“So the time has come for us to insist that Africa must have at least one permanent seat on the UN Security Council. And now, as the world faces this global health crisis that has killed millions, torpedoed economies, and disrupted social order, we as Africans have a moral duty to reject second class status in the distribution and production of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccines invented and manufactured in labs where some of the scientists doing such work are Africans.” – Malawi President and SADC chairperson, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera.
There wasn’t a single cloud in the sky as an uninterrupted sea of baby-blue was spread from one horizon to the other, and the warm breeze from the Warm Heart of Africa scented with hyacinths, lilacs and daffodils was gentle as the flutter of air from the passing sparrows.
It was pure magic.
Malawi and her State President and head of Government had just took over the mantle as Southern African Development Community (SADC) as chair-leader.
Proud moment for the country?
Obviously. Proud moment. Me thinks.
The question, however, is that, is the SADC robe that President Chakwera is wearing for and on behalf of Malawi and her people a reset button for the south-eastern African nation formerly and formally known as Nyasaland by its colonial captors, the British Empire?
But let us broaden the horizon of our opinions as others has had other things to think about apart from the glory and grandeur of being at the summit of the regional grouping styled to coordinate the affairs of the southern part of the world’s largest continent.
We may not agree with each other’s opinion in this, but that is the beauty of democracy and its fundamental values and principles – for it gives people the absolute right to hold their own opinion, and express them.
So, there was a notable commotion, people fussing about the MK4 Billion expenditure on the fanfare and the razzle-dazzle that was rolled into that huge hype announcing our arrival as SADC regional leaders.
Was that display of glitz and splendour justified, given our current struggles and deficiencies with resource mobilization and vaccines procurement for COVID-19?
This was one of the few issues fuelling the hullabaloo surrounding the whole SADC summit hosting and the subsequent expenditures thereof.
The much about ado stemmed from the fact that most people were not made aware of the pros and cons.
Our leaders did not do a good job explaining why that whole stack of money to the tune of MK4 Billion was going to be spent on some national PR stunt, while most of our hospitals still can’t afford basic necessities and to be precise, common medicines.
Nevertheless, the hoopla and excitement was surreal and in the end, we all managed to join in, and as a country, we put up a great show.
Kudos to those who were in-charge of making sure that this time around standards were not compromised.
Unlike what we had seen with independence celebrations, there was a touch of class and excellence this time around.
This just shows that Malawians can do and perform exceedingly well whenever we choose to be serious.
We actually have a great pool of talent that can produce results if given a chance.
Any way, that’s a discussion for another day.
Of course to be fair enough, the concerns that were raised over that tab were justified.
However, in my opinion, I am willing to cut the president some slack and give our government some benefit of doubt.
This is a reason why; capacity does not simply show up on a silver platter. Respect is earned and is not cheap.
Take it or leave it, this could turn out to be a great investment for the nation depending on what we decide to do with the opportunities and advantages that come with the high visibility that we we have acquired now.
Like I said, good things don’t just come cheap, we are in a big ecosystem, and to survive, we have to be ambitions and competitive.
We have to constantly refuse to remain on the bottom of the food chain.
Now that we are going to transact on a regional and international level, we need to demonstrate that we are not weak and that we are ready.
So, on that note, let me be very positive and I thus congratulate our president Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera for assuming the chairmanship of SADC.
This is not the president’s achievement only, this is a great honour for our country and every citizen.
Am hopeful that this will turn to be good for all of us in the longer run, and am hoping that Mr President you will prove your critics wrong.
What we all need to understand is that every high earning country or every high performing procurement organization totally depends on high visibility.
Now that the visibility is strategically placed on us and we are at this vantage point, what we choose to do with all these opportunities will totally depend on how ambitious and hungry we are.
We have now acquired an added edge on necessary resources.
Forming beliefs and a course of action normally depends on how cognizant one is.
Now, we will have enhanced Information and it will be readily available on our fingertips.
Quite honestly, I don’t expect more excuses for indecisiveness.
Our president and government are uniquely enabled and they have been given a front row seat to monitor and assess all prevailing trends. This will help us to land at decisions in a far much quicker way.
The leverage that we gain from this will be vital for managing our choices on trade, markets, security and many other factors.
However the excitement should not blind us. The truth is, there is nothing like a magic wand. We will have to earn it fairly and squarely.
It’s how we play and how smart we are that will determine the type of a turn around and gains we earn.
The biggest question however is how we are going to be willing to challenge ourselves to evolve and move forward in a smart way.
Is our leadership ego going to ably morph into a decisive one which is hands on? Or are we going to maintain the status quo?
Am saying this because I have noticed that one of the weaknesses of our President is over-trusting and over-delegating.
This has actually costed him in some way and has caused major setbacks backs on major developments and decisions.
In many cases I personally have sympathized with the president when he displays shock and surprise over certain decisions that his team has made.
Like when important government Bills have grown legs and find themselves in parliament with no due process.
Or, when the number of beneficiaries on a major program (the AIP) have been reported to be cut down without his knowledge, how can we be assured then that our man will not let others to undercut him on an international stage.
Will he continue to allow those who are harbouring their own sinister agendas to take advantage of his tolerance at the expense of his own legacy?
This trend has been ongoing and has continued to weaken the image of the president. What we can not afford and expect now is the continuation of casual indulgence of matters of national interest. We can all agree that the negative outlook as far as things were progressing in the country was growing and had to be stopped.
And this summit managed to put brakes on that growing sentimental craving and wistful yearning for a good change.
