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Malawi: Death trap

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We are grieving as a country because we have lost so many lives in circumstances that could otherwise have been mitigated.

We were warned that there would be a cyclone and we did not even prepare for the possibilities of the eventuality.

Cyclone Freddy made landfall in Mozambique but it is us who have been more heavily affected than our neighbour because we did not prepare ourselves. While we grieve for those we have lost, we need some serious soul searching on how we can do better as a country.

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One of the biggest problems with our country is that no one is in control. In Malawi, anything goes and anyone is allowed to do as they please for as long as it is to the benefit of politicians.

The people who have been washed away, especially in Blantyre, had built their houses in places that were not supposed to be inhabited in the first place.

Around 2017, Vice- President Saulos Chilima called for these people to leave these dangerous places but no one heeded his advice. The government could not even force the people to vacate because it only thinks of them as votes and not lives. Moving them would have been a negative political statement.

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This problem of politicians wanting to please people for votes is deep-rooted and it is one of the reasons why we are here as a country – stuck in wretchedness.

Our streets are filthy today because vagabonds are allowed to do as they please. When Bingu wa Mutharika was in charge, he made sure that we resembled something like a country and removed all vendors operating unlawfully in places they were not allowed to operate.

Today, those people have gone back to the streets and the government cannot do anything about it. We have a very toothless government whose selfish intentions have resulted in more harm than good for our country.

We should hail active citizenship by people like Onjezani Kenani and others who try to come in when the authorities fail in their work. But we need to understand that those efforts are a direct manifestation of failure in leadership.

Even those who are donating to victims of cyclone Freddy would choose to go through other channels than the government because they know that the big fish is incompetent and corrupt. For how long will we be mourning in situations where we were not supposed to mourn?

When a government fails to do its jobs, citizens stand up to act in whatever capacity they can. Today, we are applauding citizens for putting together resources to support those who have lost everything to the flood but tomorrow we will not clap hands for these same people if they take justice into their hands.

Negatives like mob justice are also acts of active citizenship when people feel that those responsible for their protection are not doing their work. As such, we must understand that, in the same way ordinary citizens are gathering resources for flood victims, they can also gang up to burn somebody who is disturbing the peace in their society. We are slowly creating a dangerous society because of poor leadership.

Our country is a death trap and it was about time we did something about this tragedy. Travelling on our roads every day is a risk because the roads are not worth that name.

We have enough resources to fix these roads but those in power just don’t care. The water we drink is dirty and there are times when neighbourhoods go for weeks without water.

But when all is said and done, the bottom line is that we are here because we should to be here. When disasters like Freddy happen and people have lost their lives, nobody wants to take a critical perspective and ask what we may have done wrong.

We rush to grieve and call on God instead of bringing to the table those who are responsible. If our mediocre approach to everyday life does not change, we will continue to die like flies.

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