On paper, all our elected leaders hold office on trust and solely to serve and protect the interests of their constituents. In reality, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Recently, our parliamentarians lavished themselves with thirty million Malawi Kwacha “loans” ostensibly to help meet their transport needs in performing and serving their constituency responsibilities. Elsewhere, spending that kind of money on transport needs on any venture would catalyze a ten-thousand-fold return for the constituency otherwise it would be construed as ‘ill-gotten’ money or, at the very least, beg the reason(s) for the ‘disproportionate’ budgeting. When I asked my Group Village Headman what ‘goodies’ their parliamentarian had brought them ’this time around’, he was at pains to tell me if their parliamentarian had brought them anything ‘worthy’ making any noise about.
The truth of the matter is there is very little that can be said to be objectively and genuinely serving the constituents’ interests in the affairs of our elected representatives. Take for instance the fertilizer subsidy programme (fisp) where households count themselves lucky to have received a bag or two of inputs but contrast that with the ten-thousand-fold benefits the country’s political elites and the ‘people they conscientiously put in places to better serve their interests’ get from this political freebie. Or the drug-provision programme which last year had the distinction of witnessing a whole state president usurp ODPP powers by intervening in the contract awarding exercise to make sure that ‘her people’ get the contracts?
A colleague told me an even sadder story with some bearing on the topic of how The Polytechnic lost a precious part of its land when a politician complained to the principal of the college about his not ‘helping’ the ‘ruling’ party and therefore not being ‘grateful’ to the ‘ruling’ party which ‘promptly’ moved the principal to ‘arrange’ to sell the precious piece of land so the party could ‘benefit’ from that ‘sell’ and thus ‘protect’ his job. Stories are rife about how billions (Malawi Kwacha) worthy of contracts were ‘parceled’ out at some ‘farm-turned-contracts office’ to benefit a president and his ‘boys and girls’.
An even sadder story with an even bigger bearing on the topic: Zambia has more uranium ore deposits than Malawi but Zambia’s political elites shied from taking the ultimate step Malawi’s political elites took to exploit the deposits because while Zambia’s political elites were ‘troubled’ by the luck of a safe way of disposing of the waste water used to ‘wash’ the uranium ore, Malawi’s political elites were ‘unperturbed’ and consequently ‘rubbished’ the safe disposing of the waste water concerns and proceeded to exploit the deposits and now have a ‘poisonous waste-water lake’ they can not magically ‘wish away’ but do they give a hoot about things that do not affect them personally or politically?
I challenge anyone to give me a budget line that discriminatingly only benefits the constituents without directly or indirectly (through their ‘boys or girls’) disproportionately benefiting our political elites.
Our self-serving political elites, consumed by primeval greed and heartlessly selfishness, now have the unparalleled distinction of shamelessly and irresponsibly embarking on an escapade of ‘parceling-out’ exploration blocks and ‘dishing-out’ exploitation licenses ultimately fated to relegate our precious fresh-water lake and all who habit and depend on it into ecological oblivion. Talks of the country benefiting from the ‘licentious thievery and irresponsibility’ are just that—empty talks, self-serving and shameless lies against the best interests of generations of the citizenry and the very survival of the nation otherwise the country should by now already have benefited ‘beyond recognition’ from the Kayerekera thievery.
The decision process in the present thievery ‘exercise’, shrouded in mystery as ever, bear the whole marks of the Kayerekera thievery scheme where the country and its people had no one to ‘protect and serve their interests’ among the parties to the thievery. If we got absolutely nothing from the Kayerekera thievery why are we in such a hurry to repeat our most conveniently embarrassing ‘naivety’ on something more likely to affect a much-wider population.
Yes, a much wider population because any oil-pollution of the lake will not only impact the lakeshore populations but populations across the country and economic activities far-and-wide whose ultimate water source is the lake—imagine the taste of oil-polluted drinking water for Blantyre residents, a beer or fanta or coca-cola produced from oil-polluted water for Lilongwe residents, sugar manufactured from oil-polluted water for the people of Goliati, beef from cows sustained on oil-polluted water for the people of Zomba or the safety of buildings constructed with oil-polluted concrete water. Of course the decimation of all aquatic life on the lake and rivers sustained by it is a non-issue and will be quite a sight to watch and treasure for our self-serving political elites!
Let us call for a balanced and transparent referendum on the issue of exploiting oil on the lake –let us hear and heed the voices of the people we claim to represent–considering the gravity of the issue and the far-reaching consequences likely to emanate from the decision to proceed with, in my opinion, this ‘most criminal and most treasonous’ of political acts—oil and gas exploration and exploitation in a fresh-water lake providing sustenance for the nation. Let the proponents of oil and gas drilling on the lake convince their consciences and the nation’s that the eventual oil-drilling on Lake Malawi will not raise the risk of oil spills, hazardous gas leaks, and pollution that may harm lakeside residents, the lake’s ecosystem and economic activities sustained by the lake’s waters, directly or indirectly. We know the ‘peoples house’ has been by-passed or compromised (after getting their thirty million Malawi Kwacha ‘loans’ what further interest would they have in ‘serving and protecting’ constituents’ interests) but the people whose very livelihoods will be impacted by the decision must be allowed to speak on this weighty matter through a balanced and transparent referendum.
–Malawians for Referendum on Oil Drilling on Lake Malawi—
Contribution by: Chisala, M. L.