A friend who has just returned from South Africa where he was furthering his studies told us a story that we all envied. In the year he had been in the rainbow nation, they experienced one brief power outage and someone had to issue a serious apology for that.
In the period he has been home, he has had too many blackouts that they can even fill South Africa’s quota of blackouts for 20 years. The other day, there was a blackout where I live and that was normal. And next, Escom chose to surprise us by giving us electricity for about eight hours. My nephew, as little as he is, was surprised to have electricity that long.
So, even children have it registered in their psyche that it is normal for a nation to have persistent power blackouts. What I find disturbing is that this boy will grow up with a wrong mentality that it is just okay for things to be wrong. And this is exactly what is wrong with the majority of Malawians, including you and me. When you set yourself apart to press for standards, you are labelled a deviant whose only business is to tear apart well-knit social fabric.
Many of you would frown if I told you that this country is a perfect example of how a country must never be run. Zambia is a thousand times better than us, Mozambique is still smarting from a civil war that lasted years but you cannot compare them with us in terms of development. Just 22 years ago, Rwandans were busy chopping off each other’s heads in one of the stomach— churning genocides in recorded time. But they have recovered and, today, our Lilongwe looks like Ntandire if you compare it with Kigali.
Since 1994, four presidents have taken turns to lead us in what we were made to believewas a positive national dream. But, come today, it is the same old and tired circle. What we have to show is nothing but our craggy faces of frustration. But if you were to ask me, none of our presidents has been at fault for messing this country around. It is our celebrated inanity that has made this country a laughing stock that it is now.
We waste too much time on trivialities. Our eyes were long blinded by the glint of party colours, our ears deafened by raucous and meaningless party slogans such that we can no longer hear any voice of reason, our brains are crowded by tribalism and all those stupid beliefs we have, and we cannot think properly.
And one thing that has derailed out intended progress is too much fear of our leaders. We unnecessarily elevate our leaders to some demigods whom we must genuflect and clap hands for even when they sneeze. How petty.
You and I, for instance, know that, just like those who came before him, Peter Mutharika is leading a grand heist of the national purse but all we can do is shut up for fear of the unknown. Not long ago, all these now fat boys you see painted blue all over their faces looked thin and miserable. In just few years they, and without doing any meaningful business, are living like royals from some oil-rich state. The truth that this nation knows but conveniently chooses to ignore is that people fight to get into government not with some nationalistic intent but to have an opportunity to line their pockets.
If you ask Peter Mutharika, he will tell you that he is the best thing ever to happen to Malawi. He will tell you that he is leading an honest group of people who do not even have the term corruption in their lexicon.
But the truth is that because, just like those before him, Peter loves to hear what he wants to hear, he gets rabid when told exactly how bad things are. We are in crises and his leadership is the biggest crisis we have. Sadly, his sycophants get angry on his behalf and in their jingoism they want the old man to be a laughing stock while they continue dipping their blue fingers in the national jar.
If we continue being people that are too afraid to demand what is due to us and accept mediocrity while, on the other hand, we are too blinded by political colours, this nation will remain in this mire of underdevelopment.
Ninety-one percent of this country is still in darkness, people are still learning in tobacco barns, we have a whole university of
science and technology running on water from boreholes, the biggest football clubs in the country have to beg for stadiums, sponsorship and have to sweat to compete for a minibus, each time the national netball team has to travel for a tournament they have to move around with a begging bowl and many other embarrassing things.
We are, if I have to be raw, a cast of a drab play.