If there is one thing any caring household and government will always ensure it has in abundance to ensure peace and harmony, it is food. In the case of Malawi, it is the staple—maize. When food is in short supply in the home, do not expect peace and harmony.
The grain has been very much in short supply in the country this year. Starting with the delayed onset of rains last year, followed by floods and then drought, all have contributed to the shortage of the staple underscoring the need to rely less on rain-fed farming.
But there is another thing that is in short supply in Malawi—apart from maize. It is proper planning and prompt action by authorities to avert crises.
Now, not everybody can be up there planning to feed the 15 million mouths. Admitted, we all have a role to play. Some, like me, dutifully pay tax and leave it to the powers that be to ensure the revenue is used for the purpose of procuring commodities like maize, drugs.
What is abundantly evident this year is lack of planning at the national level to ensure people get value for their taxes. Without being cryptic, someone or some people have been sitting up there either sleeping or snoring as the time bomb was waiting to explode. Now it has exploded right in their faces. There is no food in the country and there cannot be peace and harmony. The adage a hungry man is an angry man is very much true.
It is the reason you cannot walk into an Admarc depot and buy the staple as you wish.
Government was boastful a few months ago when it said no one will suffer from hunger or less still die of it. But ask me what it means when women with babies on their backs sleep at Admarc depots to buy just 20kg of maize.
It is an insult to people’s intelligence for anyone to bark on the national broadcaster that there is enough maize in Admarc depots but that the problem is that people hide it just to tarnish the image of the leadership. One only hopes the President is being told truth. I like the John Magufuli style of leadership. He is not laidback and, as a result, no-one cannot cheat him. Hunger is biting and people are dying.
I am actually surprised that in its desperate bid to improve revenue streams, the under-collecting Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) is even clamping down on flour imports from Zambia. Prove the conspiracy theory about there being enough maize in the country wrong by opening the flood gates for Zambian flour to flood the country. This will go a long way in dampening maize prices.
Talking about the skyrocketing maize prices, this is also the main cause of the runaway inflation in the country now at 24.9 percent and counting. And this is affecting every other sector including electricity tariffs.
The leadership of this country has not done too little to avert the hunger crisis the country is going through. This reminds me of the time I was an editor for a certain weekly a few years ago. We run a story that sounded the alarm about hunger in the country—that half a million people would have no food from October to March. The president then, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, fumed, threatened to ban the newspaper and arrest the editor and reporter. But it was true. In fact as truth came to the fore, more than half a million people were food insecure that year. The situation is six times worse this year when over 2.8 million people have no food. The leadership has done too little too late avert this hunger. Better is not good enough.
All the while the country’s development partners are always more than ready to come to the country’s rescue but they need to be moved to do so. The leadership should never feel it is being demeaned when the media sounds the alarm on certain things that are not going right either due to natural calamities or poor policies. All that the authorities need to do is to get out of their comfort zones and do the needful. Look stupid and get the flak once by admitting the truth, but be on top of things and solve the problem once and for all.
- The article first appeared in Weekend Nation newspaper