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Time of promises, lies

With George Kasakula:

Official campaign for this year’s election starts on March 20 or thereabouts to cater for 60 days as required by the Constitution but the main candidates have all but in name started canvassing for votes, going to the length and breadth of the country.

After presenting nomination papers, President Peter Mutharika has confined himself to official functions such as opening of Liwonde Barrage some 10 days ago but used it to conduct a whistle-stop tour from Blantyre all the way down to the town he dreams to turn into a dry port.

Other candidate, such as Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) Lazarus Chakwera, UTM’s Saulos Chilima and United Democratic Front’s (UDF) Atupele Muluzi are making appearances here and there making promises to Malawians.

In Liwonde, the President made yet another big promise to the effect that he wants to build a $600 million dry port which will connect Malawi to neighbouring countries, insisting that he wants Liwonde to become a business centre and part of the international corridor that connects Malawi to the port of Nacala in Mozambique.

Chakwera talks about Super Hi5 that concentrates on servant leadership and the fight against corruption while reforming key sectors of the economy.

Chilima projects himself as someone who will not tolerate corruption, wants decent living for all Malawians, with three square meals per day as one of his key promises. He then dreams of big projects such as a speed train between Blantyre and Lilongwe.

Muluzi wants to project himself as someone who has used his time in the government during the past five years to mature and portray himself as someone who is ready for the ultimate position of president as he begins afresh.

Joyce Banda says phase one was a huge success from 2012 to 2014 and she wants phase two to finish off the project and key among her promises are things such as no renewal of driving licences and raising the minimum wage from K30,000 to K64,000.

But before Malawians take promises that politicians and candidates are making seriously, they should first examine what they are saying, in terms of whether it is doable.

This is so because some promises do not make any iota of sense and we can help the politicians who make them by telling them in the face that what they are saying is senseless and that they should not waste our time.

If somebody, for example, says he will build a bridge between Nkhata Bay and Likoma, that is a senseless project in Malawi but maybe doable in China or Europe.

We must also remember that all the promises these people are making will not be funded by money from their personal pockets but from your taxes and aid from donor countries and, so, we need to check whether they are realistic within the context of Malawi.

These people are looking for votes and will open their mouths anyhow to dupe rural, illiterate people into giving them these votes when, in fact, they know pretty well they would not fulfill a thing on what they are promising.

Make no mistake, this is not being negative and afraid of huge leaps of development which start with ambition and thinking big but the problem is: Do we have the leaders with stamina not just to think but also to do what they are promising?

A 21st century voter must guard against lies influencing their votes as we have seen in past elections and must only believe in things that are doable from people they think have a stamina to have done things in their past lives.

At the end of the day, Malawians know that their politicians are liars and they hardly vote because of the promises, especially at presidential level, but considerations such as tribe, region and religion which should not be the case if we want to positively change this place called Malawi.

Some promises are outright lies, especially in our life time.

We failed to develop Nsanje into a port and what should make Malawians believe the President when says they can see Liwonde dry port in the life time? It is not doable.

This is not lack of ambition as I remember UTM putting up a write-up that wanted to encourage the nation to think big by saying those who invented a flying plane probably had detractors in their time but, today, the world has flying machines that connect the continents in record time.

However, Malawi is a different ball game altogether, as we have not created the right conditions for anything to really develop.

Instead, we have let ourselves down using systems that are not right for anything, which we must, first of all, sort out before we can dream big as we want to do.

Then we have leaders that still think in an outdated, analogue manner when the world has gone digital.

Mutharika had five years to do anything for this country to lay the ground for his dream of the Liwonde dry port and turning the country into Europe or Singapore as he promises today but he has not achieved it, apart from some few uncoordinated pieces of infrastructure here and there across the country.

He also promised that he would open Nsanje Port which his brother, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, started on his own without fully involving the Mozambican authorities but, today, the port is lying desolate, yet billions upon billions of taxpayers’ money were wasted on it.

Chilima wants to project himself as a doer who would run the government as a business but he had five years as Vice-President and his impact has not been seen.

In his defence, he would probably say he was not president and had limited authority to do anything fundamental.

The only experience and political capital that Chakwera can claim to have is that he has been a pastor throughout his life, which means he does not possess any experience in government and the question is: Would he do a good job if given the keys of the State House? Would he turn his being man of God throughout his life into political capital to run a government that does not steal poor people’s taxes?

Muluzi has been in the government for the past five years enjoying the trappings of power.

The question he must address is: What is it that he is going to promise Malawians as he fights against his boss after failing to resign? If he really has a better agenda, is it better than that of the Democratic Progressive Party government he is serving?

Banda had political power between 2012 and 2014 and the nation knows what she did with it.

So what is the new thing she would promise Malawians that can make a difference if given another chance?

In the final analysis, let us, voters, sift through the promises that politicians will be bombarding us with in the coming days and separate outright lies from what is doable within our context.

We owe it to our children and grandchildren.

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