By Richard Chirombo
It must have been courage and selflessness that pushed Malawi’s nationalists to the limits.
In the end, they accepted to lay their lives on the table of colonialism, letting their own bodies wade through the lake of blood simply because they wanted to achieve one purpose: Drowning the idol of arbitrary power in the waters of independence.
Through little, but steady steps of action, the Union Jack was exiled to Britain, never to be seen again at Capital Hill and public places of strategic importance to Malawi.
However, Malawi is, in many aspects, independent only in name because Britain’s administrative and political systems have remained.
To make matters worse, those entrusted with power have, in some cases, proven to be worse than those they replaced— a development that can be blamed on greed.
As the great philosopher Aristotle observed, in the Fifth Book of Nicomachean Ethics, greed is the extreme opposite of justice.
And, yet, the dangers of greed are well documented.
The Italian poet Dante Alighieri aptly put it: “…greed ignores man himself and seeks other things, but charity ignores all other things and seeks God and man, and consequently man’s good.”
Unfortunately, because of greed— which has inevitably bred corruption and like vices— Malawi continues to be the world’s poorest countries.
This is because a selected few continue to discredit the benefits of reason and continue to think about nobody but themselves, which is illogical because, in the words of Dante, freedom [which the martyrs fought for in their struggle against oppression] entails being ruled by reason and in living for the goal of mankind.
“We must realise that the basic principle of our freedom is freedom to choose, which saying many have on their lips but few in their minds.
For they go only so far as to say freedom of choice is freedom of will in judging. This is true, but they do not understand its import.
They talk as our logicians do, who for their exercises in logic constantly use certain propositions, such as ‘A triangle has three angles equal to two right angles’, he observes.
“But”, to quote Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712 – 1778), author of books such as ‘Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (1755) and ‘The Social Contract’ (1762), “in truth, what else was to be expected? Every community without laws and without rulers, every union formed and maintained by nothing better than chance, must inevitably fall into quarrels and dissensions at the fist change that comes about.”
For Malawi, it is possible that it continues to grope in the dark, political and socio-economic development-wise, because of lack of knowledge about governance and, possibly, the governance systems it has adopted.
With power concentrated in the hands of the individual who runs as presidential candidate on the Malawi Electoral Commission-printed ballot, some individuals easily get corrupted by power.
As they say, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
One of the clear signs of power intoxication are frequent departures from things promised on the campaign trail. In the end, citizens lose trust in leadership, in democracy and all processes of governance, a situation made worse by leaders’ tendency to refuse to learn from history.
Even when leaders know that their actions are bound to make them fall, they continue to ‘shine’ on the pedestal of self-destruction.
However, Emmanuel Kant (1724 – 1804)— in the book Perpetual Peace— observes that there are some three notable maxims that leaders who are bound to fall follow, namely: Fac et excusa (First do and then excuse); Si fecisti nega (Deny whatever you have committed); Divide et impera (divide and govern).
According to Kant, leaders who adopt the Fac et Excusa concept “seize every favourable opportunity of usurping a right over their own state, or a neighbouring state. After the action, its justification may be made with greater ease and elegance…”
The Si fecisti nega type, however, deny whatever they have committed. “For instance, if you have reduced your people to despair, and thus to rebellion, do not confess it was through your fault. Place all (blame) to the account of the stubbornness of your subjects. If you have taken possession of a neighbouring state, maintain that the fault lies in the nature of man, who, if he is not anticipating, will certainly seize upon the fortunes of another.”
Then, there is the Divide et impera type, who believe thus: “If there exists among a people certain privileged chiefs who have conferred upon you sovereign power (primus inter pares), set them at variance with each other, embroil them with the people. Favour the latter and promise them more liberty, and all will soon depend on thy will. Or if your views extend to foreign states, excite discord among them; and, under pretence of always assisting the weaker, you will soon subject them all, one after the other.”
If this sounds familiar, Malawi still has a long way to go to achieve goals that people we call martyrs set. This time, it does not have to take courage and selflessness; teamwork will do.
Otherwise, voters will continue to feel enfranchised and Malawians will continue to search for real freedom