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What is it with Malawi?

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There is a very disturbing tendency that permeates our political systems. It is not rocket science that leadership of any country is the basis for its economic trajectory.

Since 1994, Malawians have been going to the polls to choose their leaders at all levels every five years. The 1994 constitution should have been the transfer of power from a few people to the majority.

The fact that every five years politicians would be scared to death about the people’s choice should have been enough to move this country faster on the development trajectory than it has.

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Unfortunately, every five years, we choose leaders and just a few days after the elections, we complain about how these politicians don’t give a hoot about the needs of Malawians but their own pockets.

Who is to blame for this merry go round of political foolishness? Part of the problem could be the fact that in Malawi we are so obsessed with personalities and not issues. The country has no ambition, the country is obsessed with the “big man” syndrome, tribal politics and mediocre economic ambitions.

Apart from what resembles debates in Parliament, this country does not have a culture of issue driven vigorous public debates between political protagonists. As soon as the debate starts, the majority will move from the issue to personalities and tribal connotations of the facts. Then how do we decide on the choice of political parties if it is not on big policy issues?

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Current political discourse in all political parties could be the answer. The debate is on who should be the leader in 2019. The focus is on the person and not what they have to offer to the electorate. The starting point is wrong. The question should not be who the torch bearer for MCP, DPP. Aford, UDF, PP should be?

That is an internal matter for those parties. The rules and procedures of finding out who should be the leader of that party should be based on the rules of that party. Remember that all these political parties are just private clubs that attract people based on different attributes. The common thing among them is that they are a vehicle for power and a chance to rule this country. If parties are indeed important we should be discussing what programmes do they have for Malawi? Then in each party the question then becomes who among them is best suited to deliver on those programmes.

Twenty years after 1994, I would have expected that a year before the elections the county would be debating on issues. The parties should be telling us not only what they will do but how they will do it. Malawi’s election campaigns have simply been a concoction of roadshows, T-shirts with faces and not messages, plastering every possible surface of the country with posters and big rallied attended by mostly the same people who get ferried from one venue to another. Most of these rallies are actually attended by people who are already supporters of that party. Voting patterns in Malawi are generally about the image of the party and tribal and regional attachments and not based on the big policy issues.

For example, let us take development as an issue. Who among the potential political parties and their leaders will lead this country to an industrial revolution that will create jobs for our youth and reduce poverty? Which political party will finally provide the best health services for the voters? Which party will give me the roads and infrastructure that will propel my personal development so that I do not rely on their handouts to survive and then become a prisoner of their benevolence. The truth is that the constitution envisaged a situation where the politicians are slaves of our wishes and not the other way around. Where did we go wrong? How?

Instead of debating who among these potential names will deliver an effective industrial policy, or state ability to control financial resources in the county is busy debating personalities based on age, region of origin and tribe. Instead of debating which party has programmes that will ensure financial control which implies more discretionary control, such that the state, with its power in credit allocation, can control not only the financial ability of firms, but can also assure the firm’s compliance in other matters, such as industrial policy implementation, the country is busy debating personalities.

Show me a political party that has thought beyond attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)? A politician whose interest in FDI is beyond the personal gain and corruption that comes with it. I need a party that will understand that if domestic effort to promote exports is limited, FDI is, of course, an option but why attracting

Malawians deserve the leaders they get. Your vote is not fixed to your tribe, cultural heritage or a person. Your vote is your power. Do not give away this power in 2019.

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