There are always interesting things to note in life. Travelling around the Warm Heart of Africa, especially in the main cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe, there are a few things that immediately become notable.
We have the massive traffic not only at rush hour, but throughout the day, one is able to appreciate the great number of cars that are fighting for space in our cities. And then we go to major retail shops; they usually have very long queues of shoppers.
The trend is not exclusive to the month-end even though it intensifies during this time.
As we go deeper into our cities, we are able to appreciate the variety of beautiful and well-built houses that people are living in but what captures the mind more is the number of ‘mansions’ that are currently shooting from the ground in rote fashion.
Let us migrate to the social and entertainment scene. Take a look at the country’s clubs and shows – they hardly lack patronage. The Lake of Stars festival always leads to an exodus of Malawians from across the country to Mangochi or wherever the venue is.
The Sand Music Festival also pulls mighty crowds to Salima or wherever to witness Jamaican popular artist Busy Signal in action or whoever the hot artist is.
But entertainment is not free and it takes up a lot of money. The amount of money spent at these festivals and in our clubs is not mere pocket change. It is actually a month’s salary or two or three for others. However, Malawians can still afford this entertainment.
Malawians can still afford entertainment, m a n s i o n s , cars and other luxuries. Malawians can still afford private hospitals, private schools in the country and can still afford to send their loved ones outside the country for education and medical assistance.
In our major cities, it seems Malawians are living the life and can afford numerous special services. But let us not be fooled because poverty still lives within us. We are still a country that is labelled poor because the majority of Malawians cannot afford the life others can.
As one continues travelling, the contrast between the major cities and the other cities is heartrending. Why are we not developing the other districts so that the people in them can develop as well?
Zomba, Ntcheu, Salima, Kasungu and Balaka are examples of districts with massive potential but you find that they lack even a mall to show. To get a full shopping experience one has to visit Blantyre or Lilongwe.
Look at the lakeshore route connecting part of the Southern and Central regions; it is a road that is used by many and frequently but it is bare of any service station or ‘development’.
There is untapped potential in most of our towns and districts but as country we remain lazy.
On the other hand, Malawi has a lot of resources and people who are swimming in Kwachas. However, this wealth is not fairly distributed. I wouldn’t say equally distributed because that is a myth even in the richest of countries. At least, it should be fairly distributed. Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor that is yawning further as time goes by.
What is more unfortunate is that the people who promise the poor honey and roses before they get voted into power are the very same people that take everything away from the poor.
They choose to live in nauseating luxury using tax payers’ money while disregarding the needs of the general citizenry. All the pro-poor songs that were sung in manifestos are quickly forgotten.
For a taxpayer, it is infuriating to give almost a third of your salary every month to the government and have your relatives in the village die because they cannot access healthcare.
It is infuriating to send your children to government schools only for them to come back half-bred because government is not prioritising the education sector. If officials choose not to own up their responsibilities, they should humble themselves and refrain from ‘reaping fruits they did not sow’.
We are not that poor – it is our mindsets, policies and governance systems that are riddled with poverty. We need to tap from the pregnant potential of the Warm Hear of Africa.
I rest my case