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My Take On It: Malawi must learn to stop being too overly politically correct

Chakwera during AIP launch in Dedza

26 And when your children ask you, ‘What does this ceremony mean to you?’ 27 then tell them, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the LORD, who passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt and spared our homes when he struck down the Egyptians.’ ” Then the people bowed down and worshiped. Exodus 12:26-27

It was a super-charged moment when State President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera stepped from the plane following the hugely successful participation of the climate change conference in Egypt.

The leadership that had been in Malawi led by the Vice President and cabinet ministers were there as were ordinary Malawians. Then two strange things happened, and a series of other anomalies have occurred, occasioning the critical need to advise fellow Malawians to stop being too overly politically correct!

It was a great joy when Malawians said a resounding YES to democratic change. Such change has led to, among others, the changing of leadership from high to low levels of society. Regrettably, there are some changes that make a mockery of our desire for change, some that are ludicrous, absurd, and ridiculous; and still many others that are detrimental to our progress.

It was simply uplifting to see a female military official lead the Excellency to the podium to go through the Guard of Honor. “We’ve really come a long way, my Malawi,” I thought. I was heavily disappointed to hear someone speak on a hot mic that “the honor guard is not ready! How rude, interrupting my pride at the elevation of women in the army, and the guards are not ready!

But a ruder shock of sorts awaited viewers as the national anthem was played. It was then played again. At the third replay, it dawned on onlookers that the anthem was being played in the five main languages of the country. Isn’t playing the national anthem five times during the presidential arrival an overload? Do we really have that much time? Is it necessary for all the languages to be played? Who made this decision?

One “Oh God save our land of Malawi….” is enough; and if language is the issue, can we agree to have the band play the tune of the National Anthem in instrumental mode and we can all break out in our local language – Tumbuka, Chichewa, Tonga, Sena, Lomwe, Yao, English… If you have a different language, sing by it in your own language (like on the day of Pentecost).

The second anomaly or overreach is the two awards the National Planning Committee gave last week and making many people question the authenticity or even necessity of the awards. In a span of two days, the Committee gave three highly suspicious awards. The first was in a split manner of two awards to two former presidents, namely the late former President Bingu wa Mutharika and his brother, recent former President Professor Peter Mutharika. Without putting on my too-analytical hat, I was quick to ask “what about Muluzi? What about Joyce Banda?”  Right off the top of my head, I can think of 10 reasons a-piece why the other two presidents should be awarded. Did I perhaps miss the awarding of the two former Presidents?

Before anyone could answer my questions on the strange selective awarding of our state machinery, the committee was at it again, this time it gave an award to the current Chief Justice Mzikamanja, who has barely finished warming his high Judicial seat. And as I listened to the rationale for the award, the question of whether something had escaped my noting took place in this area also: What about the brilliant five justices of the Constitutional Court that managed the great Hat Trick of removing a president and ordering another arm of government (the Parliament) to institute the Fresh 2020mPresidential Elections? Were these perhaps awarded last year? How about former Chief Justice Andy Nyirenda, where is his award for thwarting corruption of the ConCourt?

Another question that is important is that of money. Are these just meritorious or does money exchange hands? Is this just the NPC giving itself the opportunity to gatecrash onto the news airwaves? This “no-money, valueless awards, and mention” extravaganze, compromises the independence of the Judiciary. In a democracy, the Executive, the Judiciary, and the Legislature are supposed to be separate but equal players in the government system; when one arm of the government stretches out a hand of commendation, it shifts the balance of power in its favor. As a member of the Executive branch, the National Planning Committee has gravely erred in giving these nonsensical awards.

The receiver should also know he should get off the pedestal the Executive has placed him on. National Planning Committee, you are overreaching and going beyond your mandate as a parastatal body.

The last point on political correctness is actually the political incorrectness of some Malawi diplomats (up and down the entire embassy) that get posted to foreign missions, almost every time the administration changes. Because the practice of posting relatives of the big wigs in the political machinery has been normalized, it is a very sad state of affairs and has completely eroded the diplomatic system of the country. However meaning the government wants to be, it is a disservice to the system when the same governing persons place in foreign missions people that are not well-equipped for the job, are rude to their commanding officer (the Ambassador who is the President’s Representative in a foreign country), and they refuse or do not do the work for which they are being paid by Malawi taxpayer money.

If you are now a diplomat and fall into the category of “a relation of a big wig in the government”, do your big wig relation a big favor: DO YOUR JOB. Rather than demand that all relatives of big wigs should come home, as an interim, here is some sound advice to the very fortunate many diplomats; there are many, almost in every diplomatic office outside Malawi. No one will demand the return of these “related to big wig diplomats,” BUT PLEASE do the following:

·        Learn fast from your peers from other countries (start with peers from the SADC, then Africa, move on to the UK, non-Aligned and G-77), then seek out peers from the bilateral nations with whom Malawi has diplomatic relations.

·        Learn to remember you are a country representative, not a political party representative, so represent Malawi, not your party.

·        Remember that you are a civil servant, not a political operative.

1.    Give respect to the person you are there because of ( whether it is your aunty, uncle, father, mother, or whomever), but remember it is the Government of 18 million Malawians that pays your paycheck. Respect the office hierarchy; these are 1) the Ambassador, she or he represents the President; 2) the Deputy Ambassador, he or she who is second in command and becomes the charge d-affairs in the absence of the Ambassador; 3) The Counsellor and Accountant (are third and fourth in command); 4) Military Attache (though not a diplomat, is part of the leadership framework in the embassy…he/she has a rank within the military that is to be respected by all, ambassador included; 5) Local staff – as the word implies many are locals from the country of your posting, some are Malawians, they all have tentacles to the Malawi hierarchy; 6) Fellow diplomats, love and work with each like sisters and brothers in one house called Malawi. The big and main operative word for every diploma, after being diplomatic, is respect for one another.

Democracy is not a destination; it is a process. Let us learn together as we aspire to perfect our democratic culture.

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Janet Karim
Janet Karim
Candidate Master of Education (2019) EBD, The George Washington University (GSEH); Highly organized, charismatic and persuasive Communications Specialist and accomplished Editor with 10+ years in the communications field, offering expertise in all phases of print; international development work experience with the United Nations headquarters (10 years, and two years UNDP field work); field experience (Malawi) - Oxfam, UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO; and electronic and social media productions. Superb public speaker who communicates effectively with target audiences through strategic dept at event planning and PR campaigns. Conscientious, diplomatic and tactful in all communications. Highly-motivated and trained media professional possessing exceptional writing and editing skills with ability to draft engaging and effective content; contributor for two leading national dailies (Nation Malawi - 2015-PRESENT; Times Malawi (2004-2007). Other areas of expertise include grant writing and project management. Highly trained in international, regional and local lobbying skills. Collaborates with international companies to initiate development policy change and foster public awareness, with deep commitment to social justice and health care equity; especially in work towards ending child, early and forced marriage, and promoting the human rights of the elderly. Microsoft Word, Excel, desktop publishing, broadcasting, television programming, social media management.

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