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Free lessons from the West

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In the last few days, news around the world has been about Liz Truss, the former Prime Minister of Britain who only lasted 44 days in office. Truss resigned from the highest office after realizing and accepting that she had failed to deliver what she promised the British people in her campaign. Her failure was a consequence of miscalculations that made her promise Canaan when it was not possible to reach that promised land. And being decent and civilized, she resigned.

The British, the Americans, and other Western democracies have their shortfalls and weak spots, but they try as much as possible to have model political systems. There is something that these people have learned over time that is yet to sink into the minds of politicians on our side of the world. It is almost impossible for you to hear that an African president, let alone a cabinet minister, has resigned from office following this or that blunder. The simple reason for this is that our politicians lack the most important qualities that good leaders must have, which are decency, honesty, dignity, and respect for the voting masses.

Truss resigned because, having realized that she had failed, she was decent enough to respect the people who voted for her. In Malawi, for example, such cannot happen. Politicians here put themselves in places of gods and the average citizen is nothing in their eyes. When going for campaigns, these people do not mean what they say to the voting masses. To them, the people are just a means to an end – that end being political authority and the opportunity to steal from the coffers of government. This is why these people promise everything while well-aware that they will not be able to deliver. In the end nobody cares, and the misery continues.

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We have a history of very embarrassing situations where people in positions of power were supposed to resign but they clung on to their seats. We have seen cabinet ministers smeared in corruption scandals, but none of them has resigned before. At times, it took the president to exercise his mandate and fire people from their positions to pave way for investigations, which never materialize into anything anyway. But even such moments are rare. We live in a place where the appointing authority seems to be afraid of those he appoints and he would rather watch things disintegrate.

Recently, we have seen the ombudsman making declarations regarding people who were procedurally employed in various state institutions. The recommendations were mostly that boards of these organs must fire the said personnel, but that rarely happens in Malawi. If you see anybody removed from their position for wrong doing, then that person must belong to opposition parties. Those who are occupying positions illegally and they don’t dare to move must have the support of somebody larger than life – that is where the rot begins. So, it would be imprudent for us down here to begin to imagine that this larger-than-life man can be decent enough to resign if they failed in their position. What cannot apply to dogs cannot apply to their master.

Some people have argued that maybe African countries were not ready for these Western systems of politics that they adopted. Others even go to the extent of arguing that we need dictatorships and not liberal democracies if we are to develop at all. At the heart of these arguments is some frustration that only failed systems can bring. When you think about it, the call for autocracy simply points to some dire yearning for discipline. But discipline is learned and not necessarily enforced. It is a trait that any decent person ought to have. Maybe what is wrong is not the system we adopted, but the characters of the people running that system.

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So, next time you see these big men and women on the podium preaching mindset change, look them in the eye and laugh at them. They never practice what they preach because they don’t have the decency to do the right thing. The biggest problem is that African leaders have no respect for the people who put them in power, and this has seen them abuse their privilege over and over. We yearn for that time when we will have leaders with enough dignity and honesty to tell the truth and see us as humans.

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