Federalism and MSB revisited
Whenever the late Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda delivered a speech he would start by reminding the public how he had been invited to come home when he was practising medicine in Ghana and Britain and how he had broken the stupid federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
Some people wondered why he was repeating himself but the Ngwazi was a versatile intellectual. He knew not just medicine and history but also social psychology, anthropology and political science. All people may hear what you have said at a public meeting but within a few days ask them they will give different answers. That which you considered most important some will seem not to have heard. The master orators and influencers, therefore, resort to repeating themselves at the next opportunity until most people are in the know.
It is with this mind that I have decided to write again on two topics which are currently exercising the minds of the Malawians. From reports coming out of consultation on federalism and MSB it seems some people do not know the consequences of taking a stand instead of standing further from enlightenment.
In The Nation of Thursday, 25th June, 2015 a spokesperson of the Public Affairs Committee Father Peter Mulomole is quoted as saying that people in all the regions are facing problems arising from the unitary system of government which Malawi is following. In other words it is not just people in the North or Centre who want federalism, but even those of the South.
I wonder if these people have read my previous essay on federalism in which I quoted an American book on government which stated that out of about 190 countries of the world, only 15 had federal constitutions while the rest were unitary. Of these 15 states only Switzerland is smaller than Malawi while the rest are considerably bigger and more populous.
I doubt if people who advocate federalism for Malawi are sufficiently knowledgeable about how federal systems function. I do not deny that the manners we are operating the unitary system in Malawi does not satisfy everyone. It is my view that the troubles we have can be more easily sorted under the unitary system than under the federal system.
The history of all federal nations is that they were formed out of what had been different nations. In federalism leaders saw greater unity and that in unity they saw strength. The oldest federal state, the United States of America, was formed out of 13 former British American colonies after they had successfully fought for their independence during the years 1776 to 1783.
When this country was Nyasaland, it was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland from 1953 to 1963. Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia had been in close touch before 1953 through the Central African Council but there was no overall authority on them. The federation placed them under one parliament, a federal Prime Minister and one federal capital city.
The kind of federalism being proposed for Malawi is different from that of the United States and the defunct Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland or that of South Africa in that it intends to loosen the bonds that exist between the people of Malawi and to balkanise Malawi into three or four pseudo states , aggravate regionalism and reactive tribalism. Now there is rivalry between the bigger regions and the smaller region. When the federal system had been set up, there will be rivalry in each federal state or region between the major tribes and the smaller tribes.
The federal system will be too expensive for this country. Instead of one parliament we shall have four, instead of one civil service we shall four and I do not know how many members of parliament for each regional parliament. The government should appoint a committee of experts to receive representations from people and write a report on the resources that will be required to run a federal system.
Countrymen, you are too much obsessed with politics. Behold countries much bigger than us such as Zambia and Tanzania — do they have federal systems? We are already an integrated nation do not bring in artificial divisions.
As regards the Malawi Savings Bank, I would like to remind those who have the privilege of taking part in discussions what Dr. Samuel Johnson — the 18th century English intellectual — said: “There are two kinds of knowledge either you know something or you know where you get information upon it.”
Do we have knowledge of how to rescue an insolvent bank? Most of those who attend the consultation meetings think they do — sell the MSB and all will well thereafter. If Dr. Johnson were here he would say contact countries which have rescued state banks before without selling them maybe you can learn something from them. Lee Kuan Yew, the legendary First Prime Minister of Singapore used to say: “When I wanted to do something which had been done successfully in another country I used to send my officials to go to that country and learn how they did it.”
The advice which the President and Minster of Finance are receiving from bodies like the Bankers Association is not impartial. The transforming of the MSB and Indebank to subsidiaries of the banks that will buy them will reduce competition in the banking sector and boost oligopoly profits. If you have to sell MSB, sell it to an institution other than a bank that is already operating in the country. Beware of rent seeking.
If you still must sell the MSB, the state should retain at least 60 percent shares, or else revive the Post Office Savings Bank which was rendering social service to the people country wide.
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