Apologies galore: Malawi’s quota is exhausted

Judging from the apologies floating around and the clemency thereto, it appears that the history of multiparty Malawi will forever be punctuated by apologies made by people who, one way or another, abused power and public trust given to them by Malawians when they ought to have known and done better.

The genesis of apologies:

The first and most notable apology was from the country’s first president the late Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda on January 4, 1996. This has been reproduced in full below.

Bwanas and Donas,

We are faced with yet another brand new year and let me start by wishing His Excellency Bakili Muluzi, personally, his government and the people of Malawi a happy and prosperous year.

Systems of government are dynamic and they are bound to change in accordance with the wishes of and aspirations of the people. In Malawi in the early sixties we had a multiparty system of government which later changed to a single party system of government. The one party system of government was not unique to our country alone. However, what was unique about Malawi was the peaceful transition from a single party system to a pluralistic system of government.

This achievement would only have been a dream if it was not for the political maturity and tolerance of those in opposition and those of us who were in government at that time.

The achievement of a peaceful transition would be meaningless if the system that has been put in place does not meet the expectation of the people. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the system put in place works.

During my term of office, I selflessly dedicated myself to the good cause of Mother Malawi in the fight against Poverty, Ignorance and Disease among many other issues; but if within the process, those who worked in my government or through false pretence in my name or indeed unknowingly by me, pain and suffering was caused to anybody in this country in the name of nationhood, I offer my sincere apologies. I also appeal for a spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness amongst us all.

Our beautiful country has been nicknamed `The Warm Heart of Africa’ and we have been admired for our warmth and spirit of hard work. This admiration calls not only for a need for us to look at our past and present and draw lessons from it, but there is even a greater need for us to look forward to the future in our endeavours to reconstruct and reconcile if we have to move forward at all.

Thank you Bwanas and Donas.”

When this apology was published, it was criticised by many both in and outside of Malawi as disingenuous and self-serving. Other people even doubted its authenticity, given Dr. Banda’s precarious health (and his failure to appear in court personally to face the charges levied against him in the Mwanza Case).

Former president Bakili Muluzi having a talk with Henry Mussa: They have all made national apologies

Muluzi’s apologies:

About ten years later, around April 2005, it was Bakili Muluzi’s turn. He apologized to Malawians for choosing Mutharika as his successor “and imposing him on the country”.

This year in March, 2012, Muluzi reiterated the apology, in his own words:

I apologize to Malawians for the choice I made. I never knew that this is the kind of man I wanted to lead the nation. Please, Malawians forgive me, even when marrying sometimes you get shocked to see your wife change when at first she behaved differently.

In my rule there were no fuel or forex shortage, except for one day when there was no fuel in the country,” said Bakili Muluzi.

Mending broken bridges: The Kamanga apology:

On the day that late President Mutharika was being buried, it was the turn of the DPP Secretary General Wakuda Kamanga, pleading with the new President and Malawians to forgive and inter insults and abuse suffered under late President Mutharika’s administration with him.

And then Henry Mussa apologising for plotting a constitutional coup.

More questions than answers:

All these developments beg several questions:

  • When these people (Dr. Banda, Bakili Muluzi, and Wakuda Kamanga and the DPP crowd) were going to great lengths to abuse power and trust, where was their conscience?
  • If providence had not necessitated change, would these people have apologised at all?
  • If unlike Dr Banda, they did not live long enough to personally apologise, who would apologise on their behalf? Can apologies be delivered post-humously?
  • And most importantly, what is the value of an apology from people who knowingly committed various abuses when voices of reason were loudly advising otherwise?

We will never get answers for the questions above from late presidents Dr Banda or Mutharika. And hopefully, former President Muluzi is now a wiser guy.

Appeal to President Mrs Joyce Banda:

What we can do however is appeal to the new President Mrs Joyce Banda and her government that we have had enough apologies.

From Dr Banda’s apology, four key themes stand-out:

1.      The dynamism of government systems,

2.      Need for political maturity and tolerance,

3.      New systems must work and serve people, and

4.      Need for reconciliation and forgiveness

As Dr Banda implied, change is inevitable and indeed, change is the only thing that remains constant in a world changing all the time. Therefore, in all its endeavours, the new government must govern and make decisions with this hindsight.

We will not accept apologies tomorrow.

Sanctity of the Constitution and rule of law:

The transition, despite the midnight of long knives, has generally been hailed, once again, as a model of peaceful hand-over of power. Why and how did this transpire? It is because honest and diligent men and women saw to it that the Constitution was respected.

From all this, the new Mrs Joyce Banda Administration should learn one thing: to respect the constitution and the laws of the land at all times not only in word, but also in deed and be seen to be doing just that all the time.

Admonition from the heroes’ acre:

To quote from Dr Banda’s apology: “The achievement of a peaceful transition would be meaningless if the system that has been put in place does not meet the expectation of the people. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that the system put in place works.”

What can our new President Mrs Joyce Banda take home from this? It is that her presidency will be meaningless if she fails to meet the expectations of the people and unsure that they do not lose faith in the system.

Quota for apologies exhausted:

Having said all this and while appreciating the new president’s conciliatory speeches and gestures, any reconciliation will be meaningless if crimes perpetrated e.g. high level corruption and extra judicial killings of the July 20 martyrs – among others – are not thoroughly investigated and culprits brought to book.

Apologies do not heal the scars that those who suffered bear. Apologies do not bring back to life the loved ones lost through errors of judgement. Apologies do not put food on the table. Apologies do not create jobs and wealth. And we have had one apologies too many.

No more apologies, Malawi has exhausted her quota.

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