“I am aware, that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hand of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD.” –William Lloyd Garrison, January 1831.
I deliberately choose to open my brutal truth on Malawi’s political landscape by quoting William Lloyd Garrison, because to begin with I have the conviction that politicians (both in government and opposition) in Malawi need, and to be honest enough, deserves all the severity; all the harsh truth; and all the uncompromising honesty, without moderation, for them to stop taking the citizenry for granted.
It would be more than stating the obvious to suggest that since the country’s independence 53 years ago, no political leader has really shown that apart from self-interests there is nothing to suggest that the political calling for many has been mainly to serve this country and its people. (Off course there have been a few good apples among the pack who unfortunately the end results of their supposedly good intentions could not bear witness to the motives of their actions as most of them were stopped in their tracks by ruthless forces). This is why I have a strong opinion that no Malawian politician living or dead deserves our mercy. I strongly believe that for us to emancipate ourselves from the political bondage that has characterized our way of life for decades, we must indeed get angry by the state of affairs of our nation and act.
Unfortunately, we are a pathetic citizenry which seems not to feel the pain when things are going bad. A citizenry which is never angry even when the pain within us is so unbearable. A citizenry which is very slow to act. A citizenry which is always at its best clapping hands for crap. We would rather sit quietly in the proverbial ‘stands’ watching the plunder, the savagely, the heartlessness and all that go with being a politician.
We are a nation that will sit and watch while politicians are busy ruthlessly plundering and making a big kill out of resources meant to rescue the nation from hunger while millions of people are dying as they cannot afford a meal; we are a nation that will keep on doing our usual business as if nothing is wrong when eight innocent kids are sent to their premature death as a result of the carelessness of a few politicians who believe that their core duty is to ensure that their party remains in government at whatever cost; we are a nation that will let it go when 253 households are made to drink water contaminated with human excretes, yes human feces, with the belief that this is an issue for the concerned individuals only; we are a nation that our cities go dry for weeks without potable or electricity with our water boards and ESCOM (or EGENCO, whatever that is) giving very flimsy excuses while at the same time they gift huge sums of money (the all required resources to make a difference) to the ruling party and all we do is discuss it on social media where we contest as to who makes the most intelligent, or the most stupid argument.
The list of our sorry approach to issues concerning us could go on and on but only these few examples can make a normal mind really angry. On this one I agree with economist Henry Kachaje when he charged recently that Malawian silence on issues make people look like they are fine when they are not. He said Malawians must feel the pain and demand what they want. In short, he said Malawians must get angry with the state of affairs in their country and take action. Without feeling the pain; without demanding what they want; without getting angry; and without taking action, politicians will continue taking the citizenry for granted.
Let us go back to our man William Lloyd Garrison and his famous quote. Garrison was a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, suffragist, and social reformer. He is best known as the editor of the newspaper The Liberator, which he founded with Isaac Knapp in 1831 and was being published in Massachusetts until slavery was abolished by Constitutional amendment after the American Civil War. He was one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society and involved is a number of bodies fighting against the unfair system then. Through his writing he promoted “immediate emancipation” of slaves in the United States. In the 1870s, Garrison also became a prominent voice for the woman suffrage movement.
The Liberator was a weekly anti-slavery newspaper, and it is in the first issue of the newspaper that Garrison wrote his famous Open Letter to The Public. Angry with the injustices of his time he made a personal promise that under whatever circumstances his writing will continue with the severity of his language since to him there was cause enough for such severity. He promised to be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. He promised not to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. He promised not to equivocate; not to excuse; not to retreat a single inch until he is heard.
To him the apathy of the people was enough “to make every statue leap from its pedestal, and to hasten the resurrection of the dead”.
And I invite you on board with a promise that if our politicians (in government or opposition) keep on crossing the red line with our lives; with our wellbeing; with our health systems; with our education; with our finances; and with everything that matters to make our Malawi move forward; I will live Garrison’s promise.