Milking a thin cow
First April is Fools’ Day – the day the new financial year in Malawi begins. As usual, Parliament passed a budget whose expenditure will not necessarily benefit the poor of the poorest. The national budget is pegged at K3.7 trillion, K24 billion of which goes to State residencies. We are not sure how much of this will cater for the food of their dogs there, or for massages, manicure, and pedicure of our gods there. But we know that slightly above K1 billion is for taking care of State house lawns. We can afford to be that lavish.
What is disturbing with our country is that our political leaders live in a very different world from the rest of us. They love luxury.
They always want to satisfy appetites that are beyond the reach of our economy. As such, a lot of funds are either willingly diverted or stolen to satisfy these few people in power.
The mass plunder of resources in Cashgate and the stolen billions for Covid response are testimonies to this fact.
There are people out there who can’t just have enough and they will try to find any means possible of milking the country for their own gratification.
As we speak, the country is dealing with the trauma of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, which has seen thousands of households displaced. The United Nations is estimating that we will need more than K120 billion to mitigate the consequences of Freddy and to tackle our cholera outbreak. In fact, it took foreigners to rescue most of our brothers and sisters who were trapped in the cyclone when our government displayed that it lacked the capacity. Zambia had to come in with aid.
Tanzania flew in their helicopters, and even the dogs that were used to search for dead bodies came in with some white people. And we call ourselves a country.
Our situation does not really correspond with how we do things in this country. The President has been calling for foreign aid to help our situation and yet billions of Kwacha are spent on his residencies every financial year. Why should foreign countries make sacrifices for us when all we know is spending?
The leadership of this country must know that if we are to make any strides, there has to be sacrifices, and everyone, including the President and his friends, must leave their comfort zone. In Malawi, only the poor are forced to sacrifice for the country – paying exorbitant taxes and buying expensive amenities – and all their contributions end up in the pockets of politicians.
It is politicians who are entitled to duty-free cars when the ordinary citizen is burdened with obscene duty for the smallest of cars. It is these so-called leaders who live in Area 10, where they drive on smooth roads to Capital Hill when the taxpayer is negotiating potholes in Area 49.
The children of these politicians study abroad when our own cannot go to school because the classrooms have been turned into camps for survivors of the cyclone. And when they go to school, they have to learn under shades of trees.
Those who make sacrifices for this country are destitute and those who pay for nothing have the luxury to spend billions on their lawns. This is not normal and those who make these decisions cannot be normal. There is a need for serious soul-searching in our leaders.
If Malawi is to develop, our leaders must realise and accept that we do not live in the first world.
This is not Europe or America and they must stop imitating the lives of politicians from those spaces.
Postcolonial theorists like Franz Fanon already intimated that the problem with the middle-class in the postcolony will be their desire to live like the former coloniser.
This is what exacerbates corruption. We have political leaders who do not want to make sacrifices for the benefit of their country and, yet, they have the audacity to call themselves servant leaders.
Or is it the case that they think that servant leadership means being a leader of servants? Ordinary Malawians cannot continue to give everything to the nation, only for politicians to take it all. There must be an end to this insanity.