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We let them be

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ON Friday, President Peter Mutharika flew out to United States of America for the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (Unga). And as usual, there is so much news accompanying the trip. The Unga, in this corner of the globe, has never been short of controversy and drama.

Last time there was the Unga, Mutharika played a disappearing act, leaving Malawians speculating about his health. After the meeting, Mutharika stayed on for a month or so while his spin doctors were all over the place peddling lies that the old man was in robust health and holding other important meetings.

All the lies were to be proven when the big man returned home with one functioning arm. He had been sick. After all who does not go under the weather? In 2014, the Unga trip also brought its own issues.

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Fresh from the 2014 elections victory, Mutharika took the trip as a grand opportunity to reward his hangers-on who helped him to the top. The entourage from Malawi was the largest at the 2014 Unga. Chiefs, cousins, uncles, aunties and cronies of Mutharika— some of whom can neither read nor write, let alone comprehend complex issues—all made the dollar churning trip at the expense of the taxpayer.

When asked for an explanation on why the whole village had to be flown to the US, the responses Malawians got were the usual ones that border on executive arrogance and rehearsed lies. The recent trip is not different.

Before the trip, it has been Minister of Foreign Affairs Emmanuel Fabiano and Minister of Information Nicholas Dausi taking turns to give Malawians information that is likely false.

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Fabiano—that man who miserably failed at the Ministry of Education—wants us to believe that only 19 people are on the junket to the US. You and I know that chances that he is telling the truth are next to zero. We cannot easily believe him knowing well that he is serving a government that thrives on lies.

Look here, had it been that what Fabiano is telling the nation is true, then his colleague Dausi would not have been elusive on the amount of money that has been drawn from Treasury for that trip. Last time, when Francis Kasaila was Minister of Foreign Affairs and was asked to give details on the trip to Unga, his answers were as usual, rude and evasive.

Until today, the nation is in the dark on how much money the government spends on these Unga trips. Next year—God willing— Mutharika will again take his whole clan to the US for another Unga. Malawians will attempt to ask questions and nothing will be made known to them. The reason this happens is that politicians and all those close to power know that we are a timid nation that prefers to look away and expect things will change themselves.

It seems we are just okay when these bandits abuse our taxes and keep the expenditure sheets in secret. Until that time, when we will no longer leave accountability checks to activists and journalists, this nation will still carry the tag of the poorest nation on earth.

The reason Fabiano is able to tell us his bogus numbers while Dausi has the cheek to challenge us that if we want the figure we should go to the Treasury, is that these people know that we are just a nation that does not care. Dausi, being Minister of Information owes us an explanation on government business and that includes telling us who is on the trip to Unga and how much of our tax has been used on them.

Dausi’s job is not to tantalise us with his gobbledegook but to keep us in the know. If all he has for us are his superfluous terms, then we are as good as not having an Information Minister. Malawians sometimes can leave you depressed.

Not a minute passes without hearing a Malawian grumbling about how life has become harder than it were in the past, rising electricity and water tariffs, low wages, drugless hospitals, ill-equipped schools, potholed roads and anything bad you can imagine.

Yet when we read or hear that our money is being abused and stolen, all we do is take the next gulp of beer and look away. Dear Malawians, the reason politicians lie to and steal from us is because we let them be.

 

ADDENDUM

THIS COUNTRY IS DAMNED

THE little hope I had for this country vanished on Friday. This country, I am afraid is gone, gone, gone. This country is lost without any hope of redemption. Once upon a time, I once held the belief that the salvation of this nation lies in robust and educated youth. I was wrong. I have now come to realise that this nation is wasted and there is no hope. The educated youth I had placed my hope in are not any different from the socalled savage boys who paint themselves and dance silly at political party functions. On Friday, I decided to hang out a bit with some of my friends: all of them University of Malawi graduates. Actually, I was the least educated of them all. I normally refrain from discussing politics outside the confines of work. I believe I have this platform which is enough to express my political views. But on this day, I was drawn into a conversation which turned out to be nasty and so shallow. I stopped participating in it. But what I noticed is that even university education is not enough to liberate people from the manacles of tribalism, ethnicity and political jingoism. What would have been a political discussion among intellectuals turned out to be a brawl for all because of political disagreements. After that incident, my mind has been occupied with questions like; if these educated people can behave this way, how will rustic savages behave? Now I understand why political violence never ceases in Malawi. But above all, I have realised that this country is cruising on a fast lane to damnation. If it is not there already.

 

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