I should confess here. Vice-President Saulos Chilima does not only impress me on whatever he says and whatever he does, wherever it might be and how he does it; he inspires me as well.
He is just a young man, much younger than myself, but blessed with intelligence and wisdom; a distinguished person who aspires to walk the talk and at the right time and place.
I was not, therefore, surprised, during his public lecture at Chancellor College in Zomba last week, when the principal of the college told the academia and other guests at the lecture in Great Hall that young Chilima, while in the college, was always on time for classes.
However, his recent directive at flood-hit Mtandire in Lilongwe, that all houses constructed in the banks of Lingadzi River should be demolished forthwith, might just be another dream.
I know, just as the Vice- President and everyone else know, that the structures were constructed illegally because of the influence of either corruption or politics or both.
A sane resident living in a sane city council cannot build a house in a river bank or worse still as Chilima put it, in a river, forcing the river to change course and flood, affecting hundreds of people.
I am impressed Chilima made some good headline-grabbing statements that he has ordered Lilongwe City Council (LCC) to demolish the houses immediately, that he has ordered the Minister of Energy to tell Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi not to connect power to the illegal structures; very brilliant stuff indeed.
However, as we draw closer to the 2019 tripartite elections, politics will play an upper hand than the thought of reason.
I doubt that President Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would give LCC a go-ahead to demolish the houses lest they lose some votes.
As far as I know, a politician would allow people break the law than lose a single vote in a crucial election.
I know that Chilima made the statement or issued the order as Minister responsible for Disaster Management but certainly not as a politician.
If our Veep takes on the politicians’ spectacles, put them on, I am sure he will see things differently in Mtandire and would reverse the order to demolish the houses.
I have not just woken up to write this. I have examples to prove my point.
Just recently, Blantyre City Council (BCC) issued letters to its residents who constructed houses in Ndirande and Bangwe hills, warning them the council would demolish the structures.
Weeks later, at a rally in Chigumula, a DPP official told Mutharika that he has enemies within BCC who have ordered the slashing of maize planted in illegal areas and the demolition of houses in the hills of Ndirande and Bangwe.
Just days after this, a BCC official was on State-controlled Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) saying that the council was not intending to demolish the houses in the illegal areas.
The maize was never slashed and the residents will obviously grow maize in the next planting season.
That is the politics of Malawi, that is the politics of Africa and that is the politics of the Third World.
This is why I am challenging Chilima that he will be back at Mtandire next year, same time, to inspect another damage of property and probably loss of life and give out handouts as he does year in, year out that is if he will remain Minister responsible for the Disaster Management.
Just some years ago, when Joyce Banda was in power, there was a K30 billion loot of public money at Capital Hill, the seat of government in Lilongwe.
Banda was very hesitant to bring the issue to the public. She wanted to sweep it under the carpet and she is on record saying other heads of State in the region had warned her against going public on the issue when an election was around the corner fearing she would lose the poll.
Donors and civil society organisations forced her to take action on the culprits and ordered the arrest of the suspects. The issue went viral and, indeed, she lost the 2014 elections. She was pushed to third position in the presidential race.
This is why I am saying to my brother, Chilima, that his intention might be good, his intention might be bordering on patriotism and integrity but his boss, Mutharika, might look at the issue differently. DPP, where sadly he has no position of influence, might look at the issue in a different angle.
This why I am repeating here that Chilima will be back at Mtandire same time next year and I will be there with my pen and writing pad to report on the visit.
Things will only change if our politicians leave our councils to function without any political influence.
Things can only change if BCC, LCC, Mzuzu City Council, Chiradzulu District Council and all councils can function without meddling of politicians both from the ruling and opposition parties.
Each council has its own by-laws; therefore, let the by-laws be applied indiscriminately.
Chilima has shown that he is tough and would like to have laws and justice enforced equitably. This is a rare breed of leadership we have in Malawi but unfortunately our politics still remains primitive. Our politics does not allow such leadership to pop up.
This is why I am sceptical that he would remain on his position as Minister responsible for Disaster Management.
I wish I advised him to do what Romans do when in Rome; that is, he should do what other politicians are doing in DPP when such issues emerge — deliberately looking the other way — but, I am afraid, such thinking is what has killed Malawi and continues to kill Malawi.
Everyone thinks disregard of the law is normal and corruption is normal. So when people such as Chilima speaks out against these evils, they are labelled ‘rebels’, unpatriotic and lacking integrity.
Jesus, come now if you can, to save Malawi!
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