This article was inspired by writers DD Phiri, Joseph Kayira, Voice of Micah and Augustine Musopole in the December issue of The Lamp Number 130 and Columnists in Weekend Nation of January 2016.
The assessment of 2015 makes frustrating reading. The verdict is brutally honest. If our leaders do not reverse the trends, 2016 is sure another year of lamentations and disquiet.
News analyst Archibald Kasakura lamented people’s suffering in the year, describing 2015 a year when lives of Malawians took a plunge evidenced by increasing hunger, diminished incomes and sharp rises in commodity prices; high interest rates, drug stock outs and food shortages.
Mercy Malikwa specifically talked about ‘the year water crisis made Blantyre stupid’, a situation blamed on both floods and power outages. Power outages themselves caused enormous misery and slowed down productivity of industries.
Veteran columnist Ephraim Munthali resignedly said he wished he could wish Malawians Happy New Year but he saw nothing worth celebrating as it was a year of tears and pain. Munthali called the year a betrayal particularly for those who survived on less than one dollar a day.
For Steven Nhlane, another accomplished analyst, 2015 was a year so full loss and pain better just forgotten altogether.
While Levi Zeleza Manda was rather philosophical, asking Malawians to seek answers to ‘why the economy has gone to the hungry dogs; why internal security is slipping through our hands’. These are fair questions about a society whose pillars are tilting dangerously.
Overall a vicious perfectly avoidable indictment if only our leaders became more honest, more cooperative and a little humbler.
In 2015, there was zero wisdom to prioritise essential services; so patients and impoverished guardians starved in hospitals while the elites swam in the luxuries of travel, banquets, accumulation of official benefits and cars.
At least once Malawians rose in arms demanding moderation in superfluous expenditures. Even this led to nothing, met with rude defence, disinformatsia and nil remorse.
Opposition Leader Lazarus Chakwera got the situation of the country right, succinctly describing Malawi as ‘a nation in deep trouble’ for we really are. Something drastic needs to be done or we are condemned to another year.
Whether or not the millions poor citizens understand why all this is happening or what has to be done, what I know is that they feel it in how hard it is to get the kwacha and how little the kwacha can buy.
What’s worse is that nobody is explaining clearly, regularly and honestly what is going on particularly to rural populations. Nor is anybody ready to own up and galvanise the nation.
I would have thought that the government, opposition, private sector and civil society leaders would have seen the need to educate the people about the state of our economy to obtain their support for austerity measures – if there are any measures.
Equally worth explaining are phenomena like ‘fiscal discipline’ or ‘domestic borrowing’ two major factors the lack or use of which defines the economic mismanagement that’s sinking the country and curtailing hope for loans-in-aid.
Thus I dare argue that the pressure exerted to obtain government compliance is hardly adequate for incumbents with such high propensity for abuse amid un-kept promises of frugality accountability.
Now we know better, don’t we? As says Augustine Musopole the best trained and educated are not necessarily the most moral; the smell of money has the tendency to throw morals to the wind. True, we might as well say in Malawi education are inversely proportional to integrity?
But it’s not just abuse of resources that the citizenry fight; it is also gross political negligence manifesting in falsehood; reckless promises for which government has neither the capacity nor the drive to actualise.
Numerous calls have been made for a common mind set among Malawians in seeking solutions. But what are the mechanisms by which such ideas can be collectively mooted out? Why won’t the governors of the land learn from the narrative in the media?
Well, on this particular matter DD Phiri suggests that ‘government and opposition should close ranks’ and work together. I agree. Radical measures without concurrence from the opposition would never fly.
All critics including the opposition call for sound policies. But what are sound policies?
To me the ultimate policy is everything that gets people to make their own money and pay tax; everything that generates cash at the level of the poorest people.
Yes, practically any decision that liberates people from the ‘political dole and abuse’ for political survival and creates reliable markets.
It is a sound policy which underlines long term and vision-led development of people from the grassroots and destroys stupid politics of legacies.
Sound policy is anything that gives dignity back to poor Malawians. That Malawians seek economic dignity was recently illustrated in the reaction of Mzuzu Market Vendors who rejected ‘condolences’ in favour of access to loans to sustain their businesses.
It’s time policies met the energy of the people without political patronage.
Part of the answer lies in making irrigation and mechanized farming realties; it lies in liberating farmers from enslaving contract farming models, an attractive option to elites and to buyers whose real interest rests in exploiting low prices.
What leaders will accept neo-slavery in the 21st Century? What else do we call this kind of money if not ‘blood money?’
And there is immediate action to take.
DD Phiri’s suggests cutting salaries of senior politicians and public servants; suspending the malata and cement subsidies; to which I add curtailing payment of obscene allowances and fuels allocations.
Honestly what is the morality of maintaining an inefficient, abuse-prone multi-billion rural housing scheme when thousands of children and women die needlessly in ways so painful?
Fix the economy and people will build their own houses!
The Voice of Micah is right. Malawi has traded values of honesty, hard work and discipline with a culture of laziness, shameless begging and theft. Who will inspire the sleeping lions of Malawian?
Cry my beloved country.
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