As Uladi Mussa finally sees the folly of former president Joyce Banda’s misguided stay away from Malawi and decides to take the Malawian “pachokamzakopalimalo” slogan to new heights, and as Malawians continue to get blindly excited about 2019 elections the way football fans do at the start of new league season, it is time to provide a moment of pause and ask some important guidance questions.
If you have taken some time to think about our country’s plight like I do, you are probably aware that we are now enjoying a fourth presidency of this so-called democratic dispensation that came in 1994.
Have we in recent times taken any time to consider why on earth we changed systems of government from Kamuzu Banda’s one party dictatorship to what we now called a multi-party democracy? For many of the older Malawians, the answer to this question is that Kamuzu Banda’s dictatorship was oppressive and cruel, and devoid of economic opportunities for everyone but a very select few.
I often wonder if the younger Malawian generation, the dominant force in the current electorate, actually even understand this issue at all. We should not forget that the Malawian that was born in 1994 is now 23 years old. That means he or she did not experience any of the MCP oppression, and all they have experienced is the failing public service delivery system that has accompanied the country’s economic decline since then.
It is probable important then to have frequent reminders of the real reason- or at least what those that fought for the second republic promised was the reason- for deposing Kamuzu Banda. They claimed that the country would experience better economic development under a multiparty democracy; that there would be opportunities for all, and that its newfound prosperity would dwarf anything that MCP under Kamuzu Banda managed to achieve.
The truth of the matter is that this has simply not been the case, and that all the greed of one administration after another has managed to achieve is quite clearly the opposite.
I would like to propose to us that this has been the case because we failed in 1994 to recognise one very important governance reality. A prosperous country is not built on a foundation of individuals, but on the foundation of a vibrant governance framework that makes it impossible for different individuals to destroy the structure no matter how pathetic their leadership and governing skills.
It is not because of their various presidents or prime ministers that countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France or even South Africa have continued to rest in economic stability over the years, but because at their formation, the foundation that guide their governance frameworks are solid and robust.
Instead of putting in place in 1994 a governance framework that was to overcome the weaknesses of the MCP oppression and nepotism, Malawian political leader of the time simply put out a constitution which we can now see only allows us to elect one dictatorial government after another, with all power still remaining in the one man we elect as president from time to time.
In spite of our enthusiasm to promote this leader or that leader, I am of the view that Malawi’s problems are by and large not individual based but rather system based. What I mean by this in plain terms is that the election of this presidential candidate over that one, and the voting into power of this party over that other party is not really what will solve Malawi’s problems. No matter how good the intentions nor how competent the leadership and governing skills of the various people we are going to continue to elect into the presidency, we have in Malawi a governance system that will not allow them to perform any better than their predecessors.
My fellow Malawians, our constitution promotes nepotism and patronage, hero-worship and corruption. If we do not recognise this and change it first, we might as well lose all our hopes of an economically prosperous nation.
What we need, first and foremost, before we can put our trust and our hopes in individual politicians is to first have a framework that will not work against the good intention of the people that lead us.
The hope that Malawi will be transformed by Dr Chakwera for some, by Peter Mutharika for some others, and all the other aspirants, whoever they may be for yet some others, is simply a mirage and will remain so because in the current governance framework, these politicians will continue to fight against a system that is entrenched and experienced in disappointing and ruining the best of intentions.
How do we create a better framework?
Our political governance framework is given to us by the constitution. If our politicians care at all, they must start talking about reviewing the constitution to overhaul the rotten political governance framework and usher in a framework that will stand the test of time, and a framework that will truly promote good governance. As I have said before, superficial public service reforms will not achieve this, and neither will any elections of anyone under the current system.
I would like to believe that those that are now aspiring for the presidency and for other political offices are not doing it for personal reasons or because of the drive and ambition to get rich through looting and robing poor Malawians. I therefore urge them not only to to think and ponder over this, but to make it a reality.
If they are driven by a truly patriotic spirit, then they need to realise that it is first and foremost all about the framework in which they will operate. Good governance that leads to economic prosperity should not be left at the mercy or the discretion of individual politicians. It can never be about individuals. Good governance and national progress is about the right political framework.