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Unbundling Unima: The folly of our ways

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With Tsibweni Chalo:

Mdzukulu, Sophocles in Antigone says: “All men may err; but he that keepeth not his folly, but repenteth, doeth well; but stubbornness cometh to great trouble.”

Mdzukulu, whenever one casts a backward glance periodically at Malawi under the leadership of Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and compare it to the current state, you always say with faith and feeling: There go Malawians but for the grace of God, Allah, Brahma and Chisumphi.

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The country is really trapped in developmental stagnation.

It has been said, Mdzukulu, that the inability to learn from mistakes is the single biggest cause of failure for leaders.

In terms of this generation, we call your penchant for relying on classroom-window theories the first fatal flaw.

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Certainly, President Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) have failed to not only find their leadership ‘sweet pot’ but raise their leadership tent whose canvas represents all of the possible competencies a leader might display, including fixing fatal flaws.

The President was handed an opportunity to prove himself either a prodigious success or an ignominious failure at running the affairs of the country and glow in his glorious success or wallow in the ignominy of failure.

He had several options of actualising this; among them learning from his predecessors’ successes and mistakes.

But, Mdzukulu, it is clear the incumbent and his disciples lack the capacity to run the affairs of this country at minimum risk of besmirching the image of the entire DPP fanatics as failures at statecraft.

That is the fountain of myriad problems the country is experiencing.

That is why I laughed, mdzukulu, when I hears that Pres ident Peter Mutharika on Tuesday assented to law the bills to split the University of Malawi (Unima).

The development means that constituent colleges of Unima, The Polytechnic, Chancellor College, College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing, will be autonomous universities.

Those supporting unbundling of Unima argue that it would strengthen decentralisation and improve administration, accountability and transparency of the colleges, hence creating room for expansion and conducive environment for teaching and learning, outreach, research and consultancy the colleges-cum-universities would undertake.

Decentralisation perse in Malawi is neither new nor bad. But precedents in the country have shown that not a single one has worked to the advantage of the country.

Unbundling fanatics need to recollect that, by 2002, the government had sold 42 of its companies through the false former president Bakili Muluzi and Matthews Chikaonda-orchestrated privatisation model in their bid to reform and transform the country’s economy.

The government, under such a pseudo transformative tool, realised a meagre K1.67 billion, which ended up being used for the running of the Privatisation Commission itself.

As a result, the false privatisation model turned Malawi into a predominantly consumer economy as the government lost its capacity to generate income for its day-to-day activities.

This is just one example where devolution of power has failed the country. And, mdzukulu, I am yet to learn about one model of decentralisation in Malawi which has yielded results.

Yes, the hallmark of devolution is that it explicitly recognises the territorial sharing of authority.

The erosion of the values of professional integrity and the spirit of hard work that is widespread in Malawi will not take the ‘newly developed’ universities anywhere else as vouched by some quarters including some activists who are too active to make sense of themselves.

Mdzukulu, the country —from across all political regions and ethnic divisions—is infested with business people, civil servants, technocrats, religious leaders, traditional leaders, civil society, academics, media practitioners, scientists, politicians and other species without character.

And we have just unbundled that. Perhaps, envy!

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