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Immorality, crime and punishment

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Someone said that if you want to know the true character of a man, give him power. Of course, this adage refers to a woman as well.

In one of the magazines, titled African Business and New African, we were receiving till December 2016, President John Magufuli of Tanzania was voted the greatest man of the year. I was not surprised. As soon as he assumes office, he set about trying to eradicate wrongs that were long standing not only in Tanzania but other African countries as well. These are corruption, wastefulness, slothfulness and so on.

He was hailed as a new brand of an African presidents, a man of his word. In Malawi, a lady columnist suggested that if a United States of Africa were to come about today, Magufuli would be its president.

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Hold on. There is another aphorism about power. One of England’s Catholic delegates to the Vatican in the nineteenth century and a don of either Oxford or Cambridge made the lapidary observation that power tends to corrupt and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Recently, while I was a passenger in a car, I listened to a conversation between a young lady in Morogo, Tanzania, and a BBC news presenter. The BBC man asked the lady about the alleged proclamation by Magufuli that any school girl who gets impregnated should not only be expelled from school but should not be allowed to come back and resume learning. At for the schoolboy or man responsible for the pregnancy, he should be jailed for 30 years. I hope I got this correctly.

The young lady said she had been subjected to bad treatment. After delivering her baby she had worked as a maid. Her employer had been so impressed with her performance that, at her request, they had paid for her admission into a private school where she had completed her secondary education. She was now employed as a social worker assisting fellow women.

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She pointed out that forbidding a girl from returning to school would hurt not only herself but the baby as well. How can a woman who has not finished her education get a job that can enable her to bring up the child, she asked in perfect English with a very good accent. I felt sympathy and admiration for her as if she were one of my granddaughters. To exclude such a brilliant girl from school because of pregnancy is inhuman.

If it is true that Magufuli made the decree attributed to him, then he has gone too far with his discipline. His first name, John, suggests that he is a Christian. All of us, Christians, when confronted with a person who has misbehaved immorally, should remind ourselves of how our Saviour reacted when some men brought to him a woman who had been caught in adultery. Those people said Moses had decreed that such a woman should be stoned to death “He that has never committed sin should cast the first stone on the condemned woman”. Honest to themselves, the men just melted away, driven away by their superego.

There some types of immorality that can be reduced but never completely uprooted. They seem to be part of human nature. These have to do with sexual aberration; prenatal love-making, adultery and prostitution. How many people are there in any country who have not infringed one of these moral codes?

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The difference between immorality and crime is that, while we can give a date as to when a certain act became a crime, we cannot say when a certain thing became immoral. Immorality is embedded in the recesses of time.

As regards crimes, we talk of issues such as driving without a licence. This came about during the year vehicles were imported into this country. A crime is anything that the government, or any ruler, forbids; something which, if perpetrated, would result in the perpetrator being punished.

Recently, following a spate of road accidents, the government warned drivers of minibuses and their masters that they would be subjected to stiffer penalties.

Questions were raised in Parliament, followed by debates. What [remarks] some members of the opposition said were irresponsible because, where the safeguarding of lives is concerned, there can be no leniency in enforcement of rules. Some MPs blamed the situation on the state of the country’s roads. This reminds me of the saying that a bad writer blames his pen while a lazy farmer blames the weather and his hoe.

No doubt, the roads of Malawi require a good deal of improvement but the condition of the roads is not the main cause of the accidents. Quite often, accidents have occurred on roads

A good driver adjusts his speed to the type of road on which he is driving

The ministry concerned and the Minibus Owners Association of Malawi should have frank discussion and agree on a proper trade-off between making profits and the safety of passengers lose their lives because the minibus has overturned.

Though the focus was on minibuses last week, a look at the number of accidents on the Lilongwe-Blantyre road point to the fact that bus owners should discipline their drivers. They are paid fixed salaries and, yet, they over-speed. What do they want to gain by over-speeding?

Improving roads is necessary but it takes time, especially when it comes to finding resources. Changing a driving style from recklessness to carefulness can be made momentarily. No one has right to deprive somebody of his God-given life.

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