As is usually the case, whenever President Peter Mutharika comes back from a State visit he appeals to Malawians to be more patriotic. He did the same on his return from China on September 7 2018. From his speech about the success of China, the President was impressed and thought that he would appeal to Malawians to achieve the same success, like China, which relies on discipline, loyalty and patriotism.
When talking about patriotism, in this country, President Mutharika should know better that ordinary Malawians are very patriotic, and it is the leadership and others, mostly in government, who seem to be very unpatriotic. Anybody who thinks this is a wrong assumption should simply look at the reasons there is not much progress in the country. The main reasons seem to be corruption and stealing in government, indiscipline as well as lack of respect for ordinary people.
All this is mostly done by people in the corridors of power. Take a look at cases and suspects of corruption, no villager or man in the street can be found answering such cases which involve lots of money and has a negative impact on development of the country. Therefore, appealing to ordinary Malawians to be patriotic is like preaching to the already converted. The patriotism appeal should target those in the corridors of power who do not care about poor Malawians.
If the poor majority in Malawi were not patriotic, they would by now have relocated to other countries. It is a sacrifice to live in this country with so much hardship. It is so painful to see leaders becoming so rich from taxpayers’ money while the rest of the people cannot even afford a decent, let alone, get medicine at public hospitals. Despite all the problems, Malawians have decided to stay put because they love their country.
Meanwhile, leaders should not take Malawians for granted because they are capable of changing things around, including bringing in a new government. Malawi Congress Party (MCP) primary elections are a good example. Some of the old guard (MPs) have lost giving way to newcomers.
Just like any other African President who attended the recent Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (Foccac), it was expected that President Mutharika would hold discussions, on the sidelines, about funds for development projects in Malawi. This sounds great but what the President and his government should be looking at is how big has the Chinese loans become, and if Malawians will be able to pay back the debt on time, and not burden the future generations. Most leaders seem to have been misled by the fact that it is believed Chinese loans have no strings attached to the money.
Therefore, people borrow anyhow. It might have surprised many African leaders that China has started biting. Currently, the media is awash with stories that due to unpaid loans by Zambia. Reports that have been refuted by Zambia were to the effect that China had taken over management of Zesco [Zambia Electricity Company] to recover the debt. The same will be the case with a Sri Lankan international port, which will be taken due to unsettled debt. Leaders should, by now, have realised that if a loan has no strings attached, it does not mean it is free. It is unfortunate that most of the loans do not directly benefit the poor, but they just suffer with the payback.
Malawians are patriotic, but they just miss good leadership to change the country into a developed one.