Ever since the first democratic elections that ushered in the UDF government in 1994 after three decaded of MCP one party rule, Malawi has embraced multi-party democracy in a way that not many African countries have managed to achieve. Africa is a place where democracy in the multi-party sense is either dysfunctional or non- existent.
Most African countries are de-facto one-party states where dominant ruling parties continue to control political and economic power at the expense of real democracy. In some cases, the “other political players” are too squeezed, suffocated, and insignificant to play any meaningful role in shaping national political discourse.
Malawi is a relatively small country in terms of population and geographical size if compared to other African countries. However, this nation of 18 million people affectionately known as the “warm heart of Africa” has set an enviable example in the area of multi-party democracy that could essentially work to the country’s economic advantage.
The country has five vibrant political parties namely MCP, UDF, DPP, PP and the newly registered UTM that will seek to make its maiden electoral appearance in the May tripartite elections. These are five distinctive political parties that will provide Malawians with clear political choices at the polls in May to choose the government that will chart the country’s economic direction in the next five years.
The only blight on Malawi’s exemplary system of multi-party democracy has been the fluidity with which politicians jump from ship to ship in search of elusive political success. While it is the democratic right of every Malawian politician to choose a political party of their choice, the trend and rate at which this has been happening is worrying.
This culture of political prostitution and expediency has left many a Malawian politician with very little or no integrity to their political names. As a direct consequence, the moral fabric of Malawian politics has been left hanging precariously on very thin threads. Even the Section 65 ruling of the Malawian constitution has failed to act as a deterrent to this unscrupulous habit because politicians continue to change parties willy-nilly.
Every time the fortunes of a political party start to wane, or the star of the party leader starts to fade, we do not see the high-profile leadership behind the vision of that party collectively taking time to introspect. Instead, what we see is this wanton jumping of ship to join whichever party is considered to fare better at the relevant political cycle.
Sometimes politicians tactically hibernate for some time often citing “personal reasons” only to re-surface again at opportune moments to board the bandwagon of the party of the moment. There are politicians (names abundant) who have had more than four party memberships in their political lives. This lack of political integrity and principles is not health for Malawian multi-party democracy. It is reducing the quality of political discourse.
But why this close analysis of the Malawian body politic? Functional multi-party democracy and the rule of law is what creates political stability in a country. Political stability is what attracts and sustains investment, both local and foreign direct investment commonly known as FDI.
Local investment is just as important as foreign investment because both demonstrate faith in local political system and rule of law. It is politicians who run countries the world over and Malawi is no exception. It will be important therefore, that whichever party will emerge as the winner in May wins clearly, fairly, convincingly and most importantly, has the political leadership with the integrity and visionary capacity to take Malawi to the next level of economic development and position the country as a credible economic player on the African continent to competitively bid for FDI.
The country’s pace-setting agility on multi-party democracy, could also set the pace on economic development on the African continent. 2019 will be gobbled up by the electoral carnival and the real work will only start shape up from 2020 onwards. The ten-year period between 2020 and 2030 will be key for Malawian economic development.
In the next series of this weekly column we will look at Malawi’s key economic sectors that could position the country as a major economic powerhouse on the African continent. Africa is the next largest single market after Europe and China, and the latter has demonstrated how local consumption is key to local economic prosperity. Malawi has the natural resources and political climate conducive for a major economic take-off!
Silence Chihuri is an Investment Consultant and Fellow of the Centre for Policy Research and Development run jointly by the University of the West of Scotland and the African Forum Scotland. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on Email: [email protected] T @SChihuriFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :