As Malawi burns and reels from animosities stirred to the surface because of a botched-up election, the ready and steady answer to the question of who will heal this land in an apparently religious country like this is to assign that responsibility to God or Allah or any of the other deities than Malawians worship. Indeed, I have seen many a national prayer event and heard many a prayer for the nation, all asking supernatural powers to intervene and cure the country from tribalism, corruption, avarice and impunity.
To a practical governance professional like me, however, these sentiments may be popular but they are also stupid. They may be pious and convenient, but they are also lazy. They do not impress me because all they are is a way of raising the white flag and surrendering. This approach to solving our national problems is essentially an indolent resignation and a claim that we as a people are incapable of solving the problems that the country is facing. It is a way of shirking the responsibility off our shoulders as a people and justifying our indifference and inaction.
I might not be a religious prophet or a theologian, but I know one thing that is true: folding our hands on over our chests and turning over the governing of this nation to a deity is not the answer. The deities that Malawians ascribe worship to all have one thing in common on this matter. They expect Malawians to use their hands, their intelligence and their industry to solve their problems. There will be no supernatural intervention.
At the risk of being accused of being accused of being an unbeliever, I would like to suggest that the responsibility to heal this land is in our hands.My faith, as far as human governments are concerned, is in the institutions created to actualize our democracy and I believe it is through these that we can heal our land.The responsibility to make these institutions work is to be found in the patriotic spirit of anyone who calls himself a Malawian.
The responsibility to heal Malawi should be felt by every man and woman who were elected as members of parliament, and by every judge and magistrate who make up that part of the three arms of government – the judiciary. Indeed, the responsibility to heal Malawi lies also in the hands of its leadership- the executive, the presidency itself.
As I write this, I am aware that the presidency and the executive have already shirked this responsibility, preferring to do a lot of talking without any signs of walking that talk. The executive, it seems to me, has decided to act like a political party, only interested in gratifying a certain group of voters rather than implementing governing strategies that will unify and heal the whole country. We therefore will do well to dismiss the executive for now as a possible or potential entity that will rise to the challenge of healing this land.
The Judiciary, as a second element of the governance puzzle can be said to be already doing its part in hearing and scrutinizing the issues as presented to them in the ongoing constitutional case.
This leaves one element remaining that seems indifferent to the plight of the nation, and yet hold enormous power under the edicts of our democracy to be able to do something about it: Parliament.
To understand the concept of parliament and its responsibilities in times like these, it is probably necessary to first understand how its role has been viewed in mature democracies over the years.
In the United States of America, long before even before Congress (the U.S. house of representatives and the Senate, tantamount to parliament in Malawian Democracy) existed, one of the American founding fathers, James Madison, saw that it would be important for legislators to double as investigators, in part to keep the president and the executive branch honest.
To balance the government’s control over the citizens it governed, Madison wrote, Americans had to “in the next place oblige it to control itself”. Thus, although the U.S. Constitution doesnot explicitly spell out Congress’s investigative authority, it has the authority inferred as part of the “all legislative powers” granted in Article 1, Section 1.
In the United States, most of the investigations that Congress conducts are carried out by standing committees and subcommittees, which typically have responsibility over certain areas, such as banking or intelligence matters, and conduct investigations as part of their regular duties.
A lot of different things can trigger an investigation. Many of them are reactions to big events, such as the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. In other instances, investigative reporting by the news media may lead members of Congress to conduct a probe. In 2015, for example, stories about the death of a Marine Corps veteran who’d been prescribed multiple drugs while under Veterans Administration care, led to a Senate investigation, which the following year concluded that the VA didn’t have adequate internal safeguards to protect patients.
The reason I am taking the trouble to give this example is to demonstrate the stark contrasts between the role of the legislature in the places where our democracy came from, and here at home where those borrowed principles are supposed to be implemented.
Here at home, Parliament doesn’t seem to really know that it has the power and the responsibility to keep government in check and to protect the people from the government. Parliament in Malawi, instead of considering it its responsibility to investigate the riots happening at the instigation of government, to investigate exactly what is happening with the appointment of the Inspector General of police, or indeed to investigate the allegations made against the president or the chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission, it prefers to pass such responsibility to the courts or worse still to Non-governmental organizations such as the Human Rights Defenders Coalition(HRDC).
I do not understand how MPs that are happy to give testimony in court and talk to reporters and to everyone else about how the country is going through a baptism of fire all because of the botched-up election, can fail to see that these are the very matters they should be investigating in the chamber.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :