Signs of the times: Malawi situation

“Extremis malis, extrema remedia” – Latin version of “Desperate times call for desperate measures.”

Judiciary staff to maintain strike action. Judges threaten to withhold labour. Parliamentary staff seeks salary adjustment. Teachers unpaid for close to six months. Civil servants arrears not paid. Primary school teachers down tools. Primarily school children demonstrate against non-payment of teacher salaries and lack of lessons due to strike action.

Chikabvu Nyirenda

Chikabvu Nyirenda

These have been the headlines in the past week as we witness an apparently uncoordinated and unintended conspiracy to undermine the current government by bringing it down to its knees through irresponsible demands against a backdrop of a donor-aid freeze and insufficient local resources to feed the budget. Of course, the DPP administration has itself to blame for the increment merry-go-round mess after succumbing to pressure to raise civil servants’ salaries when the fiscus could not accommodate such an increase; frankly, government missed an opportunity to streamline the civil service at the time by offering one-off payouts to those willing to retire and meaningfully adjusting the salaries of the remaining personnel.

Given the almost unbearable increase in the cost of living, and taking the lead from the reckless requests to government, calls for wage and salary increases, spearheaded by the low-income bracket, are likely to spread to the corporate sector and could result in general industrial action with obvious political connotations. After all, everything in Malawi is driven by and blamed on politics and politicians!

Eerily, in the same week of incessant calls for salary increases, we witnessed a curious “Et tu, Brute?” radio confession of wrong-doing by prominent CashGate suspect Oswald Lutepo, who implicated former ally president Joyce Banda in the MK24 billion scandal and promised to “tell-all” at an opportune time.

Joyce Banda’s media machinery was quick to distance her from these allegations and counter- claimed that it was a DPP manoeuvre to distract people from its failures.  In typical Machiavellian style, the former president, who has suspiciously avoided being in Malawi practically after the general elections, trending the international circuit instead – where she is still typically placed on a pedestal by various donor countries and institutions – spuriously and, perhaps ominously, pronounced an egoistic and delusionary message to the effect that the Malawian people were clamouring for her return.

This statement alone, and her inexplicable extended absence from her own country after disgracefully losing the May, 2014 elections, may point to an orchestrated grandmaster plan to return her to power by inciting a revolt against President Peter Mutharika’s DPP administration. It’s a classic case of the strategy that has been employed by countless opportunistic politicians all over the world, aided by countries and institutions with vested interests, to exploit disgruntlement with a regime and force a coalition, government of national unity, early elections or any desired political order. In recent history and a blithe observation of current developments, this is evident in the Middle-East which continues to suffer from high levels of instability.

Malawi has been in a constant state of flux with each successive regime after multi-party democracy over the past 20 years. We have been caught up in a vicious cycle of optimism, pessimism and displeasure with each presidency, with no sustainable socio-economic and political progress. It has been a combined failure of leadership at executive, judicial and legislative levels and the failure of Malawians to enforce their democratic rights and responsibilities to hold their leaders accountable and to insist on transparency and good governance.

Poor politics beget poor economics and consequently Malawi has failed to grow and has consistently remained in the orange “Warning” zone of the internationally-recognised Fragile States Index (FSI). I am afraid that current developments are bringing us dangerously close to the higher levels of red “Alert” status on the FSI spectrum and there is need for concerted efforts to bring us back from the brink of potential upheaval.

The current calls for “self-governance’ under federalism, inability by government to offer basic services and solutions, failure to pay civil servants and meet financial obligations, wide-spread dissatisfaction with the predatory political elite and institutionalized corruption, breakdown in security, external intervention (in this case, the withdrawal of aid by donors) and severe economic and fiscal decline are some of the symptomatic issues of fragility identified by the FSI, which appear to be growing stronger in intensity in Malawi.

The DPP administration needs to seriously address these, and other pertinent issues identified by the FSI, sooner than later before we are faced with an unretractable situation; we are living in desperate times.

