You know the progress rate of a nation, sometimes, from what dominates their public debates.
What are people often talking about in public spaces—say the media, social networks, academic gatherings, public squares, social unions, etc? And what are their discussions telling us about their level of maturity or immaturity as a nation?
You see, real development—not the Bingu wa Mutharika’s second to Qatar propaganda we were smeared with—begins when a leader unites a nation and leads it to common constructive debates about progress.
In the 1960s, while poor, dirty and stuck like Malawi today, South Korea, began its development journey when strongman Park Chung-Hee, their leader, bulldozed his people to a discussion on how they should industrialise.
In the first two years of his leadership, every South Korean understood the industrialisation anthem and national debates—from top government official to ‘peasant’ in the countryside— was on how to industrialise. This, fellow Malawians, is a mark of visionary leadership. Osati zinazi.
What Park achieved in just a year when he reunited the nation toward a common development discussion, represents what in development studies is known as a ‘critical juncture’. A critical juncture is a moment when a nation takes advantage of a situation to correct their previous wrongs and chart a new, progressive way forward.
Park saw a critical juncture in the 1960s to reorganise his nation towards a purposive movement. He isolated the intelligent few and exported them to developed kitchens of the West to learn and steal their ways of progress.
He selected a group of entrepreneurs and companies, eased their ways of manufacturing, gave them access to international loans and set production targets for them. He could arrest them for failing to meet agreed targets. In schools, and all other social gatherings, he encouraged through threats and arrests sometimes, the spirit of hardwork and discipline. Thousands of parents, not idling children, were arrested and detained without trial for keeping their children idling, not in schools. Mwamva?
We should not be surprised, today, that South Korea is not investing all its energy, like here in Africa, blaming the IMF, World Bank, the West and the EU for neocolonialism.
Malawi, just like South Korea in the 1960s, was poor, dirty and stuck. The stark reality of development differences between these two countries, today, is a testimony of Malawi’s leadership failure.
Do not, even for a moment, believe visionless and power hungry dictators when, in defence of their excess, tells us we are poor because of the so-called neocolonial policies by western agents such as IMF, World Bank, EU and all that.
If this were true, then we could not have seen the rise of countries such as India, Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, Brazil, Guatemala, Mauritius and all these are fast growing economies. For none of these was spared from the same policies that, here in Africa, we cannot stop getting excuses from.
We are poor, today, because we have failed to utilise every critical juncture we have had since 1964. The granting of independence in 1964, the return of multiparty democracy in 1994, the rise of Bingu wa Mutharika in 2005, the return of lost governance sense by Joyce Banda in 2012 and the current spate with Peter Mutharika represents lost critical junctures that, with sensible leadership, Malawi could have taken advantage of.
In all these junctures, you can agree with me, we have witnessed leaders riding on their predecessors’ failure, making rosy promises which, with days, sink with the setting sun.
- The article appeared in the Weekend Nation newspaper