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The illusion of good governance

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Good governance, transformative leadership and all these adjectives being thrown around in Malawi as the country approaches 2019 are simply about money.

The politics of money in political parties, civil society organisations (CSOs) or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private companies in Malawi determines who gets what. Political elites who fund campaigns have made money the most essential asset in politics in Malawi. This understanding of reality is the main reason why efforts to deal with corruption in this country will not be led by politicians alone. They have a vested interest in money for control.

For most political parties in Malawi, especially the opposition, these with dissenting voices are quickly labeled as having been bought by the ruling party. Any CSO that dares praise the government of the day is quickly accused of having received a bribe from the government. Does it mean that it is not possible to dissent without being “bought”? Is it possible for CSOs/NGOs to be praise-singers of the government of the day? Since 1994, the majority of politicians in Malawi belong to a small group of elites who can, without any thought or iota of integrity, move from one party to another.

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If one takes a critical look at the people who run Malawi’s private sector, one finds similar trends where the same people are in boards or directorship of the few Malawi private companies. The other day there was a notice that one banking corporation was proposing a 90-year-old guru to be reappointed director of the company.

Do not take this as discrimination against old age, neither is it an attempt to belittle the contribution of such a person but, surely, if a company cannot find a replacement of a person who is 30 years beyond the normal retirement age, then questions have to be asked about the nature of succession plans Malawi’s private sector has. Does it mean that, after all these years of universities producing graduates in Malawi, the private sector cannot find one among these to replace a 90-year-old Malawian?

The trend has not left the so-called “governance watchdogs” called CSOs and NGOs. There are CSOs/NGOs in Malawi that have been led by the same person who found them. It is not a surprise that the same guys are also on boards of the CSOs/ NGOs run by their friends. They then call for good governance when they themselves are the epitome of bad governance. Is the idea that someone can run the CSO/NGO they found for 20 years a sign that they are good enough and, therefore, no one else can run the organisation? Is it a sign that they do not have options outside their own CSOs/NGOs? Why should a board member of CSO/NGO A be a CEO of CSO/NGO B and yet the CEO of CSO/NGO A is a board member of CSO/NGO B?

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Is there an economic and political circle of elites in Malawi that is ready to recycle itself all the time? These economic and political elites include CSO leaders. It is this same group of elites that determines who gets into what public, political of CSO office and for how long. It is, therefore, unexpected when people ask the question, is governance driven by loyalty to the elite? Does it surprise Malawians anymore that these people ignore the needs of the poor to satisfy those who got them into office? Can the nation be blamed for thinking that money and the love of money is the most important factor driving the elites who cling to “life” CEOs, board membership in CSOs/NGOs? Is there evidence in Malawi to justify that money has replaced integrity at the core of political processes in Malawi? How many times have voters in Malawi elected people assumed to have money only to be disappointed when it is the same people who steal and misuse money meant for the poor for their own private benefit?

Is it time to reduce the role that money plays in politics and CSOs in Malawi? Can political parties and CSOs/ NGOs be made to work for the electorates? Malawi’s environment and culture since 1994 has ironically disempowered voters and has made it impossible for political parties and CSOs/NGOs to be held accountable by the citizens. Malawi’s governance structure requires proper restructuring at every level.

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