurity concerns from the citizens, then people would be required to find the real motive. To this end, one quick answer would be exactly what Rafik Hajat of the Institute for Policy Interaction said the other day; that President Joyce Banda is seeking sympathy vote.

Will she get that sympathy vote? Yes. “How so?”, you might be asking. She will certainly get the sympathy vote because most people, if not all at all, who realize that the president’s my-life-is-in-danger political gimmick is an calculated attempt to seek a sympathy vote rarely brace the tiredness that goes with queuing for voting.

Additionally, there are very great chances that very few Malawians read the newspapers either to failure to afford the paper or due to the fact that Malawians are strange bedfellows with reading. 

Even if there is high likelihood that the president may succeed in getting the sympathy vote, still, the damage will have been done already. Yes, Malawians will have known that, for the past two years, they have been ruled by a president who runs scared by simply hearing of a rumor or two of some lunatic planning to steal her life. If head of households run around announcing rumors of this or that thief strategizing to rob their households this or that day, what would be of communities. Imagine the restlessness of kids in the households, and the general uneasiness in the community. What chaos and uncertainty there will be!

Whilst the attempts to off the president might be real, there is no need for her to make a public announcement of the same. Under the circumstances, the president would have just upped her security details silently and carry on leading the nation as though there is nothing brewing up in her. Isn’t this why she has bodyguards all around her 24/7?

Now think about the reaction of a common man in the village hearing this news. Will such a villager ever trust the security apparatus in his community, or more generally, in the country?

Perhaps Malawians misunderstood the president. Or maybe she had a point. But could it be that the whole nation missed the point she was advancing in making such threats known to the public? Maybe yes, but most certainly no. The president is rightly being corrected on this one; her comments simply scare the nation.

The truth from all this is that Malawi is off-centre. Or put it more clearly, the Malawi nation has had its president is state of perpetual fear and cannot, consequently, discharge her duties as meticulously as you would expect someone in a state of freeness. Ultimately, the president has run for cover, and so should the citizens.