Malawi’s past decade: Dotted by spectacular, amazing ups and many downs

Looking back at the past decade (2010-2019), makes me smile, cry, but also clap hands at our great big Jehovah God, who despite our human failings, He ushers us through other doors.

Protestors carrying placards

The just ended decade 2010-2019, which was Malawi’s second decade as a democracy, was spectacular in many respects; however, the decade also saw the country suffer many, if not more downs than ups.

On the political front such a trajectory led to the resurgence of the Malawi Congress Party  (MCP) on the one hand as a force to be reckoned with, and the newly established UTM Party on the other. These political parties proved to be big challengers to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)  under Peter Mutharika. This caused the DPP to employ strategies for power retention through the biggest vote fraud Malawi has ever experienced in its 55-year existence as an independent nation.

The highlights in Malawi for the decade started with boy wonder economic genius President Bingu wa Mutharika being lauded for the farm input subsidy program (known as FISP). The program that was launched in the previous decade, worked wonders and turned Malawi from a beggar to a donor nation; with donations made in Africa and to Haiti in its time of great need. Lauded by the United Nations, the FISP boosted household food security, literary halting hunger in Malawi. Bingu became the first Malawian leader elected as Chair SADC and African Union Commission Chair.

Upon his sudden death in 2012, Joyce Banda ascended to the presidency and became Malawi’s and SADC’s first female president and Africa’s second female president. Her rise to power led to the appointment of Malawi’s first female Chief Justice Anastasia Msosa. It also ushered in numerous female appointments, and social programs favorable to women and vulnerable people such as the reduction in infant and maternal deaths.

In the sports arena, the Malawi Queens continued their rise to stardom and despite local recognition, the team has continued to dunk in the points for Malawi. The team ended in sixth place in the 2019 World Cup (second to South Africa on the continent).

In a Parliamentary vote 131 to 2, lawmakers on February 14, 2017, made changes to the Constitution that removed the legal loophole which had allowed children between 15 and 18 to marry, with parental consent. Two years earlier, in 2015 the Marriage, Divorce, and Family Relations Law had increased the minimum age of marriage from 15 to 18. The change to the Constitution harmonized Malawi’s law on child marriage. These legal provisions led among others to the activism of Dedza district Senior Chief Inkosi Kachindamoto who by June 2015, had annulled 330 youth marriages. These marriages affected 175 girl wives and 155 boy fathers.

Malawi also witnessed the loss of numerous high-profile persons. Among them was Aleke Banda in April 2010. The decade also witnessed the demise of the remaining three of Malawi’s first ambassador’s, Ambassador Tim Mangwazu, Ambassador Nyemba Mbekeani, and Ambassador Professor David Rubadri. All four were freedom fighters for Malawi’s independence and spent detention time in Southern Rhodesia (current Zimbabwe).

A dark blemish for the country during the decade is the heinous abduction and murders of persons with albinism, coupled with the rise in violence against women that sometimes also ends in death. These human rights abuses have caught the attention of international human rights organizations such as the UN, Oxfam and the Save the Children Fund and others.

Cupping the decade in the uglies roster is the massive voter irregularities during the May 2019 Tripartite Elections that resulted in incumbent President Peter Mutharika being declared the winner and his DPP also amassing most Parliamentarians. The declaration of the results by MEC Chair Justice Jane Ansah was made amid 147 queries that have resulted in the ongoing Constitutional Court case.

Mingled with the murky waters of election fraud is the swamp of widespread unchecked corruption by persons linked to or organizations controlled by the ruling party, looting of government coffers, and the escalation of violence against people deemed to belong to other political parties.

The Police on its part has descended the stairs into the realms of a politically manipulated entity that has either harassed hoards of the citizens or played the spectator during mob justice or looting of business enterprises.

Malawians flowed onto the streets in protest of their stolen votes, the two main political parties MCP and UTM took the voter fraud case to court for adjudication and the looming uncertainty has stretched into 2020.

The runaway train threatens to derail Malawi’s democracy. Again, the question must be asked, are we meeting our goal that boldly declared that, inter alia, “By the year 2020, Malawi as a God-fearing nation will be secure, ecologically balanced, democratically mature, environmentally sustainable, self-reliant with equal opportunities for and active participation by all, having social services, vibrant cultural and religious values, and being a technologically driven middle-income country.”

Such was the long-term ambitious and laudable goal Malawians met and set for the country; regrettably, the country falls dismally short on all the segments.

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Damie
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Damie

On the loss of high profile persons, the writer could have mentioned Bingu, the late republican president who died while serving the country.