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Savage instincts

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By Wesley Macheso:

When you look at the socio-economic crises rocking Malawi and Zimbabwe, for example, you would think that the two countries are still tied together by a strong bond of poverty sustaining the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It is only Zambia that seems to have sailed on a different ship to prosperity, leaving her sisters behind. One obvious conclusion on this is that most of the problems we are facing today are by choice and not matters of fate. Our countries are where they are today because our leaders ignore reason and make decisions based on their primal instincts.

If we are to go back to the classroom, political philosophy teaches us that the creation of modern socio-political institutions was aimed at championing rationality over people’s selfish needs. The philosopher Thomas Hobbes argues that humans are, by nature, selfish beings and that each would want to pursue his/ her welfare over that of others. As such, civil society was formed as a rational agreement to regulate people – more so those with power. The agreement was that, to have an orderly society, there should be political leaders who will guide society, through rational means, so that selfishness and greed do not dominate. But where has that taken us?

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It is only modern Western states that seem to have matured enough to an extent that they have created societies where everyone can have something. For most underdeveloped countries, savage instincts still rule and our leaders are still behaving like wild animals in the jungle. The huge gap between the rich and the poor is not natural – it has been created and sustained by the greed and selfishness of political leaders who have failed to live beyond the confines of the jungle. The rule of the jungle is survival of the fittest and, here, the most powerful take everything to themselves, leaving others with nothing. That is how our leaders operate and that is why we are here.

In Malawi, for example, we have been changing political parties and leaders, but all of them seem to be doing the same wrong things as if they come from the same family. The thing is not that these people do not know the right thing to do, but the fact is that it is their selfish instincts that will not have them do the right thing. Case in point, President Lazarus Chakwera and the Tonse Alliance promised us all the right things but look at them. Today, people are hueing from the archives Chakwera’s critiques of Mutharika to show that the big man is repeating what he criticised in his predecessor. These people know what to do, but they use their instincts.

A leader who uses their instincts to rule will ignore the right thing and do what sustains his power. To give you examples, our government knows that the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) is not good for economic development, but they will continue with it because the poverty it creates earns them votes. The biggest beneficiaries of the AIP are not the poor families it targets, but the politicians who waste our taxes to get votes. And when they get those votes, they share our taxes amongst themselves, leaving us poorer than we were. An example of this is the hefty packages given to Cabinet ministers who have now agreed to be rewarding each other with at least one billion Kwacha as gratuity. We are in a jungle, and the biggest hunters do not want to share the meat with anyone but their family and friends.

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So next time somebody asks you why Malawi is poor, tell them that it is because our leaders have not evolved out of the rules of the jungle. Selfishness rules here. Savage instincts reign supreme. Self-preservation is the order of the day and, as such, our leaders are still heavily corrupt and nepotistic to an extent that it becomes embarrassing, even to onlookers like us. But the fact that these people are not even embarrassed by their actions should show you how backward they are in civilisation. Our country will only develop when we have selfless leaders who see beyond themselves. For as long as these selfish men and women are in power, we are on our own. We are not a poor country – we are poorly led.

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