This article was motivated by the outcome of one of Public Affairs Committee’s (PAC) conferences which stated that Malawi has a shortage of political leadership. When this statement was made, I was left wondering whether it was based on a proper analysis of the authentic Malawi situation or from a cursory survey of normative literature on nationhood. My hypothesis is that Malawi does not need more political leadership what it needs is a loyal, patriotic, constructive accountable and self-reliant followership.
It is sad that Malawians, civil society and, the media do not recognize that even mediocre leadership is a result of their failure to play a constructive and patriotic citizenship role. Fingers point at political leaders for the Cash Gate scandal, the fact however is the majority of the collaborators were citizens business owners, bankers and civil servants.
Majority of Malawians aspire for political leadership and ignore the critical role of citizenship. As a result our country has a dearth of loyal and patriotic followership. Those who have failed to make it in other spheres of human activity somehow end up in political leadership or aspiring for it. We are a country where a Chief Executive of an underperforming parastatal will believe what is critical is not to do an organizational audit and reengineer the organisation but to undertake a political audit of the country or indeed aspire for political leadership.
A musician in Malawi, who produces a hit single that will never make it into the African charts, will instead of perfecting her composing and production skills, end up chasing political leadership through parliament. Our academicians seeking for the political limelight have invested all their efforts on academic freedom at the total neglect of academic excellence. There is no single university in Malawi that is among the top 100 universities in Africa. The once robust University of Malawi of fifty years ago has crumbled into academic and moral decay, highly politicized.
For a nation that aspires for transformation and the building of a solid foundation the catch phrase is “Bite The Bullet” and not “Bite the Scone”. But look at how Malawians overtly or covertly, directly or indirectly cue up to eat from the hands of a President instead of producing. Indeed the belief that political leadership is what we need to develop our country has led to a situation where by majority of Malawians have surrendered their lives and obligations including the responsibility for one’s own nutrition to political leaders. “Boma Silikutinthandiza” is the ultimate complaint. There was a time when the membership of a church took responsibility over the welfare of its clergy but now these are left to seek for items as basic as chemical fertilizers from the political leadership. Yet some of these are members of PAC, a body expected to provide oversight to the same political leadership.
We are a people that believe we can build a nation on the basis of personal and private interests other than the common good. A grouping, that not long ago made headlines advocating for the stepping down of an honourable incumbent to facilitate investigations, albeit on the basis of flimsy and self serving allegations and against standing institutional procedures has gone on a deep slumber throughout the Cash Gate scandal. Not because there is no need for free transparent investigations but because there is no gain in it for its members. Our so called NGOs are much closer to the sources of their funding than they are to the true aspirations of our people. They get very aggressive and active and can afford to be docile and go on sick leave depending on whether the interests of their masters or indeed their own interests are threatened or not.
In Malawi we elect our political leaders not to lead us but to take instructions from us. “She does not listen or take advice” is invariably the top complaint against a Head of State and if a Head of State insists on leading from the front, woe betides her. She will even be called a Chindere. As we approach presidential elections I call upon all those with brilliant and wise advice to present themselves for election and not wait to blackmail a duly elected President to submit to their wisdom.
I always think that if the Israelites who left Egypt for the Promised Land were Malawians they would not have made it beyond the Red Sea. The clergy would have wanted to be the ones holding the rod. The media would be on standby promising the clergy and not Moses the front page. The NGOs would clandestinely have managed to source some funds from Pharaoh himself to stage demonstrations on the basis of a flimsy notion of human rights violations aimed at subverting the very basis of the exodus.
It is fifty years since the late President John F Kennedy made the plea “Think not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” I pray that this call will inspire us as we rise from our shame and dust ourselves up to continue with nation building that is based on self-reliance and ownership.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Maravi Post editorial policy.