On the other hand, perhaps what we may witness – a demonstration of people power in reaction to an economic crisis perpetuated by political inadequacies – is exactly what this country needs. As they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and the envisaged scenario where people demand and reclaim what is rightfully theirs and refuse to be taken for granted by rapacious political elites and their sycophants, may be another painful but necessary milestone in the growth of our nascent democracy. We need a serious collective mindset overhaul and an awakening to the ingredients of a successful democratic state that rests on and works by the principle of “Power to the People.”

Maybe then, only then, shall we witness a Malawian Renaissance.

CJN

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(Chikavu Nyirenda is a Senior Lecturer in Banking and Finance at The Catholic University of Malawi and contributes, in his personal capacity, a weekly column, ‘Views from the Sunset,’which is published in ‘The Daily Times’every Monday).

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18 thoughts on “Signs of the times: Malawi situation”

  1. Point of order says:

    Times are

    Mark 13:22
    Mathew 23:22

  2. ambele says:

    Anthu ena ndi mbuzi what connection is there by one person travelling in UK or wherever can be linked to teachers or anything in MKalawi, Tatiyeni tithandize omwe alipowa kuti zinthu ziyende

  3. chiwa kogoya says:

    SIGNS OF THE TIMES FOR MALAWI ONLY not for the entire World coz some other countries in African and the entire world , their economy is just ok, Here in Malawi the problem is our Leaders they are very greedy with money!!! too much stealing, kusosola! they don’t love their country and their people as well !!!! if they change how they play their cards then all will be ok.Apo biiii tizingozikanda basi mpakana Ayesu azabwere.

  4. Ganamba says:

    Chikavu, am sure u have a personal grudge against JB. What u insinuate abt JB influencing the teachers and others is a mockery of the truth on the ground. U must hv known that Mr Ibu has never impressed when he headed several ministries in Bingu’s rule. Some of us knew he is a complete imbecile, mumu, idiot. Unfortunately, that will be the dish for us till 2019. Illiteracy levels will not help matters in this country. Cry my beloved Malawi

  5. Tozer Tsono says:

    Baseless claims and failure to substantiate – If you had simply stated that when donors investigate your corrupt ways in your house, at the tune of several millions dollars, it would be fitting for a smart and clean President to give up the thieves in exchange for the cost of the forensic Investigations. When Peter Mutharika sits there harboring the looters of the MK92 billion, instead of outing them outright, it sends a clear message to donors that leaders are not serious about getting rid of corruption. It is easier to blame donors for economic woes for withholding assistance but the blame is on Malawi leaders who protect their corrupt buddies. In addition, no citizen has the wherewithal to hold them accountable.
    Mr. President, tell the international community to give the millions they would spend investigating DPP, in exchange for the looters. That alone would be a sound gesture to resume aid. Malawi is under economic emergency, therefore no one should be immune to prosecution, including you Peter Mutharika unless you yourself point out the DPP looters

  6. Zale P says:

    Mr Chikavu Nyirenda “vox veritas vita” latin version of “speak the truth as a way of life.”

  7. The Truthful One from the West says:

    No need to blame JB. Peter Mutharika and his DPP told Malawians that they have the solutions to the problems and should be elected. He was duly elected and has to deliver and that is what Malawians are waiting for. Mr Nyirenda don’t write as if DPP were lying that they have solutions. If DPP lied that they have solutions to the problems then they will pay a high price. Or has DPP already started to pay the price.

  8. Patriot says:

    Corruption, not mphatso.
    ACB should investigate this corrupt president
    And mostly MP’s should gang up for Impeachment on the next sitting.

  9. ungapake says:

    Dadaboma, Lutepo will soon disclose how he donated 22 vehicles he bought from Toyota Malawi to Puppets Party (PP). This is the only reason JB has ran away from her country. Ngati mukudya nawo cashgate cash muyisova before January, 15.

