Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President Dr Lazarus Chakwera says Malawi need transformation leadership in order to deal with problems that are rocking the country.
Chakwera said this in Blantyre on Friday when attended Transformation Alliance Conference and here is his official speech;
Ladies and gentlemen, although my role as Leader of Opposition in Parliament and President of the Malawi Congress Party may account for your generosity in inviting me to address this great gathering, I beg you permit me to speak as simply a Malawian citizen.
I stand here with you as one who is of the same family as you, for we have all gathered here as children born of one mother, Mother Malawi.
From the watered marshes of Nsanje to the rising hills of Chitipa, we are one people. From the southern edges of Lake Chilwa to the non-negotiable northern shores of Lake Malawi, we are one nation. We are one family.
So when I was told of this gathering of Malawi’s sons and daughters who, regardless of race or colour, creed or tribe or gender, political persuasion or religious convictions, want to discuss the kind of country they want Malawi to become beyond 2019, I felt compelled to clear my diary to be with you here.
As I have travelled the length and breadth of this great nation and met our people, and have seen their plight and listened to their grievances, I have come to the conclusion that Malawians are justified in their anger and disappointment with the collective performance of those who govern them.
Malawians know that the pain they suffer is not the result of a lack of ideas, for we live in a nation with numerous policies for national transformation that have yet to be implemented.
We also know that the suffering in our country is not the result of lack of energy or man power, for we live in a nation whose population includes 14 million people under the age of 35. I also dare say that the problems paralyzing us are not a result of lack of money, going by the amounts of Malawians’ taxes and foreign donations government officials have been stealing in every administration since 1994. Nor can we use the excuse that our country has been sat on by Satan, or that it is landlocked or deprived of the natural resources others nations boast of.
All our best resources are either underutilized or exploited for the benefit of whoever is in power, leaving present and future generations of Malawians impoverished by their own progenitors.
We have plenty of fertile land, but our government officials sell it to the highest foreign bidder at the expense of Malawians; we have bountiful crops and seeds our farmers produce, only to be denied access to markets that state actors are happy to regulate using laws that put foreign traders and corporations in the drivers’ seat; we have one of the most beautiful fresh-water lakes in the world, only to have government parse it apart for exploration through a licensing process that remains largely secretive and more advantageous to foreign interests than national ones; we have a people with a rich entrepreneurial spirit, but it is stifled by an economy and business environment created and maintained to keep our people enslaved by the high interest rates of banks whose profit margin soars from year to year no matter how bad the economy is or how poor our people become in the process; we have educated engineers to build our roads and bridges, but there is no enforcement of infrastructure quality standards; we have educated doctors to treat our sick, but there is no security at our central medical stores; we have educated lawyers and judges to give our people access to justice, but the backlog of prisoners held for months and years without trial is endless; we have educated university lecturers to equip our people for the work of nation building, but every year our government finds our young people unworthy of an adequate investment of resources for their education; we have law enforcement agencies and anti-corruption oversight institutions, yet their hands are tied by executive branch interference and commissions of inquiry that placate public anger without delivering justice for Malawians; and to top it off, we are a peaceful nation that has not known armed conflict and that has the stability required to attract significant investments, yet it has all the hallmarks of a nation ravaged by war and embattled by greedy warlords.
There is simply no reason for our communities to be ravaged by curable diseases;
there is no excuse for the fact that the majority of Malawians still live in abject poverty;
there is no reason to go on burying our heads in the sand and have no plan to address the population explosion that is putting a serious strain on our resources and contributing to the degradation of the very environment we depend on for our survival;
there is no basis for the continued discrimination of women and girls, who are denied both the opportunities and options necessary to make personal choices about their aspirations;
and there is no defense for the tacit immunity that the state has given to its actors to use public resources to finance party functions, or to take a whole month to investigate and prosecute the parties responsible for supplying fecal matter into the water pipes of our citizens, or to be callous enough to countenance the siphoning of close to a billion Kwacha from the Ministry of Health which literally keeps Malawians alive.
I could go on and on about the assets God has bestowed on our nation, or about their sufficiency to turn our country around, but the conclusion would be the same. We do not need to go far or have PhDs to engage in a paralysis of analysis about what the missing link is. To be blunt, the simple and painful truth is this: Malawi is a ship with enough resources to get us to the shores of prosperity and justice, but the captains we have thus far trusted to steer us to that destiny have failed.
In short, what we continue to lack is TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP.
