19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 20 He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. 21 Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. — Ps.107.19-.21
Over the past 29 years, democracy has caused Malawians to lose their Malawianism. As a nation, Malawians used to be united, today it is divided. Malawians used to be too loyal, obedient, and a disciplined lot, today Malawians are political party opportunists hopping from one party to the next, squanderers of other people’s money, property, and even trust. We are, as a nation, all of us manipulators of the narrative, story, or truth about the state of our country, easily forgetting and sometimes inventing or forgetting our past.
Watching and listening to the same song about the 1915 heroism of John Chilembwe, one would believe Malawi is deficient of heroic people, that in 108 years it is only Chilembwe and the former late President Kamuzu H. Banda that did anything worthy of mention in Malawi’s history. But is fodder for another discussion. Five samples of how Malawi is in great need of solutions, but mostly we are barking in the wrong direction.
1. Land act and its recent amendment. – it it’s not broken don’t fix it; fix what is wrong, but government overtures are creating havoc for Malawi landowners (background – Kamuzu knew his country: our wealth is in soil. During the first 31 years of independence from British colonial rule, President Kamuzu Banda, therefore, encouraged Malawians to buy land, lots and lots of land, and to engage in farming.
Amendments of the Land Act of March 2022, in section 9, give the government the right to redistribute land, endowering the Minister of Land to prescribe land ceilings and limit the selling of land. Additionally, the Minister shall prescribe land ceilings taking into account the—
(a) availability of land; (b) utilization of land; and (c) capacity of a person to develop the land.
Lastly the amended land act, in Section 39 of the principal Act (Free Hold Land) is repealed and replaced with the following new section 39(“Failure to develop freehold land).
Although some portions of the amendments aim at preventing the country from being taken by non-Malawians (spoiler alert: look at who owns land along the coastal areas on the Lake), the truth is that many Malawian landowners are at pains to keep from encroachers and firewood hunters from their properties. The winners in this are the chiefs and other local leaders and the police; this is because in aiming to hold on to their land (much of which was rightly and properly bought in the Kamuzu Banda era) is under attack by villagers who listen to political rhetoric, and now endorsed by the law enshrined in the new Land Act. Any land owned by the farmers is deemed by the villagers to be theirs; large farm owners have become foreigners in their own land.
One more pointer is how we resorted back to the Minister being the last word on this vital and sensitive issue of land. Can we reliably leave matters of this high import, to rest on the shoulders of a political figurehead? Perhaps Parliament should form the Land Commission to be the deciding authority.
2. On the matter of Pointing Fingers on the issue of corruption and other things that have gone wrong, it is disheartening to listen to clergymen and women when they pray. On this, rather than myself point fingers, I indulge myself in advising all the clergy to look at Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9 verses 1-9). The clergy should stop pleasing anyone, but in praying for the nation, seek God’s forgiveness of the nation, prayers that unite the nation. They should do this at all times; they should not be pointing fingers or alluding to the wrong-doing of some, excluding many including themselves.
Jeremiah the prophet and said to him, “Please hear our petition and pray to the LORD your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the LORD your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” Jeremiah 42:2-3
3. Women and other party officials in Malawi are breaking bad and adding wood to the fire. Sadly, instead of chiding these political rabble-rousers, many leaders have left their rightful place, being supplanted by the unruly rhetoric of hero-worshippers. Careless, oftentimes un-Constitutional pronouncements can lead to conflict.
4. Very sadly Malawians have grown into a nation that prefers to laugh while taking a video on their phones, of calamities taking place in the country. It was shocking to see a big branch from a tree during a rain storm, sail through the water-drenched street. During the three-minute video clip, no Malawian went onto the street to move the hazard off the road where motorists were passing through. Even if one is a pedestrian, or one does not have a car, it is the right thing to do to think about the danger for other people.
5. There is hope yet for our country. It was heart-warming this week to get some positive reactions to the video clip of rainwater flooding a dormitory at Chancellor College in Zomba. Within an hour of the clip appearing on the group forum, members began strategizing how the members (many of whom are alumni of the college, could help restore the damages caused by the rains. There were even suggestions for helping in other schools.
This is how we must behave as Malawians, with loving-kindness for one another: Please leave our ancestors’ land (freehold or otherwise) alone; clergy please be there to unite us, not further divide us; political party women be constructive in your politicking, do not be the avenue where another dictator is created; let us love our country, our fellow Malawians by looking out for each other (remove debris and other road hazards off of the streets; and lastly as Malawians let each person chip in and do his or her part.