  10. Alfred Munduwabo says:

    A president brought in by Maxon Mbendera and the judicially , today he is failing to pay you guys. Bring him back to where he came from or else ask him to handover the government to Chakwera.

  11. GPMG says:

    All along I thought that Chikavu Nyirenda was an intelligent person, but his comments regarding Joyce Banda have forced me to change my mind. There is really no reason to say JB ‘disgracefully lost the elections…’ since we do not really know what happened during the general elections – the Lilongwe City South East case seems just to be the tip of the iceberg.

    Another silly point is the insinuation that JB is behind the current ‘unrest’. I thought the Govt has got the necessary organs to investigate any acts of internal as well as external sabotage? And do unpaid teachers and their angry pupils really need JB to prod them into action?

    Chikavu is a good analyst but he needs to be sober minded if he wants to continue being taken seriously. Many people have irrevocably lost their reputations because of careless statements or decisions. Please provide good analysis based on known facts – leave the speculation to thugs.

    DPP mediocrity cannot be propped up by formerly objective columnists – deficiency in governance cannot be hidden…

  12. dadaboma says:

    To insinuate that the absence of Dr JB from Malawi since the 20 May elections points to a grand masterplan to return her to power through inciting revolt against APM’s administration is, to say the least, hallucinatory for the author of this article. Dr JB is on busy schedule fulfilling a number of international obligations out of the country. She is serving the world, after Malawians dominated by southerners “rejected to vote for her” and opted for APM instead. My friend Chikavu, you should not dream and concoct or fabricate lies about JB. Be honest bro. Malawians “voted” for APM. They now have the president they wanted. They should enjoy being ruled by someone they wanted to rule them. They hated JB, and they should be happy they don’t have JB in Malawi. Azitaniko kuno! Malawians should eat the fruits of what they sowed on 20 May. They should forget about JB and concentrate on the good things APM brings for them. If APM fails to deliver what the people were misled into believing he could, that failure and the ensuing resentment or disappointment should never be attributed to JB’s absence from Malawi. JB is clean. JB is loved worldwide. JB is a hero. JB is considerate, compassionate, and empathetic of human plight. JB is simply incomparable to the imbecile that APM is. So leave JB alone – she stands in nobody’s way; she will return to Malawi at a time of her own choice to do her own things.

    1. masoapatali says:

      u seem to be a Msonda in disguise. or one of JB’s spokespersons. Which world is JB serving and in what capacity? Don’t u know that the developments and the revelations will now work to her disadvantage? Is she going to seek asylum when called to answer questions b4 courts when more beans are spilled by Lutepo? Let’s wait and see. Mbava ya chi zimayi ngati JB sindinayiwone.

  13. Mbanangwa says:

    Thank you Chikavu for your article. If you read it, it reflects exactly what is happening and real self-evident scenes of the present Malawi. I for one, feel the whole set up of government and politics is operating upside down. You can tell the genesis of all these problems. The gap created by Hastings Kamuzu Banda, leaders who followed afterwards, free for all approach etc, have reduced this nation to a million untold troubles.

  14. moto mwikho says:

    Fair article but full of inconsistencies: 1. Where is citizen responsibility in all this 2. If donor sabotage is involved why should citizens ratify it. 3, Is there really only one solution; are you not aware that Zimbabwe went through a worse situation and is coming out stronger

  15. Chiletso says:

    And the president sees it fit to give MWK 50,000 handouts to journalist I have nothing good to say about this stupid president and his govt so I will stop here.

    1. mabedi says:

      Why didnt the jounalists reduse to take it? Its common practice to pay journalists even for press conferences! Wake up and understand the real world.

      1. Chikopa says:

        Mphatso sakana. Chiletso, you have never been kunyumba ya mfumu. Umalepheratu ndi kuphwisa komweko. Go there and tell us if you could refuse tefifi.

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