But what is transformational leadership? Well, let no one fool you. Transformational leadership is not measured by education. Education is very instrumental to economic growth, but we have had no shortage of educated fools in positions of leadership and in government who failed to produce national transformation. No one in Rwanda goes around calling President Paul Kagame “professor”, nor do you hear Kenyans parading themselves from rally to rally to see who is the loudest to call President Uhuru Kenyatta “doctor”, and yet these nations are making strides which remain the stuff of dreams in our own land because we have made the error of thinking that being educated qualifies you to lead. Additionally, transformational leadership is not defined by your region or tribe or age.
Though there are those who spread and practice the lie that people from a certain tribe or region are not fit to lead this nation, or those whose parties field the oldest candidate they can find in their ranks, there is no evidence to support the prudence of these decisions. Those who want to be tribal leaders even in the years well beyond their prime should become TAs, not Heads of State. But perhaps the most pernicious lie about transformational leadership is the belief that it is centralized, which you see wherever one person hoards most of the power and controls most of the resources out of the misguided belief that no one else in this nation can bring about transformation except them. On the other side of this coin is the equally pernicious lie that transformational leadership is defined by riches, leading many political candidates to distribute money, bicycles, food, and other materials as a campaign strategy to convince the voters that they are the ones who will bring about change because they are the ones who have the money. This is one of the major factors fueling theft of our people’s hard-earned taxes by elected officials who think Malawians are foolish enough to regard them as transformational as a result of becoming rich overnight.
True transformational leadership, the kind that we need as a nation, is the ability to capture the collective aspirations of the people and turn them into one coherent narrative and vision that galvanizes all available resources and mobilizes every capable person to engage in specific behaviors and uphold specific standards until it is accomplished.
As far as I can see, transformational leadership has seven characteristics that enable those who have it to act as catalysts for the changes we all long for. Allow me to use the word CHANGES as an acronym to summarize these characteristics.
First, transformational leadership is marked by COURAGE. As one South African lawmaker put it, there is a chill that has been going around the government for twenty three years, and all it is missing is a spine. We need leaders who are brave enough to enforce ethical and performance standards across the civil service, and to remove the dead weight that is draining our resources. We need leaders who are brave enough to facilitate and face elections within and across their own parties, not cowardly ones who tolerate and participate in the undemocratic practice of occupying seats as a birthright.
Secondly, transformational leadership is marked by HONESTY. We need leaders who can look Malawians in the eye and tell them the truth, whether it is a full disclosure of their assets and business interests or the hard truths about how Malawians themselves need to change. We need leaders who are honest enough to say they are sick when they seek medical attention, honest enough to make decisions in the open and explain the rationale for their decisions openly, not releasing press statements in the middle of the night or circulating memos internally to keep Malawians from knowing that decisions are being made to hurt their interests.
We need leaders who are honest enough to award government contracts in an open process so that all Malawians can see who has been involved in making such decisions and see from start to finish that no conflicts of interest exist and justice has been done. We need leaders who are honest enough to recuse themselves from any decisions they stand to benefit from, and honest enough to ask for help when they need it, for there is no greater deception than self-deception, as demonstrated by those who hinder progress by thinking they can do everything on their own even though they have young and talented vice-presidents to help them. Above all, we need leaders who are honest enough to allow dissenting views to be heard and to include people in their circle who are able to disagree with them, because an honest person knows that he does not have a monopoly on the truth. Leaders who surround themselves with handclappers who agree with and praise everything they say have been a disaster for this country. That’s why as president, I would meet with leaders of opposition parties at regular intervals.
Thirdly, transformational leadership is marked by AUTHENTICITY. This means being your true self and not pretending to be something you’re not. The problem with trying to live up to a false image of yourself is that you end up abusing your office and its resources to maintain that image, and you become isolated and unapproachable because you fear that if people get too close, they will see that the person you are is not who you portray yourself to be. There was one Kamuzu Banda, and there will never be another, no matter how much we try to call ourselves Ngwazi. There was one Moses and one Joshua in the Bible, and there will never be another no matter how many musicians we pay to sing that we are their reincarnation. Leaders need to be authentic and original, not copies of what they think they shuld be, because if they can’t be original in themselves, they will run the country without a single original idea of their own, thus trying to solve our problems with the same mindset that created them.
Fourthly, and I will take artistic license here, transformational leadership is marked by ‘N-SPIRATION. When a transformational leader speaks or acts, they do so in such a way that you yourself belief in what you can do. Mediocre leaders want you to believe in their abilities, but transformational leaders make you believe in what’s possible for the country and what you yourself can do to make a difference. They inspire young people’s enthusiasm for the future of the country, not blind loyalty to the political parties that pay them pocket change to cover themselves in paint. So when you see a leader speak or make a decision, ask yourself, “does this inspire me to be a better version of myself? Do I feel like I want to be more like this person, or do I just wish I had the same position they do?”
