I followed the 125th anniversary celebrations of the St. Michael and All Angels Church of the Blantyre Synod on Sunday, May 15, 2016, with keen interest and the celebrations were indeed extremely colourful by any account. The Henry Henderson Institute (HHI) Multipurpose Hall was packed to capacity while hundreds more flocked outside the magnificent hall.
To put an icing on the cake, the first couple, His Excellency President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika and wife Dr. Gertrude Mutharika were in attendance so were a horde of government ministers, MPs and the governing ruling DPP cadres, of course.
For whatever reasons, top opposition leaders were conspicuously absent.
No qualms about that; Malawians enjoy the right to freedom of worship!
Most of the speakers at HHI narrated the historic status of the Church, its achievements and prospects for the future. However, the 125th anniversary celebrations had their own low moments.
‘Spoilers’ at HHI
The General Secretary of the Blantyre Synod, Reverend Alex Maulana was perhaps the biggest ‘spoiler’ of the celebrations when he unashamedly turned the event into a political playground, praising President Mutharika, personally, for his “achievements” in “matters of national importance”.
He noted that the President had made tremendous steps in the implementation of the Greenbelt Initiative, an intended irrigation project, which has in fact failed to meaningfully materialize for almost a decade now.
Reverend Maulana talked about the President’s “sense of humour” in his condemnation of the widespread and senseless Albino executions in the country. We know that President Mutharika has unreservedly condemned the killings with a ‘sense of seriousness’ devoid of any “sense of humour”. (Could have been a slip of the tongue; MBC later edited the bit in its rebroadcast of the Reverend’s speech).
It is incontestable that the Church is a powerful catalyst, which can positively change people’s mindsets. However, in his speech, Reverend Maulana went overboard by condemning Malawians for not respecting “elders”, especially the Head of State.
Reverend Maulana demanded of Malawians to give President Mutharika the respect that is “due to him”. The congregation seemingly went somber. He went further to ask Malawians to rediscover their values and culture and respect the “elders” (whoever they are!). The Reverend made the remarks without any backing of facts.
Reverend Maulana failed to appreciate that Malawi is a nation founded on democratic tenets where national leaders, including the Head of State, are held accountable for the actions by citizens.
Maulana deliberately failed to remember that under Chapter 3 of the Republican Constitution, it is provided that (II) “all persons responsible for the exercise of power of State do so on trust and shall only exercise such power to the extent of their lawful authority and in accordance with their responsibilities to the people of Malawi”.
President Mutharika and his cohorts in leadership owe their service to the people of Malawi and not the other way round. The Reverend should not have mistaken criticism for disrespect.
The economy of the country is on the downturn; there clearly is political upheaval where opposition politicians and those on the other side of the isle do not see eye to eye.
Some opposition leaders in Malawi are arrested on trumped up treason charges; and police roadblocks are all over the country as if we were a police state.
Reverend Maulana is not alone. The President himself told the congregation he is weary of ‘disrespectful’ views expressed by Malawians on social media. He was concretizing a recent hint by Information Minister Patricia Kaliati about government’s intentions to “regulate the social media”.
In a progressive and democratic society, leaders ought to take criticism, in whatever form, positively. The social media is a new world order where, at a push of a button, people express divergent views on a wide range of issues, including politics, sports, business, religion, among others.
In this day and age, no leader can be justified to condemn the social media, especially when oppressive regimes shut out citizens from accessing government controlled media such as the MBC in Malawi.
Reforms versus corruption
Malawians hear about a reform programme being implemented by the DPP administration but no tangible results are visible on the ground. You can reform anything, but if corruption is in place, it kills everything. In Malawi, corruption is perceived as the country’s worst enemy where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.
I have said it before; I will say it again. President Mutharika came on the scene with a new promise to do away with the old politics tainted with tribalism and political patronage. He promised politics unusual.
He raised the bar of expectation and for once a lot of Malawians began to believe in themselves; people began to look forward to a new future with abundant promise .The President is no longer what Malawians expected him to be; a listening President.
The killing of Anti–Corruption Bureau (ACB) top official, Issa Njaunju, who was kidnapped, gunned down and buried in a shallow grave just close to State House in Lilongwe is a tragic example of the DPP regime’s laissez faire attitude towards the fight against corruption. No arrests have been made almost a year after the brutal incident took place.
Investigations into the infamous MK577 billion fraud are long overdue. The fraud at the Embassy in Ethiopia; theft of government money at Agriculture; and at Health are a tip of an iceberg. President Mutharika must decisively deal with these vices as a matter of urgency if reforms are to have any meaningful impact on the economy and people’s livelihoods.
Voice of reason
In his sermon during the anniversary celebrations, Reverend Dr. Saul Chitsulo was candid in condemning leaders who enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. Reverend Dr. Chitsulo noted with sadness that leaders are into “economics of extraction”, “extracting resources and money from every aspect of the economy” when the masses are struggling in abject poverty.
Those who have ears heard him!
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