By Eddy Kalonga*
In the domain of peace and conflict resolution, the pervasive thread in that speciality is the flexibility of conflict in its ability to either be a vehicle for positive transformation or doom. Conflict has since time immemorial been a ubiquitous neutral phenomenon which can be a causative agent for either positivity or negativity.
Malawi finds itself at a critical juncture, where a new paradigm has to be defined in our quest to achieve multi-faceted growth. It is either we allow hooligans and hoodlums to carve a new path which will certainly lead to inevitable doom for the nation, or we collectively format a new era where only the best of practically implementable ideas rule the roost, with our finest brains being paraded.
The past three instalments have seen this piece deal with sample thoughts on Malawi, our country. Of course, the underlying issue is a Lenin-like question: What is to be done. As you notice, I avoided calling the question Leninist, an adjective that would raise distracting connotations. Historically Lenin raised this question at a time when Russia was at a critical juncture of its buffeted history.
Russia was transiting from a feudal era or the era of Czars to one defined by socialist aspirations. Again, you notice I avoided describing this prospective era as socialist, in deference to the social non-descripts which followed Lenin, all of them still named variously, with little prospects for consensus. Russia was on the cusp of a real regime change, and Lenin posed the question to raise the issue of content for the emerging era.
The prospects looked hazy, the road to it bloody and uninviting. For apart from being internally riven, Russia faced a real external threat from the capitalist West which was determined to bury this dangerous experiment in social engineering at inception. All that made the question, ordinarily so basic and mundane, assume such an unusually philosophical, nay existential, depth. I guess post-election Malawi is in a comparable situation, more or less, which is what makes the question appropriate and timely.
Put bluntly, Malawi ‘s economy is not performing favorably compared to other countries within the SADC region. We certainly deserve to do better than what we are currently doing.
Where, exactly, is Malawi getting it wrong? This is a clarion call for all patriotic Malawians to take a long hard look at ourselves; introspect and ascertain why our economy still remains tottering on the verge of collapse. Is it because of the well-documented and rampant corruption that has virtually become a way of life in Malawi? Is it because of bad politics? Is it a direct result of poor governance coupled with a system that promotes and rewards patronage at the expense of merit and genuine, honest hard work? There is no denying the fact that something is fundamentally wrong somewhere. The hotly disputed harmonized elections that were held on May 21, 2019 cannot just be wished away. Did the results of the May 21, 2019 reflect the true wishes and aspirations of the majority of the people? Was the election deliberately massaged and manipulated in favor of a particular political party?
These are the hard questions that we cannot and in fact, we should not simply wish away. The ghost of the May 21 election is morbid and rabid. If we fail to carefully and resolutely deal with this ghost, Malawi can easily embark upon an irretrievable path to socio-economic doom and trepidation. The winner-take-all syndrome that is currently obtaining in the country will only save to further divide the nation and drive an otherwise recovering economy into an abyss of despair, hopelessness, retrogression and trepidation.
As long as a significant portion of the population feels marginalized, trashed and left out, Malawi is going nowhere very fast. Even the much-touted National Planning Commission blueprint will soon be proved to be an exercise in political futility; a dodgy and utterly misdirected trajectory into socio-economic kwashiorkor.
We have to get our act together very quickly or else we shall all perish and die. We have to reach out to one another as patriots.
No one has a monopoly of patriotism. We are all of us sons and daughters of the soil. Why should we allow a situation where other citizens deem themselves super patriots? We should refuse to allow our otherwise beautiful country to be torn apart by polarization, hate and intolerance. At this rate, we are fast approaching the lowest ebb of our human existence. Is it our wish and desire to hit ground zero?
A free and fair election is a plebiscite that produces a result that is acceptable to both the victor and the defeated; a result that is legitimate and beyond contestation. Since the year 2014, Malawi has been under the spotlight for holding highly contestable and controversial elections in which the result has almost invariably been challenged and contested. This state of affairs has marred our electoral history and left our political architecture bruised and battered.
We should always bear in mind that Malawi’s political stability and socio-economic development hinges upon the holding of a plebiscite that is free and fair; a plebiscite that can easily pass the test of legitimacy.
The current situation is depressing and unfortunately, it doesn’t bode well for the holding of free and fair elections in 2024. Contrary to the constitutional requirement, the State-controlled print and electronic media is virtually a no-go area for most, if not all, opposition political parties. The DPP government maintains a vice like grip on both MBC TV & Radio. Listening to MBC TV Newshour every day is just like listening to a DPP election manifesto being read out.
There is a near-total black out on the activities of opposition political parties unless, for some reason, there is something apparently negative to report concerning the political opposition. The saddening thing is that it doesn’t appear like any meaningful media reforms will take place sometime sooner. Even the two national so-called private radio stations (Zodiak and Times) appear to be in competition with MBC when it comes to churning out DPP propaganda; particularly in their news bulletins. The situation in rural areas is even more depressing.
Chiefs and other traditional leaders have now been incorporated into the DPP commissariat department and they are effectively operating as political party activists in their respective areas of jurisdiction. The recent tripartite election has clearly proved that traditional leaders are now de facto operatives of the ruling party’s structures. Of course, that is the stuff of which sell-outs are made of, or is it not? This pen contends that these people are made not of gold but of bronze – and bronzed politicians are to be seen strutting around the Malawian political landscape and waiting to feed on any political spoils within easy reach.
For instance, are the frenzied demands for “devolution” not likely to create regional if not tribal fiefdoms unconnected to central government by political umbilical cords? In fact, is the concept “devolution” not being used by some political hawks as a euphemism for secession .If the structures under the much talked about devolution do not resemble those in a human body – itself a system where, while the different parts operate independently yet the sum total of their functions is the sustenance of the human being – then such an experiment might prove disastrous to Malawi as a unitary state and to her people as a national family.
These politicians ignore or are ignorant of the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah where men with inverted sex demanded and tried in vain to rape angels sent by God to rescue Lot and his family before fire and Sulphur reigned down from heaven and incinerated the two wicked towns and their entire populations. It looks like humanity has entered a straight towards the end of the world and a nearer summary judgment by the Creator to close a chapter of human existence.
Playing god, and the Holy Grail that citizens yearn for, for a change of outcomes from the quagmire that they have been thrown into for some time now, courtesy of the same masquerades of democracy, but Malawians are not gullible imbibers of toxic vomit spewing from social media goblets, and cannot be used to prolong their misery through lining others’ pockets, and playing into the hands of gangsters masquerading as politicians and false human rights defenders. It is in the nature of such pretenders to cry wolf from vintage points on the highest of hills and secure caves.
Barbarism and anarchism which the DPP Cadets are pursuing are archaic practices which will leave even 16th century politicians wondering as to the sanity of their proponents. Malawi’s democracy can only continue to flourish and blossom if its political entities deliberately chose peace and harmony as the starting point to political discourse. Any deviation from this route can only be egoistic and anti-people.
*Kalonga is a regular contributor to The Lamp