Fifthly, transformational leadership is marked by GRIEF. This is a surprising characteristic for many to hear, but not for me. I do not see how you can change the course of a nation or the plight of a people unless you yourself have the capacity to feel their pain as your own. I think what we have done in this country in allowing elected officials to make policy decisions without having to feel the effects of those decisions themselves is a travesty. We have officials making education policies for the education of other people’s children in public schools, but then we let those officials send their own children to private school. We have officials making health care policies for our hospitals, but then we let them fly oversees for their own treatment. We have officials making tax policies that they and their businesses or parties will be the chief beneficiaries of. We need leaders who feel the same pains the people do, and we need to change our laws and systems to make our decision makers mindful of the pain of the people they represent. The amount of luxury we use state resources to provide for the president is an insult to the millions of Malawians who rise early every morning to work hard to liberate themselves from poverty. We need leaders who spend more time listening to the grievances of ordinary people until that grief is internalized and becomes their fuel for action, not leaders who talk and talk and talk from the comforts of their soft chairs pontificating about solutions to pains they don’t feel and problems they don’t have.
Sixthly, transformational leadership is marked by ENERGY. I think the framers of our constitution were wise to assume that a person can be too young to run for office, but they erred by not seeing that they can also be too old. Leaders who are too young lack experience, while leaders who are too old lack energy. And energy is important for a leader to transform a nation because it gives you a sense of urgency to find solutions to problems before they are created, rather than the tendency old people have to reserve their limited energy for fire-fighting, addressing problems only when they turn into crises. Not only do transformational leaders have energy, but they surround themselves with energetic young people who get things done, not old pals who want a comfortable chair to retire in. Public office should be a place for action, not inertia. Leaders who bring transformation let the young people act and the old people advise, but in this country we have reversed this order entirely.
Lastly, transformational leadership is marked by SERVANTHOOD. This means never doing or agreeing to anything that has not been demonstrated or proven to serve the interests of the people. Servanthood is what makes a leader ask, “who are the people who stand to benefit the most from this?” If the answer is politicians, or corporations, or banks, they insist that such plans be rejected or revised. What we want are leaders who fight for the Malawian people against every secret and open enemy of their interests.
So if you ask me what kind of country I dream for Malawi to be, I’d tell you that I dream of a Malawi in which there is transformational leadership at every level to finally make the dreams of Malawians come true. I do not just mean I dream of transformational leadership in the presidency, because that will never be enough. We need transformational leadership in our ministries, the kind that would never allow the pilferage that continues to take place year after year. We need it at the helm of our parastatals, the kind that would never allow the mediocrity and failures we have witnessed at Waterboard, ESCOM, ADMARC, and others. We need it at the helm of our banks, including the central bank, the kind that would never have silently turned a blind eye or looked the other way as state coffers were being emptied with government checks. We need it at the helm of our law enforcement agencies, the kind that would never settle for a police force that catches and arrests a man found with a goat he can’t account for, but that cannot arrest a man found with hundreds of millions in cash and assets he can’t account for simply because he is a minister or State House employee. We need it at the helm of our tax collection institution, the kind that would never have colluded with government to illegally borrow money from commercial banks to inflate its revenue figures. We need it from our chiefs at the helm of our communities, the kind that would never agree to be paraded on state television to slander their own people as instruments of propaganda. We need it at the helm of our businesses, the kind that would never allow substandard products or the theft of Malawians’ resources through tax avoidance and evasion. We need it in our churches, the kind that would never allow religion to be politicized. We need transformational leadership in our political parties, the kind that would never maintain practices that nurture tribalism and regionalism, or interfere with the booking for a venue for a nation-building conference like this.
Everywhere you look where progress is being made in this country, you will find a transformational leader. Everywhere you look where progress is hindered, you talk to the people there and soon learn of all the problems attributed to poor leadership. It has therefore not only been my goal to strive for transformational leadership in all the roles of leadership I assume, but should all of you Malawians grant me the honor of serving you as President, I am also committed to scour this country for the most transformational leaders in our nation and unleash them on the solvable problems that ail us. If I had all day I would also tell you about my agenda for transformation, but I am mindful that this is not an MCP convention!
So I will do that in the near future.
I thank you for your attention, and I wish you great deliberations.
May God bless you all and may God bless Malawi.