As Malawi celebrates 57 years of political independence today, economic and social commentators have said the country needs strong leadership, coupled with crystal-clear strategies to translate political liberation into economic bliss.
The sentiments come at a time statistics indicate that 76 percent of Malawians live below the World Bank international poverty line of $1.90 [about K1,539] per day.
According to the Integrated Household Survey report released by the National Statistical Office last year, about 51.5 percent of Malawians are poor, based on Malawi’s poverty line.
Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) Chairperson Gift Trapence Monday said independence would only be meaningful if Malawians were prosperous.
“We, as HRDC, feel that we need leadership that can reverse the socio-economic status of poor Malawians, who are in majority. That can only happen if we have leaders who are committed and have the vision to fight corruption and use saved resources wisely to develop the country and improve the lives of Malawians,” Trapence said.
Political scientist Blessings Chinsinga said Malawi has had three episodes of political independence, starting with formal independence in July 1964, transition to multiparty democracy in May 1994 and, recently, through historical court verdicts on the disputed May 21 2019 presidential election.
“The sad thing is that all these potentially critical junctures to pave the way for economic prosperity have been messed up by greedy politicians. The opportunity to lead by political parties has not been harnessed as an occasion to put together an economic system that works for us all but, rather, as an opportunity for those at the helm of government to accumulate as much [wealth] as possible.
“While politicians preach about prosperity for all while outside government, they are very reluctant to take radical and tough decisions that would bring about the transformation we desire, all in the interest of self-preservation. Unless we have a leadership prepared to act in a business unusual fashion and a citizenry prepared to push for change and ready to make sacrifices that would make change possible, our independence will remain meaningless beyond the nominal political sense. The paradox is that we have been peaceful and stable as a nation but we have nothing to show for it. What have done with our peace?” Chinsinga queried.
Economic commentator from the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences Betchani Tchereni said celebrating independence without economic emancipation was meaningless.
Tchereni said it was unfortunate that, 57 years after independence, Malawians did not own the factors and means of production.
“It is still foreigners who are buying land and opening factories or dominating agriculture. Malawians are exploited heavily in all workplaces. It is concerning that independence is only in speech but real economic freedom is not there,” Tchereni said
Information Minister Gospel Kazako was not immediately available for comment yesterday but, speaking in January when he launched Malawi 2063 long-term vision, President Lazarus Chakwera said turning Malawi into a wealthy and self-reliant nation through agricultural commercialisation, smart urbanisation and sustainable industrialisation would not be done by people from other nations but Malawians themselves.