An open letter to Malawi President

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela

Dear Mr. President,

It is with much trepidation and yet with a sense of hope that I respectfully write to you to beseech you to rise up to serve and save our motherland, Malawi.

Mr. President, Malawi is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Yet, today, your people have lost hope and become agitated. No longer can they smile as they used to; no longer can they laugh with that endearing wholesomeness that the world has known. Your people have become dispirited, angry and everyday they pray for change, any change to break away from the increasing intolerance that has become the order of the day in what is supposed to be a democratic country. We have lost even the best of friends that we had; we have become a pariah state in the global village. What went wrong?

Mr. President, I recall with nostalgia the day that you took office on 24 May, 2004; I was there, sitting in the VIP section at the stadium, a few rows behind you as you took the vows of your most high office. I remember the excitement as you proudly swore to defend the constitution of Malawi and to carry out the duties of your office without fear or favour. I fondly remember your voice, reverberating with emotion and resolve, floating over the air as you preached unity and economic prosperity and declared total war on corruption. Your inaugural speech, “The Road to Prosperity – A New Vision for Malawi”was an inspiring work of art. We all rallied behind you. We loved you!

Mutharika: Penned

True to your word, Mr. President, you set about the task of righting the excesses of the past which had brought the country almost to its knees. Oh yes, truly you were the economic engineer! Despite the odds, with the support of the people and ironically now much-maligned NGOs and CSOs, you overcame what was then seen as an irresponsible opposition as you inspired the people to follow your vision. Oh yes, we started dreaming in colour and believed that Malawi was not poor, but only we, Malawians, were poor in our thoughts and deeds. Oh, how proud we were to be Malawians then! And the world acknowledged your achievements and Malawians felt even prouder. We were on our way to the Promised Land!

And then came 2009. Mr. President, the elections euphoria was overwhelming and you became the first leader in Malawi to be considered truly national as you transcended all barriers to garner unprecedented support from practically every corner of Malawi. But alas! It was not to last. Perhaps like the biblical Gabriel, perhaps the accolades and support enkindled one of the seven deadly sins: pride.

Oh yes, pride does come before the fall. Suddenly, Mr. President, you became a messiah, God’s gift to Malawi. The one and only, the custodian of all wisdom. El SenÕ r Presidente! And so began the fall from grace.

Mr. President, all the good works that you had achieved in five years were eroded and forgotten almost overnight. It’s true; it is easier to destroy than to build. Within one year, the signs of destruction were evident. Economic malaise, corruption, ethnicism, tribalism, cronyism and greed took centre stage. Alas, Mr. President, you surrounded yourself with sycophants’ whose only motives were self-preservation and self-enrichment. Like others before you, you failed to listen to the voices crying in the wilderness; you abdicated your responsibility to lead, you desecrated the same constitution that you had sworn to uphold.

And threats and violence have become an alternative currency, perhaps replacing the over-valued Kwacha. And the people have lost hope. Even the friends that we had have become disillusioned and practically deserted us. Reality has now set in; life has become progressively unbearable. So much so that even men of God have lost their patience. And here we are, Mr. President, precariously perched on a precipice, not knowing what will happen next.

But wait! All is not lost. Malawi remains a beautiful country. Blessed with so much potential in so many ways. The people remain inherently warm. All they need is a good leader. A leader who can show them a way out of the current misery; one who can get them off the cliff and set them on the path to prosperity once again. A decisive leader who can make sacrifices, transcend selfish pride and ego and achieve greatness by serving the people.

Resignation or Referendum? Mr. President, I am ambivalent as to whether this is the best approach given the peculiar nature of our socio-political landscape. I can only imagine, Mr. President, what it is like to be caught between a rock and a hard place or as the Americans would say, “Caught between the Devil and the deep blue sea.” I am aware that both pills are bitter ones to swallow. If it is of any comfort, though, Mr. President, the late Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda, when he knew that the chips were down, did the wise and honourable thing; he chose a referendum in order to truly obtain the peoples wishes.

Today, he is remembered as a statesman despite the unsavoury aspects of his rule. Mr. President, may God give you the strength to do the right thing; perhaps, in your infinite wisdom, you might find the “Third Way?” Ultimately, we need an urgent resolution that stands to benefit Malawi.

Mr. President, in equity investments, it is customary amongst professional investors to place a “stop loss” order. This limits the losses that you can sustain when the market moves against you. Mr. President, Malawi has lost much over the past two years. It is no longer an attractive investment destination. Its image has been battered. The burden of taxes and other measures to “support” the zero deficit budget are killing the very industries that bring revenues to government coffers. Unemployment is rising.

People can no longer afford the basics. The justice system is at a stand-still. By-elections cannot be held. Health services are failing to cope. Fuel shortages, intermittent water supplies, electricity black-outs and foreign exchange shortages have negatively impacted productivity and sustainability of businesses. Investment incentives are no longer attractive. Morale is low. Strikes loom everywhere. The mood is tense. Mr. President, I think this is the time to stop further losses for the good of all.

God bless Malawi.


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