By Cedrick Ngalande
Yesterday during a weekly mass in Blantyre, Bishop Msusa urged the Tonse Alliance to fulfill its promises. The bishop noted that people are suffering because of the unfulfilled promises. Apparently, parishioners cheered him on as he delivered these remarks in the presence of the state vice president who was among the worshippers.
Let us go back and remind ourselves what the Tonse Alliance campaign promises were. The first and most popular promise was that they will create 1 million jobs in Malawi. Initially these 1 million jobs were to be created within the first 6 months of the administration. Later, the timeframe was changed to one year.
Second, they promised to reduce the price of maize (which is Malawi’s staple food) and make seeds available to every household.
Other main promises included a national bullet train system, a state-of-the art Mangochi city complete with a modern airport and a 5-star hotel. All these promises would be start being implemented immediately after getting into government.
As these promises were being made, international news networks were full of reports of a devastating new disease called COVID-19. Tonse Alliance did not care about COVID-19 so much that they did not even bother to modify their agenda to take the impending epidemic into consideration. In fact, they went about denying the existence of that disease. As the government of the day sought to protect Malawians with a quarantine system, the Tonse Alliance together with the highly politicized HRDC and court system circled wagons and frustrated every anti-covid policy that the previous government had put in place.
On reviewing the above list of the Tonse Alliance campaign promises, one quickly realizes that none of those promises were practical. Even if there was no covid, the best politicians and technocrats, would not be able to deliver those promises. The Tonse Alliance were simply lying to people. The Tonse Alliance themselves did not believe those promises. We know the alliance did not believe in their own promises because we can look at the budgets they have put forward.
Since taking over government, the Tonse Alliance has been responsible for two budgets. The first was the intervention budget put forward immediately after taking over. It was claimed that the intervention budget would result in a projected 3% growth in the country. Their second budget was presented a few weeks ago by the minister of finance. It projected a 5.4% growth.
The Malawi economy has for some years now being growing at an average rate of 3.8%. Former President Bingu wa Mutharika grew once grew it by 9%, but then the rate has since hovered around 4%. By putting forward budgets with average projected growth numbers, the Tonse Alliance are actually conceding that they will maintain the status quo in Malawi – ‘business as usual’. This is not the kind of growth the economy needs to build bullet trains, cities, airports and create million jobs. If they were serious about these ambitious projects, they would have been putting forward budgets that would result in growths far higher than the average. Otherwise, how else will they fund these elephant promises? This shows that the Tonse Alliance knew that their promises were false.
This takes us back to Bishop Msusa’s call for the fulfilment of the Tonse Alliance campaign promises. When the Tonse Alliance were roaming around the country making these campaign promises, did the honorable bishop believe that such campaign promises could be fulfilled?
This question is important because the church has a strong influence in Malawi politics. There have been times when the church has been part of the solution to the nation’s problems. In 1992, catholic bishops were instrumental in changing the political dispensation from one party rule to multiparty politics. However, there have been times when the clergy have simply been partisan, and therefore, part of the nation’s problems.
For instance, in the previous election, the clergy directly or indirectly supported the Tonse Alliance. It was claimed that DPP was untrustworthy, corrupt and tribalistic. And so Tonse Alliance was supported, even when it was evident that the alliance was lying to the people. No bishop, reverend or pastor chastised the opposition for obvious lies. The clergy, especially the catholic clergy like Bishop Msusa, are some of the most educated people on this planet. They had to know that these promises were empty. Yet they remained quiet.
The problem is that the clergy in Malawi looks at politics in black and white. So, if one side is correct on something then everything that side does ought to be good as well, and vice versa. Sometimes, the clergy do not even believe in being impartial. Livingstonia Synod openly supports the northern Malawi backed candidates, Nkhoma Synod backs candidates from the center, and Blantyre Synod candidates from the south. This is the same CCAP church with the same doctrine and principles!
Any country needs an impartial religious leadership community that can, without fear of contradiction, point both at corruption in government and at lies of aspiring politicians aimed at taking advantage of the masses.
On this, the Malawi clergy have failed.
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