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Third-world democracy

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By now, people have talked about the humiliating arrest of Martha Chizuma and all the drama that followed, such that they think it was about time to move onto another subject. This has now become the norm in Malawi, where serious issues only interest people when they are hot. As such, we have swept a lot of dirt under the carpet. We have discarded matters that demand somebody somewhere to be accountable.

Accountability and a sense of responsibility are some of the things we seriously lack in our democracy. The Martha Chizuma scandal is only a tip of a huge iceberg that has made sailing difficult in this country. It points to so many ills from the very top that render our state chaotic. The fact that a whole director of the Anti- Corruption Bureau (ACB) can be dragged out of bed and thrown in some bush police station 40 kilometres away tells you that nobody is safe in this country. You are even more at risk when you try to fight the mafias that run the country from the backdoor.

When the government feigned ignorance on how the whole saga played out, some of us were not surprised at all. Whether that ignorance was in truth or not is a question for another day, but what came out clearly is that the government is not in control of the most crucial affairs. If, indeed, it is true that some crooks can connive to send troops of police officers to arrest the head of the ACB in the middle of the night without any of our leaders knowing, then there is no leadership to speak of. It then becomes a shame for the Minister of Information to come to the podium to admit that, indeed, there was a problem.

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The irresponsibility in our Central Government is not something new, especially in this era of the Tonse Alliance administration. This administration has been characterised by chaos, and it is becoming worrisome by each passing day. Just a few weeks ago, National Oil Company of Malawi former chief executive officer Hellen Buluma went to town spilling beans on how some powerful people up there hold the State to ransom at their will. The validity of her claims can be debated, but we know that there is no smoke without fire. We have also seen Cabinet ministers and other top officials in this administration being mentioned in several corruption scandals. All this cannot be mere coincidence – there is a serious problem we, as a country, must address.

The system of political governance we adopted from our colonisers demands very high levels of integrity, responsibility and accountability. Democracy should not be confused for a state of affairs where everyone is allowed to do as they please. Those who live in democracies ought to know their responsibilities and the limits of their freedoms. This should, more so, apply to those in leadership positions, who are entrusted with the daunting task of making sure that every citizen is safe. But in our third-world democracies, nobody is safe because politicians waste their time fighting for the few resources we have. They are not even answerable to us when we ask them basic questions. Instead, they feel at liberty to insult us.

The past few weeks have revealed to us that the country is in a state of chaos and something has to be done to arrest the situation. The President needs to scrutinise the people he has put in places of power to assess whether they are working for Malawians or for their own egos and estates. We cannot have a government that fights within itself to the extent of humiliating each other with embarrassing arrests. The infighting within the Tonse Alliance has made a lot of us question the sincerity of the administration in serving Malawians.

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Had it been in another place, we could have had a lot of hope in the commission of inquiry that has been instituted to look into events surrounding the arrest of Chizuma. We could have expected to learn the truth of the matter. But here, in the third-world, commissions of inquiry have often been instituted just to tick boxes and save the faces of politicians. Nobody is safe when those that must protect you fight you.

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