By Gift Kamwamba
It is crucial that we do not lose perspective. The demos we have so far witnessed and participated in (or perhaps frowned at and actively attempted to stifle), have helped elevate to its proper status, the seriousness of an election process.
Elections in a Republican order such as Malawi’s, underpin the overall legitimacy of the political, legal, social, and economic system of a society.
Additionally, elections represent the single, most direct means by which citizens constitute a governing political consensus. In a first past the post system like ours (outmoded, unfit for purpose as it is: a system against which I have enjoined myself to efforts to see it discarded), the dissenting vote is particularly important because it illustrates the difficulties and limitations of the post-electoral governing consensus.
This simple principle seems to be lost on the collective minds of the current embattled leadership, who seem betrothed to a destructive politics of tit-for-tat brinksmanship.
So far, the narrative about the demonstrations seems to be centered around the carnage and looting we have seen in some cities and towns.
The destruction of property, is indeed reprehensible and the losses incurred both private and public are not abstract – they are material and real, and largely quantifiable in terms of money.
But perspective is crucial: the systemic destruction of property and lives unleashed by the corrupt profligacy of the Malawi government is unquantifiable; otherwise how do we quantify human suffering at the hands of an unfeeling, detached political elite whose primary motivation is callous greed and shameless gluttony in the face of overwhelming human deprivation and squalor?
To the ethical person, charged with public duties and responsibilities on behalf of others, human suffering should induce a deep, almost visceral, and automatic compulsion to eliminate it; human suffering should be more powerful than protests.
But instead, the public is met with scornful arrogance in the form of expensive foreign trips, blocked roads for elaborate convoys, depleted speeches by vacuous interchangeable spokespersons, procured and manufactured supporters conveyed in trucks, undocumented and unauthorized vehicles exempted from laws that apply to everyone else except the politically connected, daylight beatings by hooligans clad in blue and armed with machetes in full view of an eviscerated and craven Malawi police, etc.
And what of the unnecessary deaths in hospitals, what of the substandard education which sentences millions to a life of poverty and very limited choices?
How do we quantify these to expose the tremendous trauma meted out on Malawi’s people? What is the monetary value of the taxpayer-funded poison enabled by a decadent MACRA, spewed upon the airwaves by MBC television and radio?
And what’s more, how do we deal with the co-opting of God himself and his intercessors in the forms of pastors and prophets who now spin scripture to justify unending debauchery?
Has culture too not been instrumentalized to foment and buttress nepotism and regionalism, to activate hostilities among different groups of people in order to distract from the death-causing pillage and plunder underway daily? What is the monetary value of these over the years since Malawi became a democracy?
While all these systemic forms of violence, which are unquantifiable are on-going, elite pundits, political lackeys, supine functionaries, and spineless cronies are all laser-focused on 4 days of demonstrations as the epitome of political violence, as if spellbound by a magician to “unsee” the deaths manufactured by ill-equipped hospitals and ambulances in disrepair; death commissioned and occasioned by a pyramid of greed.
Systemic violence is largely subtle and even invisible, but unlike its visible cousin, seen in the demonstrations in the form of looting, it not only produces economic costs but also creates a culture in which dehumanizing suffering becomes acceptable and normal.
This is the reason, despite being so well traveled, our leadership fails to be inspired by the progress seen in other countries.
They have inculcated in themselves in the notion that success is for other countries and their people, while poverty is for Malawi and its people.
Furthermore, they will stop at nothing to go to those countries, to educate their children there, deposit their money there, and to acquire healthcare and property there.
Everything they fail to do as leaders at home, they go to do in other countries, whose leaders, unlike themselves, have committed themselves to improving the lot of their people: all this without irony.
This, to me, is the mark of a society in total crisis, in deep trauma, steeped in self-hatred, and on a self-inflicted path of suffering afforded by a type of greed in leadership, which blinds its mind of vision and their heart of empathy and imagination.
It’s a pitiful, yet wholly manufactured, state of affairs. Its cynical and deliberate.
Finally, the refusal to respond constructively to the protests against the MEC chair is emblematic of Malawi’s wider crisis. This is precisely why the demonstrations must go on until those who have deluded themselves into thinking the presidency and its various auxiliaries of appointed persons, is a birthright grasp that simple fact that it is an elected office contrived out of a tenuous mandate.
If an elected office transforms itself into an institution driven by contempt for those from whom that very office obtains its mandate, it must be challenged incessantly until it is beaten down back to the stature of its original mandate; our place in this country isn’t to suffer as we worship those we elect (assuming the elections themselves are credible).
The people must reclaim the Constitution and the Republic’s laws: these are our Constitution and laws, authorized by us, and will not to be used against us; their viability is in our consent. What’s tragic is one would assume a law professor might already know this.
Like other commentators, I too condemn violence and carnage at the demonstrations unequivocally, but I will not be lured into the error of false equivalences.
What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander: DPP is who has systematically unleashed an order of violence across the nation over several years: we the people, without a viable police to protect us, are now saying back to them, you do not own us, we will not be cowered, and we will not relent. The people’s demands borne out of suffering, will be heard.
Those who stand in the way of the people, stand in the way of God. Out on the streets while protesting, we realize that we were not delusional, that our suffering is real and that many others experience it too.
The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Publisher or Editor of The Maravi Post.
Gift Ka’mwamba is a regular contributor of The Maravi Post