Michael Usi’s reflections


Actor and activist Michael Usi seems to have recently read works by poet Bouterweck who, after being fed up with things, recited:

Bend the tender stem of a reed; Bend it too much and it breaks.

He who attempts too much attempts nothing.


But, if Usi has not recently read Bouterweck, at least he has spoken something that resonates with the poet’s sentiments by observing that the Malawian has become a reed which, played with for a long time, has reached breaking point.

Speaking about his experiences in 2016, and how he would like 2017 to pan out, Usi says there is nothing to celebrate about because Malawi is burning.

He cites the case of youth, who he says have been neglected in the tertiary education sector, a development that could spell doom for the country.


Usi, while deeply sensible of the difficulty of reconciling his image as a critic who offers insights to the nation through the stage and an activist who should always stand for the public good, observes that Malawi has been failing to make the best out of its independence.

Malawi’s independence pillar has been standing for 52 years, but he observes that the country continues to be courted by controversy. This, he says, was not supposed to be the case after a single party state stretched into a democracy in 1994.

But Usi says Malawi is beset by problems, one of it being the imposition of quota system.

“Looking back at 2016, and moving forward into 2017, I think quota system is evil. Politicians have forgotten that quota system is not in tandem with the principle of oneness in Malawi,” Usi says.

Usi observes that trust in leaders has also dwindled, observing that, while votes may be won with comparative ease— through deception—nothing short of the daily exercise of honesty can keep the river of citizens’ trust flowing.

“At one point, President Peter Mutharika told the then vice-president, Khumbo Kachali, that he [Mutharika] would abolish quota system once in power. Up to now, he has not abolished it,” Usi observes.

He says this is one case of promises gone bad.

And, as if quoting great philosopher Aristotle, who observes that greed is the extreme opposite of justice in the ‘Fifth Book of his Nicomachean Ethics, Usi describes the quota system as well as the continued closure of some public universities as an injustice to Malawi youth.

“I would like to say that what is happening in our public universities is an embarrassment; it is a national embarrassment. I cannot believe that Malawi as a nation cannot solve the problem of public universities.

“Who are we waiting for? Who should come to solve our problems? There is nobody from outside that will come to solve the problems. It is us who will solve the problem. It [closure of public universities] has taken too long for comfort and it is becoming a pandemic. It is like it is part of our educational culture. When they get to university, people are not very sure as to when they are going to finish. Malawians should reflect seriously on issues that are immoral. This is immoral. We cannot leave youth out of education and, yet, we are driving posh vehicles, eating good food,” Usi says.

He bemoans passiveness among Malawians, saying, when individuals and organisations raise issues of national importance, they (the issues) die a natural death because nobody picks them up.

“The problem we have in Malawi is that when organisations and individuals address social issues, nobody takes it [the issue] up and it [the issue] dies. I do not know how informed the policy framers were but there is no research informing reformers on quota system. Pains Malawians are experiencing now are provocative,” Usi says.

On Maizegate, he said he cannot watch while Lilongwe burns, and asked those suspected to have had a hand in it to “resign and pave way for investigations”.

“This is evil. In the villages people are surviving on okra, mangoes— which are going out of season. The maize issue touches the heart of Malawians because, due to the rise in maize prices, people will be asking why [the prices are high] and, from the explanations, their eyes will be opened. The best thing is for the honourable people involved to resign because people out there think that the so-called honourable people are not honourable at all. Let them pave way and those investigating should be the ones saying, ‘They are honourable’ people; they are not to blame,” Usi says.

But Usi, who has vowed not to keep quiet when things are going wrong, could not say whether he would incorporate these issues in his creative works, only saying he could not keep quiet while those in power attempt too much while attempting nothing!

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