It positively helped to pivot our attention from the toxic nostalgia that was clearly settling in most Malawians.
We all needed to hit that reset button quick so that as a nation we could begin to collectively operate from a different setting or even a default mode.
Failure to stop that simmering dissatisfaction and letting the nostalgic emotions to swell without finding a solution to end it could have generated adverse effects and consequences on our push to grow and on our future inspirations
Call me old-fashioned, but I would be having some serious problems to even believe that our leaders could be that naïve to simply pass this opportunity for resetting.
Given how the perceptible decline in public confidence over some of the unfulfilled promises, rise of costs and prices for general consumables and government’s indecisiveness, we needed to revert back to something else.
For those who develop technology software, they will tell you that all advanced operating systems have to be equipped with a default setting to enable the gadget to return to its original functionality with the acceptable standards and performance in case of a malfunction.
Although the danger and the possible downside with resetting the system is that the likelihood of losing all the extra added things is inevitable.
You have to be willing to lose all data including all applications that were installed – That, is the only way you can revert settings to its original version.
I must confess that reverting to the default setting is usually not an easy decision for many to make.
However, it is the very needed choice to make, in order to restore to the original capacity settings.
The option to get rid of what sometimes is valued is not an easy one to make.
Now that the SADC summit managed to redirect our energies and attention to something other than our domestic troubles, our leaders and all of us should take this as a moment of reflection on how we can go back to basics and achieve what’s needed.
It is clear that we have been moving so fast as certain decisions that government was making both on domestic and foreign level were hurried, without proper consultation and consideration of ramifications.
Therefore, this opportunity is very much needed for the nation as it challenges us to make those tough decisions on what we need to lose and what needs to be maintained.
We need a serious recalibration to reset our priorities so that we can ably harness our collective potential and achieve our intended goals.
Yes, we have to come together and rally behind one agenda as this is a moment for us to shine and radiate something that the region has not yet seen.
However, there are so many questions that needs to be answered on domestic front first before we can fully challenge the region moving towards 2063.
Otherwise, the whole exercise would just end up as a fling, a fluke and waste of time and resources.
After spending such a whopping figure, we need to ask ourselves this; what’s in for us?
And then move on to quiz ourselves genuinely and honestly so that we can have clarity on our path forward.
We must reflect enough on our national aspirations in bridging the socio-cultural and economic differences as a model that we can present to the region.
One of the critical mandates for SADC is to develop a reputable, efficient and responsive enabler of regional integration and sustainable governance.
Surely charity has to begin at home first. Ensuring that there is enough safeguarding of some aspects of our national integration should be a priority.
We must deal first with all widespread beliefs and allegations that can be used to tarnish our reputation as a nation.
In particular we need to take a serious look at some of our habits and conduct. We should assess ourselves and honestly answer if we see integrity in our own work. Do we pride ourselves with high ethics and proficiency?
Talking of that, what are we really saying about our systems; do we see them as working in a well-organized and competent way?
Exuding enough seriousness in our quest to end corruption should be our benchmark, a yardstick that should measure Dr Chakwera’s legacy.
Our national integration should not be only about tolerance and national unity.
In a broader context, we will have to showcase our efforts on how we can create a synthesis of intellect and emotion that’s purely focusing on building the capacity to be aware of how best we can control and handle multi national and interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
To lead effectively, President Chakwera will have to come from a position of strength and knowledge.
He has to be empathetic and stand in the shoes of the many people that will be looking for his leadership.
How he sets his priorities locally will always reflect on how serious and unique he is.
The volume of his objectives should spell out his clear agenda on stopping inequalities and barriers for those who are marginalized among ourselves first and then the region as a whole.
I am simply pointing out these issues because I do believe that for one to lead others, there has to be demonstrable and intrinsic traits of leadership.
As you know leadership is about challenging and inspiring others into action. That is why there has to be precedent to follow.
But I must add that action alone without knowledge is nothing.
The Chakwera/Malawi SADC leadership playbook should stem from how best we are able to address these issues on a domestic level.
The SADC region is such a diverse block with much cultural, political and religious differences. We still have pockets of deep seated disinclination towards each other’s beliefs and ideologies sometimes.
Unfortunately these differences at times have been a breeding ground for tensions that have caused so much mistrust and in other instances a possibility of violence or conflict.
For example, how will our president tackle the issue of lake dispute with Tanzania without risking a possible backlash from our neighbours and counterparts.
Will he use a Laissez-faire approach? Is Malawi willing to let this one slide in order to leverage our neighbours for other pressing issues?
How is he prepared for some geopolitical implications that could follow.
With Mozambique becoming a number one trafficking spot for sex and narcotics in the region, What kind of SADC leadership is Malawi going to bring to play given the mistrust that has always existed between our two nations.
I hold the president in very high esteem and I have faith and belief that he will do good and do us proud.
As a parting short, let me sign out by leaving you with some words of immeasurable wisdom on leadership from a wise man from the West, Bill Taylor who in his book, Do you pass the leadership test? aptly said:
“The true mark of a leader is the willingness to stick with a bold course of action — an unconventional business strategy, a unique product-development roadmap, a controversial marketing campaign — even as the rest of the world wonders why you’re not marching in step with the status quo.
“In other words, real leaders are happy to zig while others zag. They understand that in an era of hyper-competition and non-stop disruption, the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for something special.”
I so believe without an iota of doubt that President Chakwera will be zigging while others will be zagging.
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