In the last three weeks or so I have written few articles as well as commentary on social media, mostly on Twitter and Tumblr, on what I consider social, economic and political injustices in Malawi. I believe there is a silent warfare going on in the country, failure in governance, poor service delivery and security breakdown is mostly blamed on poor people, the marginalised majority of this country. Issues of selective ‘justice’ are not new but constant blaming of the poor people for government’s failures is becoming endemic. It time we have a serious discourse on this.
In the last month also we have seen a ‘security sweep’ by the security forces across the country’s major cities and towns, at least 2119 people were arrested. It is not known how many of these folks have been charged and given a fair chance to defend themselves in courts. The chances are that we will never know because those arrested are nobodies and even the media that reported on their arrest, of course without names, will not report follow-up stories on their cases. Being poor is a serious crime.
These arrests were justified by a number of high profile robberies in the country – including a break-in at the State Vice President’s house and an organised bank robbery in Mzuzu. It takes high profile cases such as these for the state to act, there are robberies happening through the country, in places without address where voiceless people reside and nobody gives a hoot about it. But when high places are hit, you go on the streets and arrest struggling folk in the name of strengthening security. Whatever happened to freedom of movement?
Does anyone serious think the organised bank robbery like that in Mzuzu can be carried by ordinary folks loitering the streets in a broad day light? Serious crimes in this country are committed by executives in their expensive suits, chuffer driven in SUV cars – release names in the cashgate forensic audit report and you will see the real culprits keep this poor country on its knees. As American rapper Immortal Technic aptly said, “poverty makes people do reckless things but [the rich] do worse to protect their [interests]”.
In a similar fashion, one year after cashgate revelations there has been only one conviction and the government still will not release names of those named in forensic audit instituted by the same government in order to bring all the culprits to book. If Malawi is struggling today, failing to provide social and economic security to its people it is because, among other things, government’s failure to curb corruption.
‘Zero-aid’ budget sounds good but in reality you might as well call it cashgate budget, a supposed solution to Malawi government’s failure address the issue of cashgate sufficiently and satisfactorily.
On Monday last week traders on M1 between Bunda Turn, or perhaps Bunda Roundabout now, to St John’s in Lilongwe went to their trading places only to find their goods stalls razed down to the ground by Lilongwe City Council operatives who came overnight, like typical arsonist, to burn the trading places apparently because it was illegal to trade in those places. I understand that Bunda turn off is even outside the jurisdiction of Lilongwe city country and the place where folks were trading is a private land, owned by someone I know.
These traders are simply there to earn an honest living. Those that frequented St John’s market will know that majority of these traders were hardworking women trying to feed their families. It is usually the case that when government is failing to provide basic social and economic services that it turns to the weakest members of the society in order to be seen as doing something. The problem is that this does not solve any problem; it exacerbates the problem if anything. You cannot guarantee national security by taking away people’s livelihoods. Where will these traders earn their living now? Have the authorities provided any solutions?
There is a class warfare going on in Malawi and the country needs a serious discourse on it. Academics and intellectuals must take lead on this. As Noam Chomsky noted, it is responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies. This sounds and straightforward but for the modern intellectual, adds Chomsky, it is not at all obvious. Chomsky quotes Martin Heidegger writing in 1933 thus: “truth is the revelation of that which makes a people certain, clear, and strong in its action and knowledge.” Adding that it is only this kind of “truth” that one has a responsibility to speak.
The deceit, distortion and false ideology entrenched in our society that poor people are the most culpable for social disorder should be publicly challenged and intellectuals should take lead in challenging this notion and set the record straight. People indulging in petty crime are themselves victims of often unpunished high-level corruption.
Yet perpetrators of cashgate are free to roam simply because they have stakes in higher society and can afford legal representation, justice for those who can afford it. Unless this changes I do not see how Malawi can move forward as a country. A country is as progressive as its most vulnerable citizen. Where do we position Malawi on this? A country can have progressive laws and structures but very little progress can be made in absence of social and economic justice.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :