Martyrs Day reflection: From a star performer to a fallen star

‘Nation-states fail because they are convulsed by internal violence and can no longer deliver positive political goods to their inhabitants. Their governments lose legitimacy…` – Failed States, Collapsed States, Weak States: Causes and Indicators by Robert Irwin Rotberg

Malawi’s unending woes are the stuff that hopelessness, anarchy and failed states are made of. In the election year of 2009, towards the very end, is when it all started – very subtly I should add. Industry in general started complaining that Forex was increasingly becoming difficult to come by and this fell on deaf ears.

The government and its cohorts refused to take note. Instead chiefs and other hand clappers were paraded on the state broadcaster declaring to the worried nation that the sun had, from 2004 been on the move. And that by 2010, it had finished its journey. It had now clocked and stopped at noon for Malawi. A star performance indeed, if it had been true.

Mutharika: Bad legacy

The problem is that the sun at midday, especially in the tropics, comes with very high temperatures. And the noon sun in Malawi is no exception. In the case of Malawi, it scorched not only the fuel pumps and reservoirs that were built a long time ago, but also burnt the aid taps, crucial aid which was propping up the economy.

It did not stop there, it also raised political temperatures. But political shake-ups and fallings out of political associates, even those elected via the same ballot paper, are nothing out of the ordinary. In fact they are to be expected in any burgeoning democracy.

Therefore the fallout and subsequent polarization of the Vice President from the ruling party was not too much of a shock. What came as a shock however, was the display of political naivety by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the way it botched the whole thing.

But then one has to remember that President Bingu wa Mutharika was in diaspora much of the first 30 or so formative years of Malawi. One can therefore be tempted to forgive him for his lack of pragmatism.

Leaving political party squabbles aside – which are normal; then we witnessed the thawing of Malawi-Mozambique neighbourly relations due to “nditsekule doko, nditsekule doko adalanditsa barge” type of thinking; then came the high level police infringement on Academic Freedom; the ill-advised expulsion of the British envoy; supreme arrogance in the face of a hitherto friendly civil society that only wanted to help and a general laissez faire approach to important national issues.

From that point on, Malawi nosedived at a meteoric speed. Twenty young people – martyrs and heroes of our day – were killed as the state began seeing enemies and coup plotters behind every innocent gathering.

The economy, no longer buttressed by big brother Britain and Co, took a beating and a battering. It is now on a trolley; heading to the Chief Sister’s station so that she can carry out what in nursing terminology is called “Last Office”. “Lero tilipo, lero tilipo, mawa palibe ifenso” to follow thereafter.

The star performer is no more – we now have a “kadzidzi” – flying around at night, this way and that way, deplaning in cargo terminals – as if he were cargo. Good heavens, have we sunk so low?

Some are calling it a failing state or a failed state, and others are vehemently protesting to these unflattering names. But these are only matters of semantics. So, we will not go there. We will write and only speak of what we know.

What we know is that Malawi, as a state, is:

  • Failing to provide basic drugs in hospitals – UNICEF has had to fly in emergency drugs to a country not officially at war nor hit by natural disaster. The state is failing its children, its women and its sick in general.
  • Failing to pay people their rightful dues on time when it can afford to hire assassins and provide them with expensive medical care when they meet their match. While teachers more or less got used to this phenomena a long time ago, the judiciary for one, is having none of it. The state is failing its employees.
  • As we speak, even high court judges and magistrates have laid down their gavels. The state has failed them. The state is failing to create a conducive environment for justice to be delivered. The state is denying its citizens legal remedy should some one infringe on their rights or should they need to be brought before a court of law and be judged. The State is failing its citizens at large.
  • Failing to provide security. Where does this come from? Practically all dissenters have had to, like in Somalia, recruit private armies for self-protection because when the presidential valet, Paulos Chisale, drives criminals to their homes and offices to carry out horrific acts and they report to the police, no one is apprehended. The State is failing to provide security.
  • When school kids are hit by blunt objects and left very dead on college campuses, no one cares. The state does not give a hoot about the safety of students even on their campus.
  • Failing to reach a compromise with the IMF that will see aid taps re-open again. The president is making nocturnal visits, unexplained for that matter, with a begging bowl to some unrevealed African countries that have their own problems, instead of grasping the reality and acting for once, like a man. The state president is failing everybody.
  • Failing to repeal several bad laws passed by parliament in blatant abuse of the parliamentary majority and the trust that is supposed to come with that. Human rights and good governance are a luxury for the select DPP few. The state is failing to guarantee human rights, as enshrined in the constitution, to all and sundry.
  • Failing to admit that it is being led to an abyss by a man who while fitting the definition of a dictator to the bone, develops fits when the name dictator is dangled in his face. The state is failing to be honest even with itself.

I could, as I always say, go on and on.

I sincerely hope, for my people’s sake, that all that I have described above are the symptoms of a very successful state. If I have failed to outline attributes of a successful state, please bear with me I have a good but sad reason.

It is because Malawi is now a failed state; a collapsed state; a weak state or a failed whatever. Feel free to take your pick but please, kindly leave the semantics to linguists, scholars and learned authors like Robert Irwin Rotberg. What we should be talking about is: what and when should we do something about this? Should we wait for another three years? Will there be anything left?

The answer is living in each of us.

Q.E.D.

*Wise One from the East

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