Thursday, December 2, 2010

Bingu's Government Turning Draconian

The Administration of President Bingu wa Mutharika is turning more draconian and dictatorial, recent developments show.

Since his rise to power in 2004, on the ticket of the once-mighty and now-tattered United Democratic Front (UDF), and his subsequent dumping of the same to form his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Mutharika has shown tendencies that tend to drift away from the norm.

This point was buttressed, several times, by the then UDF Publicity Secretary Sam Mpasu. Mpasu, an orator and creative writer of sorts, wondered how it could be possible for form a political party while already in government.

“I thought people form political parties in order to go into government? You do not go into government in order to form a political party,” said Mpasu.

What he forgot was that here was an individual out to break norms, and move away from the expected. To a larger extent, this has chalked out positive results for Malawi, food security and economic stability being the notable ones.

Mutharika has also set about changing people’s mindsets: taking away the normalcy associated with poverty among a large chunk of the population, and bringing away a philosophy of the non-existence of poverty on the ground- it is all in the mind, people’s minds.

“Malawi is not poor; it is Malawians themselves who are poor,” Mutharika has never tired to repeat, repeat and repeat.

Opposition politicians such as Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) President, John Tembo, have capitalized on this (Bingu’s sentiment) to gain political mileage. At an MCP meeting held on March 25, 2010 at Demonstration Primary School Ground in Dedza South (Constituency), Tembo portlayed Mutharika as someone who is out of touch with the reality on the ground.

He said: “Some people, and, unfortunately, these are leaders we have chosen to rule over us, say that Malawi is not poor. Is this true? He asked the gathered multitude.

To which the people responded: “No!”

It was a resounding no; a no that reverberated across the horizon.

What, again, what Mutharika is saying could be true. In the sense that it is people (Malawians) themselves ( a majority of them) who lack the basic necessities. However, Malawi itself- the landscape where we find mountains, valleys, fertilizer alluvial soils, uranium, niobium, phosphate, among others; and the waters such as Lake Malawi, Shire River, Linthipe, Chia lagoon, among the many, are full of resources.

These resources, if well-utilised, can help wash away the poverty mentality in the people. It is al about putting things to good use, learning to manage our time and resources, and believing that Malawi can move out of poverty.

Mutharika thus trashes United Nations Development Indices that continue to indicate that over half the population of Malawi lives below the One-Dollar-a-Day poverty threshold. This is pure economic thinking, the economic engineer he is.

Economists argue that UNDP Development indices, and in deed other findings that put monetary figures to poverty, get it all wrong. They say the ordinary villager, for instance, may not have an equivalent of One Dollar a day in the pocket- but they have vegetables and fruits in their gardens and fields.

When they pick a fruit, that could be worth K200 in mega stores, the UNDP and others are never there to observe, and record. This misses out in the findings, and gives people a wrong picture.

Nevertheless, Mutharika has also shown negative tendencies- tendencies that can best be described as counter-productive, draconian and ill- conceived.

Talk about the Mutharika’s threat during the Opening of the National Agriculture Fair in Blantyre earlier this year. The State President threatened to close down any newspaper that publishes ‘lies’ and falsehoods, and challenged donors to the floor.

In his argument, the Head of State and Government- who is also the reigning African Union Chairperson- said even in “Europe and the United Kingdom- they don’t tolerate newspapers out to discredit the government” and wondered why closing a newspaper or publication could be an issue simply because it has been carried out by a Third world government that depends heavily (at least 60 per cent) on donors to propel its national budget.

Then, we also have the proposed bill that seeks to vest in the Information Minister powers, powers to close down publications he or she deems not fit for the Malawian public. This the Minister will do at the mere opening or closing of his mouth, and the subsequent cheating called Gazetting.

It will not matter whether the minister has a big, or small mouth; is married, or a bachelor or spinster; has a farm or a mere garden; was appointed on merit, or is part of the political appeasement deal; looks at the people when delivering a speech, or speeches and salivates on the paper (speech) from which he speaks- in which case he or she doesn’t speak his mind, but the paper’s mind!

Add to this the arrest of religious leaders for merely speaking out; the continued intimidation and undermining of the Vice-President Joyce Banda; the negative attitude Mutharika and his ruling party cohorts have developed against the Catholic Church, simply because the Episcopal Conference of Malawi chose to call fibs by their name, and smash Mr. Spade to a dry stump of a mahogany tree by simply grabbing the tail.

