By Innocent Nyondo and Austin Kajawa
Malawi has been a victim of bad governance from colonial times and despite the changes in political system and parties, the problem has remained the same if not grown in magnitude. If the ‘Tonse Alliance’ boasts that they can change the nature of Malawi’s socio-economic hurdles by implanting a ‘tonse philosophy’ in the people, then that philosophy should contain, by a larger margin, a strategy to rewrite the constitution for the Malawian people.
The incredibly sad truth is that, in Malawi, the Malawians are powerless as to what they want and how much they can achieve. Somehow, our political system leaves more than it is supposed to in the hands of the politicians through policy to affect the achievements of ordinary Malawians.
Plato in the republic gives a concise explanation of the nature of change in political organisations. In his reasoning, it is after one political organisation has lost the goal for which it was brought into being that the citizens decide to move to another political organisations.
During the colonial era, the British set up a political pattern that ignored the native Malawians considering them inferior and not worth their time in discussion and decision making. And since the Malawians were left out, the policies that were made thereon largely lacked interests. This injustice and greed by the British led one John Chilembwe in 1915 to lead the Malawians in an uprising. The uprising though unsuccessful, it inspired a spirit in the Malawians that they deserve a share in their own politics and sparked the spirit of nationalism.
Later in 1958, a group of young, educated Malawians such as Aleke Banda, Orton Chirwa, Masauko Chipembere and others invited a doctor then working and living in Britain, Dr H. Kamuzu Banda to come and lead them in forcing a participation of Malawians in their politics. When Kamuzu Banda came, his main emphasis was freeing the Malawian people from the British. His emphasis on freedom with his popular chanting of ‘freedom, ufulu, mtendere’ was so much welcomed so that the British were opposed and Banda, after serving as Prime Minister, became President.
Two weeks after Banda became President, there occurred a cabinet crisis. In which Kamuzu Banda was in a fierce quarrel with his cabinet ministers most of whom had invited him to Malawi and helped him to the presidency. Consumed by greed, Banda thought he was the only one entitled to rule and no one else’s opinion mattered. He declared the arrest of most of his political opponents and educated Malawians.
During the leadership of Banda, or the one-party political system as it is referred to, there was some economic change. Opportunities emerged better than there had been during the colonial days. But with educated people arrested, businesspeople persecuted and no one to advise him, nepotism crept in. Then there was economic stagnation, and the people demanded a change of political system. Dr Banda had been invited to help in the fight for independence, and it seemed to the people that he had fulfilled his purpose and he had to go.
It was this thinking that ushered in Bakili Muluzi. The freedom that Kamuzu had preached had now taken on a more extreme level. Government resources were now open to plunder not just by a small group of selected Malawians, but by every Malawian. Muluzi convinced the people that everything that government owned was their property and they could do with it as they pleased.
While private citizens were now able to acquire and accumulate wealth during this time by taking advantage in business opportunities, the lax in how government managed resources increased corruption, mediocrities in managing state-owned enterprises, and general poor governance.
When Bingu took after Muluzi, he did extraordinarily little in fixing the political system. His focus was economic transformation. But economic transformation in a political system that is falling apart can never be sustainable. That is why even after enjoying some economic advancement during his tenure, we are still worse off today. The leadership of Joyce Banda fails so short to be described as a presidential term. It was a mere continuation of government until the next election in which a professor of law became president.
In all fairness, it seems Peter Muntharika somehow saw the main problem with our politics. He invited Dr. Klaus Saulos Chilima to help him with reforming how government business is managed. Still, the age-old political spirit of greed saw some ministers block the success of Chilima because his reforms were a danger to their embezzling government resources. Even as APM thought reforms a clever idea, it is surprising how the law professor who is a specialist in constitutional law did not think reforms should start with amending our constitution in the favour of the people.
Today as we talk about the ‘tonse’ government and their desire to transform Malawi through a ‘tonse’ philosophy, our expectations of whether they will be able to transform anything at all should be embedded in how much change in government structure they make through reforms and amendment.
The sad part is that corruption is still rampant, cronyism and regionalism still hindering the socio-economic freedom of Malawians. It is now vivid that “tonse alliance” administration discreetly driving Malawians because poverty levels are too doubling the previous statuses, hence, signalling no change as per promises made.