Sugarcoating a burning Lilongwe


The voter-ruler relationship in Malawi is, without doubt, not mutual, but one of endless exploitation.

Where is the mutual relationship when citizens are suffering while the leaders they elected are globe-trotting, splashing cash in posh hotels, business class sections of planes, buying food and expensive jewels, among others, while Lilongwe is burning?

That Lilongwe is burning has been evident in the last two weeks, when people have been scrambling for sugar.


I happened to come across customers who were bribing shop assistants with K200 and K500 banknotes so that the assistants, who are employed to serve customers, by the way, could rush into the storeroom [s] and come back with a packet of sugar.

Shop assistants became overnight ‘tycoons’, swimming in ill-gotten cash at the expense of, of course, the ordinary man and woman on the ground.

Some retail shops had to be forced to start rationing the product, putting in place measures aimed at stopping shoppers from going home with five packets of sugar.


In Blantyre townships such as Chilomoni, Chilobwe, Machinjiri, Bangwe, Manja and Mbayani, retailers hiked sugar prices. In some selling points, a one kilogramme packet of sugar was fetching K1,500—a clear indication of Lilongwe burning.

During these two troubling weeks, some wholesalers at Bwalo la Njovu in Lilongwe ran out of sugar stocks.

Those that had bales in stock rode on the wave of buyers’ desperation by raising prices of the commodity; so that one bale of sugar, which contains 20 packets, was selling at between K22,000 and K25,000, up from K20,000.

In one shop at Ginnery Corner, buyers who wanted the commodity were being asked to pay K200 more so that shop staff could go and ferry the commodity from storerooms.

What did our national leaders do about the situation? Sleep on the job.

What would one call the hush that has filled the corridors of power, as if palace walls were impervious to voices of crying people?

If anything, it is the sugar companies that have spoken out.

One of the sugar manufacturers indicated that its mills were up and running, further indicating that it was a common practice for cane haulage to be affected during the early part of the season due to wet fields.

Another one indicated that it had enough stocks and that supplies were normal.

But on the ground, the reality was different, with people scrambling for the commodity.

As I am speaking, you would be lucky to find large stocks of sugar in retail outlets. If you find the packets, be ready to part ways with K200 more on top of the recommended price. That extra K200 is for the one employed to serve customers.

It is a way of nationalising corruption, one of the many sad tales Malawians have to contend with in these days of problems.

It, really, is a precarious condition for the ordinary Malawian.

There are two realities in Malawi; reality that applies to the voter and reality that applies to elected leaders who, now steeped in a sense of self importance, seem not to care.

Show me a leader who can spare a minute to reflect on problems Malawians are facing and doing something about it, and I will tell you that, maybe, we have been wrongly judging our leaders.

The reality is that there is no such leader; all we have are self-serving people out to generate as much money as possible at our expense.

I am not saying that our national leaders owe us a living. Far from it.

All I am saying is that our leaders should stop cheating, stealing from us and making fun of our poverty through their globe-trotting habits.

Malawians want their leaders to suffer with them when time for suffering comes and rejoice with them when time for jubilation comes.

Caring leaders do not have to, always, find the way out of Malawi. International meetings shall always be there.

However, some of the ordinary people that were supposed to be there may die due to preventable illnesses and the like, for which our leaders must take the blame. Do they? Far from it and that, Dear Pain, is the incongruous part.

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