Lake Malawi now more likely to be divided

A friend of mine recently posted a distressing message on his Facebook page. He warned Malawians of a possible conspiracy in the region against Malawi on the Lake Malawi saga.

I do not know whether such conspiracy exists or not. I have not talked to him about this story.

Conspiracy stories aside, a much more disturbing issue to me is the fact that we find ourselves today trying to defend a lake that has always been known to be ours. There is a reason why the lake in question has always been named after our country. When we were Nyasaland, the lake was Lake Nyasa; now that we are Malawi everybody knows it as Lake Malawi.

The Lake Malawi issue confirms a very sad reality: democratic countries deserve their leaders. We, Malawians, too deserve every one of those leaders we have. Yes even those who came to office through death of an incumbent. We voted for them as part of a ticket. A psychologist once said people usually choose, and are comfortable with, a leader who is 10 points ahead of them on the IQ scale. The fact that we have mediocre leaders is perhaps a reflection of the mediocrity of Malawi as a nation.

Fishing families on Lake Malawi, Karonga District. Many fisherfolk have said they have been beaten up and detained by Tanzanian police since the dispute over the lake began late last year. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS - See more at:
Fishing families on Lake Malawi, Karonga District. Many fisherfolk have said they have been beaten up and detained by Tanzanian police since the dispute over the lake began late last year. Credit: Mabvuto Banda/IPS – See more at:

If we had real leaders on Capital Hill, the Lake Malawi issue would not have come this far. There is nothing that may be happening now or will happen in future that could not have been predicted. The leadership made fundamental errors in dealing with the lake issue at the very begining.

First, if somebody comes to your house and lays a claim on your kids, furniture or spouse, you do not talk of ‘finding an amicable solution’ to the claim. Once you start talking of negotiations to find an amicable solution, you have opened the door to some form of shared settlement. By its definition, an amicable solution cannot result in total win for either party.

When the Tanzanians started talking of part ownership of the lake, government should have told them off, and should have advised them to take the issue to international justice systems if they wished to do so.

Government made another big mistake by accepting Joaquim Chissano as a mediator. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of liberation movements in this region knows that Chissano is buddies with most high-ranking people in Tanzania. Tanzania is Chissano’s second home. Malawi does not have much sympathy from former freedom fighters in this region because of our support for the failed RENAMO and close relationship with the then apartheid South Africa. Arbitrations by leaders in this region between Malawi and any SADC country are therefore likely to be highly skewed against us.

Because of these unnecessary mistakes by government, the final solution to the Lake Malawi saga is now more likely to favor Tanzania than us. What a shameful resume for the current leadership!

Folks, not everybody can and should occupy high offices in our land. Not everybody can and should be president. In fact, quite frankly, most of those running for office or currently occupying high offices in Malawi would be better off being village headmen/women or Nankungwis in their home villages.

Being a president of a country requires a high sense of responsibility, vision and intellect; none of which have been demonstrated on the Lake Malawi saga. Sometimes it feels like the presidency does not know what a president and his/her responsibilities are. How else do you explain a whole state president, at a news conference, commenting on a fake letter and offering prize money to whoever reveals the author?

I am not sure a fake letter should be drawing attention of the presidency. Even if national security is involved, those statements ought to have been left to a police officer – not even the IG. But apparently, to a president who believes her job description includes distributing maize and official opening of restaurants, bathrooms and toilets, it made perfect sense to comment on this trivial issue.

By the way, at the rate at which she is moving around the country, very soon the money spent on these internal travels will eclipse anything that could be spent maintaining that beleaguered presidential airplane.

Callista Mutharika once described Joyce Banda as ‘wogulisa mandazi’ and went on to say that ‘wogulisa mandazi cannot run a government’. I am told she recently repeated that statement. I do not know if I would go that far but I think Callista is on to something here.

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