You may write me down in history with your bitter twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt….Just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides, just like hopes springing high, still I’ll rise. – Maya Angelou, 1924-2014
This past week, the Tonse Government sailed through its first year as rulers of Malawi in the Third Republic. It has been a year of mixed bag outcomes, some causing celebratory outbursts, some numbingly upsetting, and others just outright ridiculous, writ large. However one’s opinion of the year 2020 to 2021, Malawi has stood up and again highlighted its resilience in the face of local and international odds.
The year 2020 began with the landmark ruling by a 5-member Constitutional Court that righted the wrongs of the 2019 Presidential election result that had Tippexed in former President Peter Mutharika for a second term. This occasioned the creation of a loose alliance, dubbed Tonse Alliance made up of 9 political parties. The Tonse Team won with Dr. Lazarus Chakwera as President and Dr. Saulos Chilima as Vice President. But close to 12 months down the line, cracks in the boat carrying the Tonse Team forced them to go into a closed doors Mangochi meeting to cement the leaking.
The year 2020 was also heavily marred with the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic claiming the lives of 1,194 Malawians. Among them cabinet minister and Lower Shire Valley strongman Sidik Mia, entertainment moguls Wambali Mkandawire and Maria Chidzanja Nkhoma, and veteran journalist Felix Mponda. The rate card of Malawi shows that out of 266,867 tested Malawians, 35,897 tested positive for COVID. Of them, 33,132 have recovered. On the vaccine side of the 385,242 people vaccinated, only 43,165 have received their second dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Another challenge the country faced is corruption both inside and outside Malawi. Inside Malawi, a cabinet minister and others were removed for complicity in dipping their fingers in COVID money. On its part, the MACRA board of directors was this past week given the presidential boot for organizing a three-week training trip to Dubai. The largest corruption case is the shame the country went through when the South African government declared Malawi’s entire corps of diplomats with the persona non grata status after it transpired that they were involved in establishing warehouses trading in the re-sale of duty-free alcoholic beverages.
While some critics of the Tonse Government accuse the administration of not meeting the campaign promises, an MIB placard threatened to plunge the country into religious chaos, as Christians and Muslims were caused to engage in debates on the merits or demerits of the placard; freedom of religion and freedom of speech were underscored as a rationale for the placard. It was pleasing to buoy up and highlighted, this is not who we are as Malawians.
Internationally, President Chakwera led Malawians in mourning Tanzanian President John Pombe Magafuli, the husband of Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, and former Zambian President Dr. Kenneth Kaunda. Speaking as one of the eulogists, President Chakwera waxed lyrical as he elevated to President Magafuli as remarkable progress, agenda-driven deliverer who beat the odds of the opposers to his policies. Out of this, came the coining of “….they did not see Magafuli coming.” Malawians were not surprised at Chakwera’s oratory skills; they first witnessed and were quick to coin and even print T-shirts with “Tsanana,” an apparent reference to his way of saying “it’s an honor.”
On the heels of the historic win of the 2020 Fresh Presidential elections, the Malawi leader was elected as the incoming SADC chair. He joins former presidents Bakili Muluzi, Bingu Mutharika, and Joyce Banda.
On his part Vice President Saulos Chilima contributed to the narrative of Malawi’s political history by forging ahead with the Reform process. He also reembarked on energizing Malawians with public lectures. The theme of the first was Mindset Change.
It has truly been a hard year. It’s been a rough year. It’s also been a year of great resolve and resilience, a year when powered by the people that put them in office, the Tonse Alliance Government continues to be navigating and detoxifying the murky waters. There Malawi stands, tall and still going on, creating structures, establishing policies, systems, and paving the way for the continuance of the Third Republic.
Congratulations Tonse Alliance Team! Congratulations President Chakwera! Congratulations Vice President Chilima!
May all Malawians pray for all our leaders, each and every one!