A case of transformative leadership


Transformational leadership is a much talked about style of leadership in Malawi today and yet no leader, even comes close to being a servant leader, at least in my opinion.

In my opinion a first and foremost a transformative leader is one who works with his/her people to identify needed change, create a vision to guide the change through inspiration, and executes the change with members of a group, community.

Let’s face it, what was transformative about Bakili Muluzi’s leadership? How about the late Bingu wa Mutharika?


The late Kamuzu Banda ruled for 30 years and of course easy for someone to say he was a transformative leader — he built all the basic infrastructure that we are still enjoying today. But others would argue that he had a lot of time to do all that and I agree with that argument.

Just the other day, President Peter Mutharika said under him, Malawi is already enjoying transformational leadership.

Your guess is as a good as mine.


Once upon a time they lived a Pan African leader in West Africa that very few talk about today.

Here is a man who when he was assassinated, his most valuable possessions were a car, a refrigerator, three guitars, motorcycles, a broken down freezer and about $400 in cash.

Compare that with the late Mutharika who at his death left bank accounts in safe havens around the world stashed with millions of dollars, property in Macau – China, France and of course Malawi just to mention a few.

The heroic Pan Africn leader I talked about earlier was Thomas Sankara. He changed the lives of many and yet so very few people, Africans to be specific, even talk about his accomplishments.

Perhaps, more than any other African president in living memory, he transformed Burkina Faso from an impoverished country, dependent on western aid, to an economically independent and socially progressive nation. It just took him a good four years — August 1983 to October 15, 1987 to accomplish that. Here is how he did that.

Sankara began by purging the deeply entrenched bureaucratic and institutional corruption in Burkina Faso.

He cut the salaries of ministers and sold off the fleet of exotic cars in the president’s convoy, opting instead for a Renault 5, the cheapest brand of car available in Burkina Faso. His salary was $450 per month and he refused to use the air conditioning units in his office, saying that he felt guilty doing so, since very few of his country’s people could afford it.

He refused to have his portrait hung in public and government institutions in Burkina Faso, because every Burkinabe is a Thomas Sankara, he ordered.

It was Sankara who changed the name of the country from the colonially imposed Upper Volta to Burkina Faso, which means land of upright men.

His achievements were many. He changed the country’s landscape in the health sector when a mass vaccination programme saw 2.5 million Burkinabe children vaccinated.

From an alarming 280 deaths for every 1,000 births, infant mortality he slashed it to below 145 deaths per 1,000 live births. He banned the importation of several items into Burkina Faso, and encouraged the growth of the local industry.

He aggressively promoted agriculture in Burkina Faso, telling his people to quit eating imported rice and grain from Europe.

In less than four years, Burkina Faso became self-sufficient in foods production through the redistribution of lands from the hands of corrupt chiefs and land owners to local farmers, and through massive irrigation and fertiliser distribution programmes.

He utilized various policies and government assistance to encourage Burkinabes to get education.

In less than two years as a president, school attendance jumped from about 10 percent to a little below 25 percent, thus overturning the 90 percent illiteracy rate he met upon assumption of office.

This, to me, is transformative leadership that Malawi and the present generation is thirsty, and looking for.

For us, the strength desperately needed for the transformation of Malawi cannot be drawn from World Bank and IMF policies, from aid and assistance obtained from China, India, the United States or Europe.

The strength to transform Malawi lies in the foundations laid by our own Kamuzu Banda; a man, of course with his flaws, demonstrated that with a single minded pursuit of purpose, the worst can be made the best. Next year we need to elect such.

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