Malawi: Two decades of absentee values


By Kamudoni Nyasulu:

DEPLORABLE — Some damaged property during the Christian/Moslem hijab saga

Upon Malawi attaining independence in 1964, it developed and embraced a national culture based on a fusion of: (a) national norms and values embodied in the Constitution and the law as espoused in the national flag, the national ensigns and the National Anthem of unity, loyalty, (zeal and selflessness); and (b) Malawi Congress Party (MCP) values (slogans) of obedience, discipline (making up the four corner stones of unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline) and Kamuzuism; relegating religion, traditional and customary norms and values to family matters.

When Malawi adopted multiparty democracy in 1994, these national values remained on the statute books but were largely ignored by the political party in power so that leaders in government and the political party, United Democratic Front (UDF) promoted no particular values.


Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was the party in government from 2009 promoting no particular party values but not, however, promoting the national values as contained in the Constitution or the Protected Flag, Emblems and Names Act, either.

The final two years of this term of government from 2012 to 2014 had Peoples’ Party (PP) in government. In 2014, it adopted the party values of integrity, honesty, tolerance, selflessness, commitment and dedication but was silent on national values. This is despite the fact that: (i) PP came to power not by election but by dint of a default constitutional arrangement whereby its leader, erstwhile State vice-president succeeded the president who had pre-deceased her; and (ii) the new government restored to the Protected Flags Emblems and Names law the values of the national flag which the government of the DPP had changed. It must be noted that the tampering with the national flag did not affect it as having the national value recognised by the Constitution. PP lost in the May 2014 elections and DPP, which returned to power, adopted and started promoting its partisan values of prosperity, justice, security which remained its values even after the elections in May 2019.

In the meantime, political parties not in government have throughout promoted their own party values. MCP from 1961 to 2019, promoted unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline while from 2018, it adopted ‘servant leadership’, ‘uniting Malawi’, ‘prospering together’, ‘ending corruption’ and ‘rule of law’. UDF adopted ‘social freedom’, ‘economic freedom’, ‘political freedom’ and ‘responsive and inclusive party’ from 2014 while PP adopted ‘integrity’, ‘honesty’, ‘tolerance’, ‘selflessness’, ‘commitment and dedication’ from 2014. The party formed in 2018, UTM, adopted and has been promoting ‘tsogolo lathu’ culture of being collaborative and engaging in executing the various national agenda.


Our political leaders have been averse to promoting constitutional fundamental principles, principles of national policy and norms. Prayer, the flag and the national anthem have been often used at gatherings including political rallies but only as part of the protocol, with no meaning in real terms; sham prayers, sham patriotism. Our political leaders have led the people of Malawi astray, made them a people without direction, a people without values! Upon the design of the political leaders, the majority of the people have been divided, deliberately, based on political party ideology, tribal or regional origin; a people without national psyche!

The national values as contained in the Constitution since 1994, some of which are illustrated in the Protected Flag Emblems and Names Act, have not changed: Pan- Africanism, unity, freedom, loyalty, trust, ‘open transparent and accountable government’, collective security, collective rights, individual rights, morality and the common interest. Our successive governments over two decades have deliberately ignored these and instead promoted partisan values that do not place any responsibilities or accountability on them for their decisions and actions. Convenient.

The upshot is that Malawi has had no discourse on national values since 1993.

This means, as a nation, we have not, for two decades, developed a national culture that would support the Constitutional order and legal frameworks for the effective delivery of development and services to the people of Malawi. We even failed to articulate our values in Vision 2010, our supposed long-term planning road map for development and service delivery. Indeed, in the last few years, leaders in government and politics have abdicated their constitutional responsibilities to uphold and enforce national values by unjustifiably pleading a subordinate criminal justice tenet of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ that is reserved for a person on trial answering a criminal offence. In the grading of constitutional values and where no person is on trial for a criminal offence, this tenet is inferior to the values of trust, ‘open transparent and accountable government’, collective security, collective rights, morality and the common interest. It is a tenet to complement individual rights which, in any event, by constitutional dictate, are subject, and must be exercised with regard, to the values of ‘collective security’, ‘morality’, and the ‘common interest’.

Now that the elections case in the Constitutional Court is drawing to a close, it is time to reflect on Malawi as a nation starting afresh, whoever or whatever authority will govern this country. The nation must re-define its values in line with the Constitution and legal frameworks. It must develop and sustain a vibrant culture, arising out of these values, for good governance and rule of law.

The OCR says “Norms and values ensure that people behave in socially acceptable ways. These norms and values can vary from place to place and over time. If we don’t have norms or values, behaviour may become unmanageable and society could fall apart… Norms and values shape the culture of any given society.” (Oxford Cambridge and RSA ‘A’ Level Sociology Teachers’ Instruction https://www.ocr. )

Maluleke cites Weiner and Simpson Oxford English Dictionary that “Culture is a combination of the ideas, customs and social behaviour of a particular people or society…Tradition is the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation; it is a long established custom or belief that has passed from one generation to another…Custom is a traditional and widely accepted way of behaving or doing something that is specific to a particular society, place or time; it is things done habitually”. (MJ Maluleke, PER / PELJ 2012(15)1 at p. 3/428 publication/262621814_Culture_ Tradition_Custom_Law_and_Gender_ Equality)

On the other hand, Rigtech Associates reminds that “Accountability regimes have clear rules but they are largely framed by principles and guidance”. (RegTech Associates in Conduct Risk, Market analysis, Market Integrity & Transparency https:// accountability-regimes/)

The accountability supervisory regimes that exist for our government lack such clear rules. Parliament has, in some instances, assigned to itself and its committees oversight supervision without clear rules while in the majority of other instances, it has not assigned any accountability supervisory rules at all. Nonetheless, for the accountability of implementation by the public service numerous and clear rules (Anti-Fraud Anti-Corruption Frameworks and Forensic Examination: See the 11 frameworks) have been laid down which must be applied and enforced guided by the constitutional and legal norms and values enunciated in this article.

The broad principles and values in the Constitution offer guidance and that is one reason government should not, for example, have abdicated its responsibility to resolve the Christian/ Moslem hijab saga in Balaka in November 2019.

Government has persistently and with impunity, in times of problems created by politics and bad governance, chosen to disregard solutions offered by the Constitution.

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