Talking Blues: Prof Kamchedzera interrogates Chakwera’s vexation with the Gordian Knot

A “Gordian knot” is a conundrum denoting a complex or unsolvable problem. The term’s origin is traced to Alexander the Great who, in 333 B.C., marched into the Phrygian capital of Gordium in modern-day Turkey.

Kamchedzera : Chakwera has found himself face-to-face with a massive Gordian knot.

Upon arrival, history says he encountered an ancient wagon, its yoke tied with “several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.

According to folklore, the wagon had once belonged to Gordius, the father of the celebrated King Midas of the Midas’ Touch fame and an oracle had decreed that whosoever unravelled its elaborate knots would rule entire Asia.

Impetuous Alexander the Great was instantly determined to untie the Gordian knot. He wrestled with it for a while, to no avail.

Not one to take no for an answer or accept failure, he paused, re-strategised, then proclaimed,

“It makes no difference how they are loosed!”

Quickly, he drew his sword and with a single stroke, sliced the knot in half.

Evan Andrews (historian) acknowledges another version where Alexander the Great simply pulled out the lynchpin running through the yoke which loosened the knot enough to unfasten.

Whatever happened, it was agreed that he had solved the ancient puzzle.

A fortiori when that same night Gordium was rocked by a thunder and lightning storm, Alexander and his men interpreted it as a sign that Alexander had pleased the gods.Furthermore, as per the oracle, he conquered Egypt and large swaths of Asia before his death at age 32.

Thus the phrase “Gordian knot” was born.

Now delivering the moon he promised during the campaign is something President Chakwera is discovering to be a complex and intractable challenge. To borrow from the Greek myth above, Chakwera has found himself face-to-face with a massive Gordian knot.

Luckily for him, Malawi has no shortage of wise men and women.

One such is Professor Garton Kamchedzera who on the twilight of the year 2020 scrutinised the knot vexing Chakwera and suggested some solutions.

The professor’s mini-thesis is over 5,000 words, and I can’t reproduce it in full. I have therefore picked areas which could help Chakwera loosen the Gordian knot.

Kamchedzera set out to explore whether the servant leadership touted by Chakwera would actually put Malawi on a different development trajectory towards a better Malawi, for all.

“By the end of 2020, servant leadership would catalyse Malawi to defeat the power of convenience-preserving public functionaries and public resource-siphoning cliques” is Kamchedzera’s hypothesis.

He outlined his prejudices and assumptions, namely that:

  •      politics is inherently dirty, and soils whosoever walks into its slime.
  •      “Dyera” is the dominant political ideology in Malawi.
  •      Bakili’s lost decade successfully killed professionalism and hard work in the civil serviceand
  •      Today’s civil service is merely for governmental convenience, easy access to public resources, with service delivery as a matter of charity.

All these have resulted in sleaze, mediocrity, and governmental ineffectiveness, while the masses suffer and sink deeper into poverty and varying degrees of despair.

He then touched on the two judgments in the 2019-2020 presidential election case which he thought signalled “a path of expected duty and accountability-based standards for public functionaries towards the aspirations envisaged in the country’s Constitution”.

His hope, his says, increased when the Electoral Commission followed the judgments, pertinent statutory provisions, and the Constitution to implement fresh elections that made him feel proud as a Malawian.

Come the new national leadership, its “servant leadership” mantra struck a chord in the professor’s mind that this “servant leadership” thing was a potent cure for the “dyera”ideology.

Indeed, to many Malawians, servant leadership, uniting Malawians, prospering together, ending corruption, and the rule of law sounded like what the proverbial doctor had prescribed.

Since the proof of the pudding is in the eating, Kamchedzera set out to observe, at least for five months, whether expectations would be met.

He foresaw a conflict. A battle between servant leadership on the one hand, and governmental convenience and easy access to public economic resources on the other was unavoidable because “servant leadership” is incompatible with the “dyera” ideology.

After observation, listening, and following developments, the professor suggests that the old order has successfully defeated the notion of servant leadership.

The President and the Vice President have been lulled into a comfort and dependency complex that traps, makes them unsure, yet enjoying power.

How? By “kuweta” or “taming” the President through:

  1. a)   imperial comforts, privileges, protocol, and esteem which have made an imperial figure out of the would-be servant leader;
  2. b)   capturing the state of the nation address by making it focus on governmental sectors rather than “Tonse” priority results;
  3. c)   advising the President to have State House politically appointed advisors when under Malawi’s Constitution, the Cabinet is “responsible for advising the President”. As per the professor, State House advisors just enable “family and political cliques easy access to public economic resources and make the President vulnerable and dependent on cliques”; and
  4. d)   ignoring or slowing down critical areas of reform.

On their part, the professor notes that in the battle above, Chakwera and Chilima made four fundamental errors. These are:

  1. a)   naivety in assuming that public institutions would be professional and effective;
  2. b)   ignoring the instrumentality of the contract in perpetuating convenience-based government and easy access to public economic resources;
  3. c)   relying on government-like, even retired and tired public servants under previous regimes, to deliver the Hi-5 and associated Agenda; and
  4. d)   ignoring that Malawi has long had family-based patriarchal and capitalist cliques that have corrupted previous leaders.

What should have been Chakwera’s strategy?

