Malawi: Poor country and failed state

According to Wikipedia, common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of the issues to do to with operations of government; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality and sharp economic decline.

Poorest Malawi: Bin, Bathroom, Toilet, Playground - All in one place

Poorest Malawi: Bin, Bathroom, Toilet, Playground – All in one place

As a country, Malawi is dangerously exhibiting these traits, or fast drifting towards attaining a failed state status. To say our public delivery system is in a shambolic state would be an understatement. Just a month ago, Blantyre Water Board avoided with a whisker a fiasco where consumers threatened to smear its offices or anything BWB with human excreta for poor service delivery.

Only about 10 percent of the country’s population has access to electricity, but even those enjoy the services only just half the time. Electricity supply is intermittent like disco lights that no serious investor would risk their fundsinvesting in practical darkness. Instead of improving its services, ESCOM concentrates on serenading political parties and politicians with donations.

Massive slums are just a street away from the Central Business District (CBD) of Blantyre, our much touted commercial hub, and a majority of urban dwellers use pit latrines, not flush toilets. The road network – including the main road linking Blantyre and Lilongwe -is littered with Crater Lake type potholes that have caused some terrible accidents to road users. This is not to mention the more than two thirds of our countrymen who are illiterate.

This is just Malawi at glance. Are we surprised therefore when others are using these pathetic indicators to rank us as the poorest nation in the world? As human beings, it is natural to be defensive when we are portrayed in negative light. It is thus normal to see some “patriotic Malawians” coming with guns blazing criticizingsuch ‘negative portrayals’ as just a concoction of a bunch of lazy technocrats who have just read many books. It is perfectly okay.

Whichever way people choose to look at this, the buck still stops at Malawi and its leadership. What are we going to do as a people and what is the leadership prepared to do, or rather what is it capable of doing? When announcing his arrival on the presidential scene, the President of the now poorest country in the world, Peter Mutharika came with pomp, promising a business unusual approach. He said his is not vindictive politics like we have seen in the past.

He promised a breath of fresh air embodied in unity of purpose, economic development, social inclusiveness and national reconciliation. He promised rule of law and security of life and property for Malawians. He said his country would put delivery of social services on top of its agenda; accountability and a two-way street flow of information whereby Malawians would be appraised on the workings of his government at every turn to loop in their feedback.

Much as it should be appreciated that he has only been in office for less than a year, at least he should have demonstrates capability to deliver within the first months of assuming office.A Chichewa proverb ‘chonona chifumilakudzila’ comes into sharp perspective here. In fact, what happens in the first 100 days of office is an accurate indicator of what people will experience under your government in the next five years. And what did we see?

The first presidential duties for President Peter Mutharika just after assuming office included the firing of top government officials (without following procedures), and replacing them with homeboys, some of whom unqualified and incompetent. The country has run into some serious security breakdown, which has resulted into loss of life and property.

In many instances, armed robbers are targeting and have killed foreign nationals prompting the Chinese investors to threaten to pull out if Capital Hill does not wake up from its slumber and do something.

Donor support that was withheld due to cashgate doesn’t appear to be coming back anytime soon. Donors are not satisfied with how the Mutharika government is handling the issues to do with the infamous looting of public money. This includes selective justice, or using cashgate to victimize political opponents. The German government has actually provided funds for government to investigate the MK92 billionscandal, which took place from 2005, but there is still no real direction and progress from the DPP government.

This and many other episodes have only underlined the fact that President Peter Mutharika and his DPP were catapulted to power least prepared. They are obviously clueless about Malawi and it is evidently showing. Unless something is quickly done, Malawi will continue to slide into a cesspool of nepotism and tribalism as that is a default trajectory of a DPP government. You only have to take it down to history.

The Democratic Progressive Party will continue to find trouble to find its rhythm. It will perpetually be jinxed by legitimacy issues because it came to power not through the ballot but through the courts and at the instigation of MEC (The MEC Chairperson Maxon Mbendera is cousin to President Mutharika). It was simply not ready to deal with the pressures that come with governing and political power.

It is the trouble of gaining power through, not campaigning, but palm greasing election officials. Now you know why the DPP vehemently refused to have a ballot recount; why up to know nobody has been arrested for causing those MEC warehouses fires. It’s just a simple case of we-told-you-so…

  • Hastings Kandoje is a political, social and economic commentator. He writes for Nyasa Times in his personal capacity
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Gladson Monjeza
The writer is just too critical and with baseless and misinformed arguments. As much as I wouldn’t agree with the writer, I think we Malawians have a problem. We always blame our leaders for issues that we can handle ourselves. We are good at highlighting problems than suggesting solutions to the problems we have. We shouldn’t expect Peter Mutharika to solve our personal issues…….we need to come up with solutions to our problems not blaming our leaders all the time. We can hardly progress as a country if we keep on blaming the leaders all the time. Let’s try to… Read more »

Iwe Kandoje, chonde don’t poison our minds with your false information. Mbendera is not a relation of Mutharika in any way. And to those who have believed this rubbish please, go back to your senses this is cheap propaganda from the DEVIL’s agent by the name of Kandoje. Kandoje the Bible says “Though Shall not give false testimony” And that’s what you have done. To Hell with your Lying toungue from the pit of darkness. Mbendera si mmbale wa Peter. Ndi mmbale wa inetu. Tamuoneni!!!!!


Banana republic

govt can only do what is can based on a budget-of which 40% used to be provided by donors. we have a very narrow tax base based on PAYE and the rest of society (vendors, villagers etc) don’t pay any taxes!! so where do think delivery of services will come from?? 80% of the people are crying for services but pay no taxes!! how crazy is that??? now factor in that of the little budget money that is there another 80% is stolen by civil servants/cashgate/fake allowances etc.!!! and you are complaining??? go look in the mirror my fellow Malawian!!… Read more »
Why is Malawi the poorest country? Answer: because of tribalism. Mbendera, being a cousin to APM, had to declare APM winner of presidential elections even if he was not. And most people hated JB for her embracing the north, a region many non-northern Malawians tribally distaste. As a result Malawians have failed to put the right people in presidential leadership. What then can be done? As Malawians are so tribalistic, the country as it stands now will never have the right leadership at president level. This means the country will get worse or remain the poorest for ever. The solution… Read more »
i remember in his manifesto he said malawi has everything it needs to develop as people of egypt did with nailo river we will do with lake malawi and malawi will no longer be a consuming nation but producing country and it will be a food basket for africa. It’s almost now a year since he asumed the office of president bt nothing z showing that he will live to his promises now kwacha z not stable bt in his promises he said the problem z not floatation of our currency bt wt z taken out of it we don’t… Read more »
One of the best article I have ever read on here. This is reality folks whether we like it or not. Sadly the bootlickers and hand clappers will dismiss this article full of facts. We have leadership that is not only corrupt but also clueless. I wonder how any sane investor would come to Malawi where security is non existent and infrastructure is in shambles. Sadly we have people in this country who actually think APM is doing a great job. How sad is that? This government has failed us. There are no policies to get us out of the… Read more »

It is an achievement to be the poorest of the poor. So let us go and celebrate for this achievement. Democracy, a government of the people, for the people and by the people. The people have spoken. Let us live by it.


Indeed we are the poorest country on planet earth.The rason is we are not hardworking ,we always look for easy money and we behave as if someone owes us something yet we are the ones who owe our country our services.


Iam totaly agree with you Mr writer.

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