Rethinking our mess
There are certain debates that seem trivial at face value but that, in essence, may be crucial in reshaping the future of our country. One such discussion is on the roles of either multiparty democracy or dictatorship in the development of African countries.
There is a group of people who often argue that Western forms of democracy have underdeveloped Africa and that we need dictatorships in order to develop.
Whenever it is initiated, this debate never ends, and both sides bring very interesting ideas and examples on the table. But it ends there – with two sides pulling in opposite directions.
What one finds wanting in such debates is lack of independent thought among those who are supposed to think. This has been our problem for a long time, especially here in Malawi. Whether this is a problem with our education system or something else is yet another subject for debate.
But we seldom think outside the box in this country. With the issue above, for example, instead of choosing between democracy and dictatorship, people needed to be thinking about creating governance models that can best suit our situation.
If Africa, in general and Malawi, in particular, is to move past the mess we are in, people must start thinking outside whatever boxes of knowledge are out there and create homemade remedies.
One important issue that demands this approach in our country is that of whether to adopt a federal system of government or not. This has been a recurring debate in our Parliament, and it is refusing to die.
It is mostly members of Parliament (MPs) from the Northern Region who propose this model with the justification that the region is heavily sidelined in terms of development and allocation of resources.
There was a time when these agitations for federalism reached a point where some intellectuals from the region demanded secession from Malawi in order to form an independent state.
These demands are often trivialised by those in power, albeit without giving them proper thought. Just a week ago, Alliance for Democracy MP Yeremiah Chihana reignited this fire only to be dismissed by Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Titus Mvalo.
Mvalo argued that this issue is not important because it is not giving people sleepless nights out there.
Nobody knows where the minister did his research to come up with such a conclusion, but one thing for sure is that he was precarious in his approach to the issue just as previous regimes have been.
The call for federalism cannot be conceived outside the tribalism and regionalism that affect this country. Denying that resources are unevenly distributed is denying that politics in this country is often conducted along tribal and regional lines.
And denying such realities is simply lying to ourselves. Since independence, the tribe and the region have been our problems and they continue to affect us today.
A few years ago, when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power, State institutions were infested by people from the Southern Region – some of which were not even qualified for the positions they held. It took the Ombudsman to correct some of these errors.
Today, the Malawi Congress Party has centralised the central region, and maybe we will have to call upon the Ombudsman again in future.
These imbalances in distribution of power and resources can no longer be ignored and ought to be addressed. If the Northern Region feels sidelined, the best way was for our government to conduct a serious study that must look into this problem and device the best way out.
The fact is that our centralised system of government is so myopic that it does not envision any big picture.
All core business is in Lilongwe, making that city congested for nothing when several parts of the country are thirsty for a little activity.
We have districts that are literally economically dead in this country, and they will not be developed for the next 100 years if we maintain this model of governance.
We may agree or disagree on federalism and its place in this country, but one thing that needs no debate is the fact that we need to find a way of redistributing resources and creating opportunities for all in this country.
This is where we need to think outside the box and develop models that can best work for Malawi. Our current system is not working and we seriously need to reconsider.