“Malawi is a peaceful society and is not hampered by ethnic tensions. It is blessed with fresh water, fertile land, a lot of enterprising people; Malawi can and must do better.” That was the only worthy statement we should have been reflecting on as Malawians. It is where the key to unlocking a glittering future lies.
And Zeinab Badawi asked the president what he thinks is keeping Malawi behind? There is another alternative answer to Peter’s very correct response. It is more than Cashgate’s $30m loss (if you are arguing along Badawi’s lines) or $60m (if you cite Peter Mutharika). It is also more than the floods we suffered in the previous rainy season.
The other genuine reason of our current status quo is here. When Bingu Wa Mutharika came to power in 2004, he made it clear that one of his visions was to definitely lead Malawi out of the state Zeinab Badawi refers to. Throughout his tenure, he introduced mechanisms aimed at achieving his clearly stated objectives. One of them was the introduction of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). Surprisingly, he met stiff resistance from the very donor community that claims to aim at seeing to it that we are economically independent. Bingu, on this, had strong arguments than anyone of us will ever have.
The late Bingu was at times stubborn though and his arrogance paid off. He complemented the Thomas Sankara adage that change can only happen if the ones effecting it operate with a certain level of madness. Malawi had overnight become a role model: from a food-consuming nation to an exporter. The West frowned.
During Bingu’s first five years, Malawi was at some point the world’s second fastest growing economy, only after Qatar. His sound economic policies earned him fame worldwide. He throughout his term resisted advice from some corners including the IMF to devalue the country’s currency. As a means of cutting costs on imports, he, towards the end of his second term, came up with the idea of constructing the Nsanje World Inland Port.
Badawi knows well how Bingu’s efforts were sabotaged at the end of it all in the name of bad governance. That was done with the help of collaborators from right amongst us, under our very noses. That’s the time imperialists tested the waters with the first gay marriage because they had failed to find other loopholes for the man everyone loved. Undule Mwakasungula and other so called human rights activists joined the fight. Cochraine-Dyet misbehaved and saw the back of his home road. It all happened at the pace of a UFO. They try all they can when they want to make it happen, these people are werewolves.
But it wasn’t enough to make Bingu lose support. (If we were militarily powerful, they, with their level of desperation at bringing us down, I’m sure, would have invented the same lie George Bush invented against Saddam Hussein’s regime). They withheld their dollar. Everyone knows what that means in a world that has practically been made western-centric. It meant delayed oil imports and low foreign currency reserves.
Then imprudence coerced some individuals to initiate tensions between us and our neighbour Mozambique so the Nsanje World Inland Port remained a perpetual dream. Imagine a local musician who claims to be a social and economic justice soldier dubbing it a port of frogs. How mediocre! It was during Bingu’s reign that we discovered the true colours of the donor community and brothers we thought were helping us sail to safe coasts. They used our own blood to tear us apart when they realised we were heading towards true independence. They couldn’t let us break the chains. It was disaster with the level of power hunger manifested in our politicians, and 2011 was the climax.
I insist Badawi knows what keeps us where we are. Proof is also how she dodged the jet issue when she realised it was their puppet-hero who sold it away, again on advice from CSOs who had put it on their 2011 petitions to government that it be sold. This was after being satisfied with how the absence of it inconvenienced Mutharika during his United Nations trip (I am in no way insinuating that the president needs a jet though; we have more important issues to worry about as a nation, everyone agrees). That’s why Badawi failed to corner Mutharika on the commercial flights.
Back to where we are as a nation, Zeinab Badawi knows we want to move forward but the master will not let it happen. It will take a whole stubborn country to break free from chains of neo-colonialism, and our politicians and civil society organisations are just not yet ready, apparently, for such progressive change because all they care is for bread on their table. Remember how they have always ridiculed a budget that denounces aid support? That is why Malawi is failing to shake off this legacy. Because they pull us back when we try moving forward and we are too divided by greed to fight back. Again, we are failing to reason beyond our individual tummies.
Look at what happened when Joyce Banda took over. With no sound economic policies yet she immediately restored donor trust. She floated the kwacha, moved around telling people Azungu andiwuza kuti…. She got so many awards, made it to some Forbes lists, plundered our economy, claimed those benefiting from cashgate weren’t criminals themselves, wanted to bring chaos during election time when she illegally announced nullification of results, and yet she’s still flying all over the world, still getting awards, still being recognised, and soon she will be made Saint Joyce.
That is an answer to Badawi and all HARDTalk groupies. Even Badawi wanted to vindicate her in the HARDTalk but Mutharika was clever enough to point it out to her that investigations are still under way. The bottom line is Zeinab Badawi knows we try moving out of the ditch but we have those pulling us down. But we will someday make it out of all this organised mess.