Malawi strike: Stop the blame game! Let govt step up to its responsibilities

The ongoing national strike by civil servants throughout Malawi cannot be wished away by the Peoples Party (PP) no matter how much they so wish. PP as the governing party should deal with it to the contentment of the striking workers or at the very least strike a compromise deal if they cannot meet their demands.

Besides demanding a 67 percent salary increment, these civil servants and very patriotic Malawians are simply trying to oppose an insensitive government that devalues the local currency wholesale at the stroke of a pen; calls for austerity measures which they don’t live by while their President Joyce Banda is busy gallivanting the length and breadth of the continent drawing colossal and obscene travel and subsistence allowances while the ordinary citizenry can hardly afford a meal a day.

Yet if reports are true, the President left the country for some inconsequential Africa – South America Summit in Equatorial Guinea denting an even bigger hole in the national purse despite protestations that the Malabo government will meet part of the expenses. However, it is not who foots the bill that matters but the sense of betrayal – where a whole President leaves the country in the midst of a crisis to attend some obscure summit that could have been easily delegated to a Junior Minister.

Civil Servants marching around Capital Hill.
Civil Servants marching around Capital Hill.

It is almost two weeks now since the strike began and as has been reported throughout the country the strike has spread to essential national services such as the health and education sectors which have closed shop whilst commercial and economic activities have also been affected after the closure of national airports leading to the cancellation of international flights into and out of Malawi.

On the same thrust, l shudder to think how many ill, newborn and pregnant citizens have lost their lives during this period in the national hospitals. Also, l am wondering how much battering our already comatose economy has taken from this industrial action. I am sure the generality of Malawians pauperised by the effects of the devaluation are in support of the strike given they can hardly feed themselves or fend for their families.

As l have already said, the PP government cannot wish this strike away. They are the government of the day and they have to sort out this strike and other problems which for the past nine months they stare at ngati akumetedwa ndebvu and claim they were a creation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).  DPP is out of power, Bingu is gone six feet under and will never come to take any blame for the state of affairs and thus the buck stops squarely on the PP government to sort out these problems.

This blatant disregard for human life and insensitivity to suffering displayed by the PP government is proof that this problem goes beyond finger pointing where Peter Mutharika as is alleged is the architect of the strike.  Ostensibly, this appears a result of a crude, grossly incompetent, and clueless administration.

The continued failure to sort out these problems and mitigate the suffering of the general citizenry can only mean one thing – the PP government is evidently inept and deserves not a single other day in office but should pack their bags and GO! Period. Those calls are not misplaced as one writer tried to insinuate in his write up elsewhere.

History shows that the foundation for development is value for human life, the present-continuous consciousness of a society that each person in their midst—poor, rich, weak or strong—is entitled to live and live well.  Malawian leaders arise from among us they don’t come from planet Mars. Their attitudes are simply an extension of our customary predisposition towards one another. They have to own up and give this nation leadership.

This debilitating strike may look very odd given the onset of the democratic dispensation in 1993 where administration after administration had socialised us to believe that the origin of our ills lie elsewhere. In 1993, Bakili said it was Kamuzu, John Tembo and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 2004, Bingu wa Mutharika said it was Bakili Muluzi and the UDF and in 2012 the PP says it was Bingu wa Mutharika and the DPP.

Today we are told Kamphinda Banda has taken money from Peter Mutharika to perpetuate the industrial action. Our political leaders perpetuate this impression that we are some sort of rag doll citizens at the mercy of the next oppressor devoid of any willpower or responsibility over whatever direction we are tossed. Finger pointing is their game.

Of particular interest is how these very same politicians making these uncouthly claims are suddenly a sanitised lot, competent to advise and vouch for the next President donning new cloaks and metamorphosing into voices of the people and champions of the masses yet deep down in their hearts they are a pathetic bunch of sell-outs that blow with the winds of change every time a new government is voted in.

Malawians never seemed to notice, nor mind then. But today they can walk with their heads up high. Section 65 has claimed the first scalp in former UDF, then DPP, then PP member of Parliament, Dishonourable Shaba. On the other hand workers have mobilised, taken to the streets and demand just and legitimate compensation for their services while challenging the government of the day meet their side of the deal and give leadership to national problems.

For anyone therefore to suggest that striking Malawians workers are so docile and can be bought by a few morsels donated by Peter Mutharika is insulting the intelligence of Malawians. The demands of the striking workers are just and legit and the Peoples Party as the government of the day, Joyce Banda as the sitting President has an obligation and responsibility to provide unbridled national leadership and sort out these problems no matter their source of origin.

The blame game will not stick. Without a doubt, it has its benefits albeit short term. It is therapeutic, generates causes for activist careers, good boy tags like my blogger friend Nkhoma in the UK. Whether Kamphinda Banda, or Peter Mutharika the workers want answers. They want to lead decent lives.

The PP and Joyce Banda have to understand that lies and blame games on everyone else other than themselves will not wish away the industrial action. They need to explore solutions, catalyse frank and genuine dialogue with the workers and toughest of all have self introspect to see if they are doing things right a virtue that will earn them confidence of the Malawian public. Such stock-taking of self by the PP has inadvertently a bearing on the 2014 elections.

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