Kamuzu Banda is resting between the Chinese built Parliament and a 5-star hotel at the heart of Malawi’s capital. Lazarus Chakwera was sworn in a few metres away on that Sunday in June 2020, ending Malawi Congress Party’s 26 years in the wilderness. Kamuzu’s party, which he firmly controlled much like the country he led for 30 years, was finally back in power.
The resting lion man must have growled a few ‘Kwachaaas’ in jubilation. The country experienced a collective orgasm. At last, there was hope. Lazarus had come to resurrect this country, from perpetual poverty. Well, typically of orgasms, this one didn’t last long. Three years later we have moved from ‘itsanana’ to ‘it’s a no-no’. Kamuzu must be growling. Where did they get this Lazarus from?
False dawns are not strange to this country. They began with Kamuzu himself way back in 1964. Our independence was barely a few months old when the infamous Cabinet Crisis happened, and what followed were 30 painful years of dictatorship. In 1994, at the dawn of multiparty democracy we were promised heaven. In truth it was the birth of an ill-disciplined nation, with very little sense of responsibility at every layer of society. Almost 30 years later, we are nowhere near out of poverty nor do we seem to have any idea of where we are heading as a nation.
So when Lazarus and his friend Saulos came along in 2020 to oust a very annoying Peter Mutharika administration, the nation had good reason to be hopeful. Well, our previous leaders have had a fair share of unpleasantries thrown in their direction. Sadly for Lazarus, unless he has a Lazarus moment of biblical proportions between now and 2025, he will go down in history as the biggest disappointment.
The state of the nation today begs a consistent but familiar question: Just how on earth did we get where we are? Just how? No forex. Erratic fuel supplies. Rising cost of living. A general culture of financially insane decisions by Government. If they are not buying fertiliser from a butchery, they are battering off God knows what in Romania. Just who in their right mind goes to Romania for fertilizer? The DPP administration was very annoying, thieving, arrogant and nepotistic. But at least they were smart thieves. MCP is incompetent even at stealing. That’s why they are usually caught very fast.
The lovely accent and nice speeches can no longer mask the glaring failures of this administration. While the picture of the dire state of the nation seems to be clear to everyone else, Lazarus and his close aides seem to be reading a totally different script. The Catholic Bishops came out with a dire statement this week: we cannot continue like this. To any discerning person, this is trouble for Lazarus and his administration. But I have long concluded that they are not the brightest of people. Or else they wouldn’t be making some of these strange, dumb decisions (no, I am being polite) that they are making.
During the week we read stories that our diplomats are on the verge of being destitute because the government is failing to pay them, our dear leader flew out on yet on another foreign trip. Such trips are preceded by a long and winding statement from Ministry of Foreign Affairs explaining how important it is for the president to travel, how the trip will unlock opportunities for Malawi blah! blah! blah! It’s all gibberish. The president has made many trips, at the end of which long statements are made of deals he had struck with all manner of people. Ask me, how many of those so-called deals have materialised?
Anyone who is over 40 years has witnessed the demise of several administrations. The pattern is essentially the same. Before their ousting, those in power never think it can happen to them. The old MCP never thought they would lose in 1994. I mean they were firmly in control. Bakili was on top of the world at some point, but failed in this third term bid. Bingu, after a very successful first term, became so cocky and, as we all know, it ended in tears. Masteni Joyce Banda met her fate, despite succeeding a very unpopular DPP administration. Peter Mutharika and his DPP ensured that every critical institution in Malawi was packed by people from his tribe, to serve his interests. But they still lost.
Right now, Lazarus is probably saying well it can’t happen to me. It will probably happen. And it will be too late to do anything. The problem for him is that he is surrounded by people who watch too much CNN and are so obsessed with image and form, and not substance. Look here, the majority of Malawians don’t give a hoot about tweets and funny statements on Facebook. If their AIP is messed up and there is hunger, that’s what they care about. Not endless summits of endless unlocking of bottlenecks. What matters is the continued forex shortage or erratic fuel supplies. These things have to be sorted.
We cannot continue like this!