From the very beginning, the writing has been clear on the wall that this growing season’s Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) would be chaotic.
And the disarray is not because some misfortune from Mars fell on President Lazarus Chakwera or the Ministry of Agriculture; it has all along been manufactured by unprofessional public officers who chose to trifle with a programme that drains billions of kwacha.
As is the case with many aspects of this government, no information was coming out regarding AIP. Of course, it was because nothing prudent was happening.
All what officials at the Ministry of Agriculture— who remain in their positions without any reproof—were doing was to cut corners in the procurement of the inputs obviously because they had planned to dip their fingers in the cookie jar.
There was a ridiculous explanation from fired Agriculture minister Lobin Lowe on why there was so much secrecy regarding the procurement of fertiliser from that butcher’s shop in the United Kingdom.
Lowe claimed some laid-down procedures had been passed over because government was avoiding brokers who would hijack the procurement process and trigger a price hike.
That would be the case only in Malawi.
In other countries, governments do not bypass regulations in procurement of public merchandise because they want to avoid middlemen or whoever may want to come in the chain.
Now, there are all indications that this programme—which never makes economic sense but is maintained based on political handlings—is headed for a disaster.
Across the country, desperate farmers, who have been made to believe by the government that they are entitled to subsidised farm inputs, are struggling to access them because there is none in nearest selling points.
It is difficult to understand why a programme, whose budget was already approved by Parliament in March, would be this chaotic now.
Obviously, several officers at the Ministry of Agriculture slept on the job. While Lowe was supposed to provide strategic direction on the programme, he was not the only one who created the mess we are seeing now.
In fact, there are technocrats who have done a great disservice and were supposed to be sufficiently and equally sanctioned.
The indifference from higher authorities is typical of what this government is known for. The President himself has shown terrible levels of indecisiveness in matters that require his urgent action.
No wonder there is chaos all over but little is happening to clear it.
Just look back to what this year has so far been like. Any serious government would not allow all the mess, especially that which was avoidable, to happen.
But those messing things up have nothing to fear because they know they have a leader who will not act in a serious manner in matters that demand such action.
That is why today, 130 megawatts are still out of the national grid and Chakwera does not seem to be disturbed at all. He is the country’s President and when his ministers and other subordinate officers fail Malawians, he is supposed to provide the necessary direction.
That thousands of small-scale businesses have collapsed because of the power crisis does not seem to worry the President at all; because if it did, he would have travelled to Kapichira Hydropower Plant, see what is happening there and issue plausible ultimatums.
Now, no one knows when that power plant will be up and running again.
That kind of nonchalance has percolated every section of the public system. And the officers behind the AIP chaos will still be there next year to do what they know best.
They are working in a government whose leadership seems to have been not ready to govern. They are safe in the fact that however unprofessional and neglectful they can be, they are assured of another day in office the following working day.
Right now, not much information is being disseminated about the status of AIP. So, farmers are blindly thronging selling points hoping the inputs will arrive in time for them to access them.
It is strange that from the chaos that has been characterising the programme the previous years, we have not learnt any significant lesson.
It appears some officers deliberately create the mess because there are ways they benefit from it.
Now, we are hearing Agriculture Minister Sam Kawale indicating that transporting fertiliser from warehouses to selling points is a challenge.
It is as if we are dealing with a programme that just got forced onto government yesterday, leaving officials scampering for ways to stabilise it.
The lack of efficiency in the management of this year’s AIP is very concerning, especially to farmers who were promised the subsidised materials.
But, anyway, what is really working properly in this country?
Alick Ponje is a features writer at The Times Group. He graduated from the University of Malawi with a bachelor’s degree in education, majoring in literature in English. Follow him on Twitter @aponje