Picture this: Your house and the entire town has been invaded by frogs. They are everywhere, in your bedroom, in your bathtub, in you lounge, in the kitchen, on your veranda, on your favourite relaxing couch… frogs everywhere! You are frying some tender chunks of T-bone steak, and alas, three frogs jump into the frying pan and now you have a mixture of beef and frogs. Imagine something that disgusting.
Then comes a person offering a solution; “I leave to you the honour of setting the time for me to pray for you and your officials and your people that you and your houses may be rid of the frogs.” What would be your response? If it was me, I would tell this God-sent prophet that please pray now nownow! But guess the response from this person who had the authority over an entire kingdom -“Tomorrow”, Pharaoh said.
In other words, “I and my people desire to live with the frogs one more night. How crazy and what a ridiculous choice! Moses, the man who had offered to pray and rid of the frogs replied, “It will be as you say.”(Exodus 8:9 & 10). Moses left, and the king and his entire kingdom spent another night with the frogs. The End.
Unfortunately it is not. The story continues more than four thousand years later in a country called Malawi. Bakili Muluzi, then president, when launching Vision 2020 acknowledged that “in the absence of long term shared vision, it will be very difficult to make meaningful progress.” That was 1998. One would think there would be a sense of urgency and progress in aligning all our national policies, actions and efforts towards this long-term shared vision. Sadly, no. We discarded the vision and preferred a few more nights with frogs.
All the succession governments have preferred petty projects like distributing cows, goats, building houses for individuals, distributing cement and iron sheets, distributing cheap fertilizer expensively – or any short-term projects with no long term sustainability mechanisms. In other words, our leaders and we, the followers still prefer “one more night with frogs”.
The Green Belt Initiative – a brilliant dream shared by the late president Bingu wa Mutharika. “We will not only feed ourselves, but also become the bread basket of Southern Africa”, he challenged us. very possible, quite an achievable dream. But sadly, we still preferred one more night with the frogs of hunger as we prioritized FISP over a long term solution – irrigation farming.
During the May 2014 presidential campaign, all the candidates looked were very wise. The DPP manifesto even promised to set up a long-term planning council. Two years down the line, we are still consulting on “how to set up a national planning council”. No sense of urgency – one more night with the frogs of mediocrity, vision-less direction and of course, short-term projects.
“We will reform the public sector to make it more efficient and effective. This will be one of our key priorities”, we were promised. Almost two years down the line, “learning trips” have been made far and wide, a beautiful report produced. Very little progress on the ground. One more night with the frogs.
We have been offered help several times to get rid of our frogs, and we know they are a nuisance, they are derailing our economic progress. They have left us hungry again, most ADMARC depots are dry – yet we know had we heavily invested in the Green Belt Initiative ten years ago, had we made the public service reforms two decades ago, had we decisively dealt with corruption roots ruthlessly, had we diversified our export base, we wouldn’t be panicking today. The economy wouldn’t be in such a sorry state. But no, we did not, and might not take any action. We are comfortable with “one more night with the frogs”. What a poor choice.