Kamchedzera says a more robust “Kuchotsa” or “Removal” of “rubble as redefined in Chakwera’s speech of 5 November 2020 on the MSCE leakage scandal.  Rather than playing to the gallery as he often does, Chakwera should take targeted action on the government machinery wherein the devil lies.

How? By:

  •      Clearing old and new rubble at five levels namely the presidential, Cabinet, MDA, community, and national levels and knowing that rubble will not necessarily be removed by controlling officers because some of them are the “rubble” that needs to go! Trash cannot clear trash!
  •      Making the most of institutions like the Ombudsman, the Anticorruption Bureau etc.
  •      Doing the needful, i.e. making and effecting hard decisions with the requisite urgency rather than the shilly-shallying approach favoured by Chakwera for which he was admonished by the clergy at Archbishop Ziyaye’s funeral.

Further, clearing the rubble should have been a priority legislative matter so that the new Boards operate with law-based criteria and benchmarks for firing and hiring.  Introducing a code of ethics for the civil service would have also helped.

Can “servant leadership” still win the battle?

Kamchedzera is cautiously optimistic. He thinks the likelihood of success still exists. Its howeverproblematic because public roles are regarded as a “national cake” to be shared and exclude others.

Further, this has been exacerbated by Chakwera’s unwitting or intentional infusion of his own rubble through appointments and willingness to be “tamed”.

With five months gone, while Chakwera can now boast of on-the-job experience, the clock is ticking and the masses are asking: does Chakwera have the grit to swiftly draw his sword and with a single stroke, slice the Gordian knot?

One thing is clear: talking will not cut it. Action, action and more action is what will unravel the Gordian knot.

Happy New Year!

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1 year ago

garbage in garbage out…..leadership iyi ndi mbola…..aphera njiru awa……. amalawi agwila madzi aphutsi…… bolanso ku igipito komwe kuja…… gule kwao

Ku lumbadzi
Ku lumbadzi
1 year ago

The professor is entitled to an opinion as you are,no need to be so bitter ,you don’t expect everyone to blow the trumpet,when there’s no need to,Tonse Alliance who I voted for,accepted they have only been in government for six months,but signs not very promising,there seems to be endless talk,but little action on the ground,the only consolation the booting of despicable,thieving DPP.

Zonse West
Zonse West
1 year ago
Reply to  Ku lumbadzi

You have no idea have massively these saints and pastors are thieving..

Ku lumbadzi
Ku lumbadzi
1 year ago
Reply to  Zonse West

Mines a reply to comments by kashma,who doesn’t seem to be very happy with the professors view,who has raised pertinent,valid points,which kashma takes as affront to his beloved President Chakwera ,people are entitled to a contrary opinion,we don’t all have to be handclappers,especially when as you say they are plundering our tax payers money,so they no different to the despicable Dpp regime.

1 year ago

All politicians are pathological liars. Men and women without principles. Expecting anything for the common good from this lot is simply being delusional.Pepa kwambiri Chala changa ndinakulakwira kuvotera anthu aboza. What a monumental crisis Malawi has.

1 year ago

Many writers including Kamchezera in Zomba talk ill matters upon the President but what should known is that Chakwera is only 6 months down the line than Peter and yet you have already started talking this and that issues. Bambo Kamchenzera please if you cannot teach your students accordingly better go home and start politics. Dont even waste time to write Blues here. ALAMU MWAKALAMBA KAPUMENI Or find a place in LILONGWE and stay there. What ever you write Chakwera will not pick you to any position. We know it well KUTI AKUCHITA UKUTUMANI sorry !!!!!!

Dzimvele m'tolo
1 year ago

Prof Kamchedzera has said it all. There is so much rubble. The knots are alot. Look at how we are running govt. Civil service is being run by tired people at the top who are there just to add to their monthly pension. Six months is now gone and there is nothing to point as a big achievement out of the promises Tonse gave the people during the campaign. I feel sorry for my country.

Justice for all
Justice for all
1 year ago

Well said and we’ll advised it’s up to chalwera to read and follow or throw it out

John chidongo
1 year ago

Movi woyang’anira umalowa mmaso. He mist step down zinthu zambiri zisanaonongeke. A Malawi tiyeni tichitepo kanthu. Tinamuyika paudindo Chakwera ndi fe womuchotsanso ndife, sipofunika kuti tidikirenso ma voti. Tonse tikuona kuti bad beginning will end up bad ending. Tikangovotera Mbakuwaku ndithu. Akhaledi frustrated , vexation chifukwa sakuziwa kumasula fundo zimene zinamangirizikazo. Dyera basi. Sanati akhala ndi ma frustration ambiri. Kumapita kunyanga ndi boat lanu ife kumanyadira tili bwana. Step down lather than kudzaona mkwiyo wa amalawi chonde.

Good riddance
1 year ago

Zi ma Gordian Knot zina zili mu cabinet momo- Msungama, Gaffar, Mia etc

Last edited 1 year ago by Good riddance
1 year ago

If the govt. just arrested them, you would be the same person of Chakwera bringing back the old MCP

1 year ago

The issue discussed is of national interested and has to be debated constructively. The president has no advisers matching the type of challenges we have. There is filling positions. STEWARDSHIP is missing. Old people said, if you want to please everybody, you end up pleasing nobody. The president is likely to fall in this old saying. He should choose between family and friends on one side and future of Malawi. Fhe professor is right about convenience government approach. Shame.

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