It has come to my attention, and I’m sure to that of many, that anything vilifying the country’s Head of State or its Office makes good news. On the other hand, anything seemingly in good taste of the person of the President is being equated to a search for some attention, a kind of self-invitation to dine and wine with a regime that is going awry. But I will speak all the same.
First, I would like to call the people’s attention to one simple anecdote of how the larger part of the situation has been of our own making.
When democracy came in, all of a sudden our attention switched from being a people that respected collective ownership and responsibility of our affairs to a gathering that began to equate taking of others’ opinion as a sign of weakness. It was within the rut of such jaundiced reasoning that, all of a sudden, men and women began to breed like crabs, and from a population of 9.9 million then, we shot ourselves to a now-staggering 17 million.
Within that, we lost sense of stewardship over things that would sustain us or the generation we were busy building. At the dawn of democracy, money became the focus of greatest attention, and business, the means through which money is made, became the in-fashion thing. Individualism took centre stage, vandalism a favourite pastime. And within the madness, our forests were invaded, and a nation that had prided itself in agriculture accepted that it could continue in that path even in the context of a dwindling forest cover. Water shortage has now become an annual carnivore.
Before 1994 the language was that a great people have to exercise patience to deserve; the profit mentality today has brought in the language of business—if you take time, you are nothing but inefficient and infertile.
Circa twenty years down the line, we have seen men and women, common sense and remorse thrown to the dogs, plundering public resources with that buffalo savagery, spewing such stench as to cause the donors to flee. All of a sudden, the reputation we had had of being a generous, honest example of civilization crumbled before our own eyes. And we are now faced with one painful truth: to make our own affairs and rise as a people resilient or together perish and give others storylines for best-sellers.
As if all this hasn’t been enough, in January this year we witnessed nature lunging into us on a scale never seen before. This, I’m sure was exacerbated by the fact that we had stripped bare our hills and mountains in search for easy money.
Today, almost everything down on its knees, anger has soured, and the leadership is expected to fix it all in no time at all. We have our own understanding of how this fixing should work, and we have no respect for protocol or stages in policy planning and implementation. And what is worse, with the desperation and pressure, our hearts are boiling and understandably, our mouths shooting fire, spitting invective after invective. The President has become the target. He too has the pressure, in fact, huge one, but though we can vomit fire, the President must never do likewise. Reason: we elected him and we must say anything to him and in any manner, and he must never respond. He must never respond because Presidents must never feel angry.
I have heard stories of respectable church men and women fighting in church, stories of congregations demolishing synagogues to share the spoils afterwards, or one church conducting two services—morning service for Pastor A and his sheep, afternoon service for Pastor B and those obedient to his calling.
But it is important that we should understand that as human beings, we are bound to make mistakes, and at times react in a way that might scare others. But what is important as a nation is to understand that we have a common goal, and where we seem not to agree, there is a language we can use to bring ourselves back to a common understanding. If I have great respect for MCP it is all down to this great philosophy on the power of talking.
The civil society, and their leaders get compensated when slapped while the villager who receives a stray bullet during demonstrations wait and wail in his grave for his justice, had already announced an impending demonstration and this even before seeking clarification from the President. Others even went as far as asking for him to stand down. Our Law does not guide us in that fashion, and it is a great principle of our Supreme Law that no person should be condemned unheard. The President got angry and the President was wrong.
Today, we have people who profess to possess the finest of art and knowledge yet cherish not that golden moral scale that helps us predict the magnitude of damage our language can cause the other party. This man we nail with our pen and language is our President, a husband, a member of his Church and Head of State. I could proffer the same defence even for those taunted for being in the opposition. We are not called to demean others; we are called to use civility and humility to iron out our differences. Leaders could wrong us, yes, but there should be a limit on what we say to and of our leaders and elders. There is a language we cannot use even to our own servants; surely there should be a language we must never use to our leaders and elders.
There is a very big problem before us, yes, but we need to put our minds together for the way forward. It takes ages to build that which we can destroy with a single kick of anger. Of course, I’m not condoning that our leaders should bang tables when talking to us; I am pleading for the right manner of responding to our leadership when so they do. I’m pleading for higher reasoning lest we should destroy even the last that is keeping us going. We are in a time where we cannot afford a slight slip; in fact, if ever there was a time we needed to walk together as one people, that time is now. And I thought this is what it meaneth ‘a God-fearing nation’?
*Kingsley Jika is publishing editor at University of Malawi’s Chancellor College writing in personal capacity.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :