Friday, January 27, 2023
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Fresh revolution, formidable lesson for Malawi politics

Tonse alliance is failing apart

Analysing the 1789 French revolution, one can easily draw similarities as to what is happening in our beloved country under the tutelage of Reverend Dr. Lazarus Chakwera.

In fact, the French revolution that took place from 5 May 1789 to 9 November 1799 culminated into radical political and social changes both in France and beyond.

It is interesting to note that the causes of French revolution are similar to what is taking place in Malawi.

  1. Social inequality in Malawi due to unequal distribution of wealth

In France, there existed three classes of people with various privileges. The first estate or the clergy exuded much influence on government’s action through its own religious teachings and policy direction. The second estate, the nobles, were given privileged titles such as ambassadors by the king. The third estate which comprised the commoners was excluded from the positions of honor and political power. This in the long run agitated discontent.

In Malawi, Chakwera’s regime has created a conducive environment for nepotism, tribalism, regionalism and appeasement policy such that only the privileged few are enjoying the delicacies of Chakwera’s power.

The politicians and government officials are quickly amassing a lot wealth such that the gap between the rich and the poor is exponentially widening.

  1. Tax burden on the poor

During the French revolution, the first estate category which was in minority was wealthy and paid no taxes. They owned 10% of the land while the nobles controlled 25% and were exempted from paying many taxes. The third estate or peasant farmers were heavily taxed including taille which was the main direct tax on land and income.

In Malawi, it is the local citizen who pays most of the taxes. Apart from hefty allowances and salaries, the president, vice president, cabinet ministers, members of Parliament and some government officials enjoy some privileged benefits. For example, a member of Parliament may procure a vehicle free of duty.

Recently, toll gate fees in Malawi were introduced as a means of increasing revenue. Much as this was a good move, the mismanagement and misappropriation of toll gate leaves a lot to desired.

There are also plans to introduce user fees in our public hospitals which will increase inequalities in accessing quality healthcare services.

  1. The desire for personal liberty and ownership of property

During the French revolution, businessmen, traders, doctors and lawyers felt that they naturally deserved high honors and political power because of their education, abilities and relative wealth. This was a recipe for revolution.

In Malawi, it is disheartening to see that those who don’t deserve it have it. Meritocracy is being exchanged for political allegiance, nepotism, tribalism and corruption.

Recently, the Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter advising government on what measures to take to address economic, corrupt and discriminatory problems rampant in Chakwera’s administration.

  1. Proliferation of knowledge and globalisation

During the Ancien Regime, enlightenment philosophers such as John Locke, Jean Jacques Rousseau and Baron de Montesquieu started questioning the traditional absolute authority of the monarch. This generated knowledge which formed the basis of revolution.

With the proliferation of social media platforms and disruptive technology, many people have questioned rampant corruption, nepotism and mismanagement of government purse during Chakwera’s regime.

Many political activists and analysts have advocated for the resignation of Tonse Alliance government leadership as it happened with prime minister of the united kingdom recently.

  1. Financial crisis

By 1789, France had entered into a period of financial crisis in which expenses exceeded income. This was largely due to costly lost wars which had depleted the government coffers. This eventually resulted into the country servicing a mountain of debts.

In Malawi, Chakwera’s government is activated to overspend the meagre resources. Due to its poor economic and monetary policies, Malawi is facing acute forex and fuel scarcity. Inflation rate is high. The local currency, Kwacha, is devaluating at an alarming rate.

  1. Drastic weather and poor harvest

Severe winter on 1784 resulted into extreme drought that caused poor harvests and famine.

Similarly, Malawi has been hit by natural floods, COVID 19 pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war. Amid poor economic and monetary policies again, these causes have had devastating effects on Malawi economy.

Even though, the Malawi government spent a lot of forex on agricultural input subsidy programme, tobacco sales were minimal this year.

  1. Rising cost of staple food

During the French revolution, prices of stable food, bread began to rise as a result, the lives of most peasants became a constant battle for survival. In such a situation, workers spent half of their income on bread.

Similarly in Malawi, the cost of maize, a staple food, is steadily rising. This is against the background that Malawians were promised decent three meals a day.

  1. Ineffective crisis leadership King Louis XV of France and his successor failed to overcome the financial crisis. They even failed to harmonize the conflicted parties and the anti monarchist forces.

Similarly, President Chakwera in Malawi has failed to make decisive resolutions towards the economic meltdown. He is well known to be making flowery oratory speeches with no tangible action on the ground.

A good leader must make drastic decisions in times of economic crisis like this. On the contrary, President Chakwera is enjoying rampant corruption, selective justice, nepotism, tribalism and rising cost of living happening under his watch. This will most likely backfire.

  1. Successful opposition to public sector reforms

Before the 1789 French revolution, ministers Anne Robert Jacques Turgot and Jacques Necker proposed a French tax system which was to include nobles as taxpayers but this proposal was subsequently shot down. This further infuriated the majority of the peasants and the bourgeoisie who were heavily taxed at that time.

Similarly, President Chakwera has not acted on Public sector report , a year after the vice president, Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima submitted the report to him. President Chakwera did not even bother to make the contents of the report public so that patriotic Malawian citizens could offer alternative views.

  1. Extravagant life style of the government

During 18th century, the French Monarch embarked on the construction and remodelling of the Palace of Versailles which incurred huge costs at the time when the third estate class citizens were struggling to make ends meet.

Currently, during Chakwera’s regime, while Malawians cannot afford to sustain their lives, the government is busy spending half a billion kwacha renovating Chief Justice’s residence.

While President Chakwera announced economic austerity measures, the government chartered a private to United Nations General assembly carrying a bloated number of delegates who had their international travel allowances doubled.

The aftermath of French revolution

To cut the long story short, the 10 years of the French revolution brought modern nationalism, liberalism, democracy, equality, fraternity and many more which may be discussed later. Can Malawi emancipate itself from the chuckles of inequality, corruption and other vices?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author not necessarily of The Maravi Post or Editor

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