11Give us today our daily bread.12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.
As Malawi President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera reels off another brilliant masterly crafted speech on the world stage, Malawians have shown they do not know what to do affluence, others borrow to invest, and the vast majority wanting to get rich fast is either going into politics, leaving the country, venturing into crime, or continuing to wallow in poverty; all blame the government for failing to fulfill campaign promises.
In 57 years, there have been many Malawians that have excelled and amassed abundant wealth; very few have ploughed it back to the community to help the abject and vulnerable people. Malawians must borrow a leaf from former President Dr. Joyce Banda’s rule book, it could help in the sustainable end of poverty in Malawi.
In the past few weeks, Malawians learned that the MACRA executive board organized a board meeting in Dubai; a politician borrowed money from loan sharks to enable a pastor to “buy a school,” parliament is still on a cruising collision course to overtake the country in their takeaway packages, and this week, a prominent business tycoon was sentenced to two concurrent nine-year imprisonments with hard labor for attempting to bribe five ConCourt judges in the 2020 election. Again, the question that needs an answer arises: what kind of Malawians have we become?
The fact that Malawians are dancing around in the mud like chickens on a rainy day, pecking for grains the farmer threw at them, is squarely blamed on the father and founder of the nation, Hastings Kamuzu Banda. For 31 years Kamuzu waxed lyrical uniting and calling on Malawians to obey the four Corner Stones of unity, loyalty, obedience, and discipline. These, he said were the benchmarks of a true Malawian. There was nothing in Kamuzu Banda’s repertoire about collective creation of wealth, nothing about social interactions or discourse; it was every person for himself or herself, which is the cornerstone of capitalism. The end of the Kamuzu era ushered in the tyrannical rush for a mad money grab. Twenty-five years later, the voters that put the elected in office, have been calling for ways and means of getting rich and getting rich by yesterday. Their eyes are keen on what those people that are in power do about wrong-doers, they are not looking at what they say about them.
Several months ago, media reports ran blaring headlines of the audacity of the MACRA board treating itself to a two-week board meeting in Dubai, costing the government over K46 million. Despite the alarm bells and the shockwave that ratcheted the country, the board members have not been disbanded, it is still intact. What is to stop another board, with money to burn, from repeating the MACRA board style? This is happening at a time that Finance Minister Felix Mlusu struggles with a K718 billion in the 2021/2022 National budget.
The Malawi House of Parliament started this flippancy of the governors of the country. In 1994, Parliamentarians were earning two thousand Malawi Kwacha. Come democracy, things changed with Dr. Banda out of the Palace, and the honorables started piling on the dough and taking home all manner of allowances including sitting, house, travel, hardship, to name a few. They are also allowed to import two duty-free cars per term. You can’t be a lawmaker who makes your laws better than the rest of the citizens. Who do parliamentarians work for, who are the bosses of the august house?
Recently a politician borrowed 18 million Kwacha from loan sharks to give to the pastor of her church. The pastor pocket the money to pay his bills; there’s no school in sight. The public learned of this fiasco from the phone call where the politician unleashed brimstone and fire on the pastor, threatening a bevy of biblical threats. The comic part aside, this story is really about the lack of investment knowledge, saving culture, and the risk factor in all investments.
On points one and two, Malawians need to be taught that you shouldn’t borrow money to invest; you invest the leftovers from your savings. This point on savings is lacking abundantly in Malawi business circles. The scene of the traditional grain silos is a great example. Remember how Granny used to put her grains in the silo (to last the year), the surplus of maize was sold, and money was placed under the water cooler (ntsuko)? When she had enough money, she went and bought a goat to supplement her income.
Investing in a school is the least and slowest means of making money. On the risk factor, all investments are a risk. Thanks to Francis Kajumo for teaching me this hard and bitter lesson. After he enticed me to invest 4 million Kwacha in his new credit company, the company went out of business after a few years of bad management. When I tried to recoup the hard-earned money I had invested, Kajumo said: “investment is a risk.” I am still mourning the loss of my money, but it was and my sons’ and my money, no loan sharks.
The moral for the MACRA board: Bwana President reconstitute the board, reduce their sitting and board meeting fund, reinvest the money in community projects. People should not play with public resources in this outward display of lavish living.
The moral for the Parliamentarians; make laws that also apply to you. When considering changing the earnings of parliamentarians, make the change to apply in the next elections. This is called transparency and accountability.
The moral for the politician: save money, don’t borrow to invest.
A snapshot of Malawi’s leaders in 57 years of independent rule, Part XIII continues next week with what Mpinganjira should have done with his money.