Then, there is the recent government action- through Lands Minister, John Bande’s order- to posses a piece of land belonging to Friends of Mulanje Orphans (FOMO). FOMO was established by philanthropist Mary Woodworth, after noticing that many orphaned children had nothing to do, mainly, and saw tea estates as the only way out of poverty. Woodworth believes that it is the class room’s door that holds the key to the future, and does just that to the children she feeds from the piece of land government wants to grab.

Actually, Banda has acknowledged that the piece of land belongs to Woodworth, but maintains that government will go ahead to take “that piece of land” because it caused confusion.

This followed bad blood between Woodworth and Mulli Brothers, when the later claimed the piece of land belonged to it.

Woodworth then hired lawyer John Gift Mwakhwawa, the current Malawi Law Society President, and won the case in the Supreme Court of Appeal. The court ruled that the land belongs to Woodworth, and Woodworth was happy because the children would eat.

Now, even before that excitement is over, government comes with the ‘evil’ plan to grab the land from the British citizen.

You should have been there when the court made the decision: people from all walks of life in Mulanje were happy. The court was all noise and a garden of excitement.

The truth is that the Mulli Brothers are DPP zealots, and government wants to please them by grabbing land from Mulanje orphans; people who are helpless. Government is abusing its big, filthy, stinking hand to take away something precious from innocent children, and well-wishing woman just because a company lost a piece of land, and which company has links with ruling party zealots.

Some of them have held Ministerial positions and continue to do so- whether as junior minister or senior, it is still Minister because the name is there for all to see.

This (grabbing of land and formulation of draconian rules) is the mark of an evil government- a government out to rob, maim, kill, grab and beat innocent citizens of this country.

It is the mark of a government run by selfish people and dictators disguised as Good Samaritans.

It is a government that does not care for its citizens, save it be the leaders own pockets and pampered egos.

Woodworth summarized it all when she lamented: “If government wants to grab that piece of land, it shows that it does not respect its own laws. If the government can not respect its own laws, how can ordinary citizens respect those laws?”

In other words, Woodworth is saying the Malawi Government has no moral sense.

Now, a government without morals is no government; it is a Commercial Sex Worker!

And that is what has become of this government.

It has become an ill-intentioned government, out to torture its own citizens.

And this is unacceptable.

Those entrusted with public position, whose mandate they get from the ordinary villager’s trek to the polling station, to cast that living vote, should know that Malawi does not belong to them alone. Malawi belongs to all of us.

When some of them left the country on self or otherwise-imposed exile, Malawi did not stop to be. The ordinary villagers were there for Malawi, digging through its soil, and watering it with their own bodily sweat. The fed the soil the salt of their own bodies; and fed it artificial fertilizers too.

And Malawi was green.

When the M’chikumbe Nambala Wani (Farmer Number One) Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda left for the way of all the earth in late 1997- a man whose contributions to Malawi will never be diluted in present freedoms, and whose legacy will leave on- Malawi wept, but never stopped to exist on the world map.

Same with former President Bakili Muluzi. When he left Sanjika for BCA Hill in Blantyre (a trek from Blantyre to Blantyre) government business continued. It is not leaders who make Malawi what it is; it is the spirit and psyche of the Malawian people that pushed the vessel that is Malawi.

And DPP leaders seem to have forgotten this, and have set about, wrong-footed, to torture, confuse, maim, threaten innocent citizens.

All this hurts Malawi, that reach in resources land and water scape, and the Malawian- whose abundant lot remains stuck in the mud of poverty.

Surely, to quote Shakespeare, ‘The evil that men do lives after them’.

Only that, you have no powers and authority to perpetuate the evils you are doing now. It is high time our leaders came back to their senses: Malawi will continue to live long after they are gone, and (Malawi shall) live again when all of us take the lonely road to Kumsitu, Kumasamba (the grave yard). For those who cremate themselves, it is still downwards (thanks to Gravitational Force) their ash heads to; never heavenward.

It is the spirits that do. Naked spirits.

And the spirits (for those who believe that people ‘pass on’, or live on after death- others do not believe in after death, and these are the guys and guyesses who believe that people ‘pass away’- wear no Diplomatic tags!

The spirits take no draconian tendencies with them, when they go; only memories of the days gone by, and a land and water scape remotely down.

All are equals.

And this is a principle we should adopt, and get well-used to- that nobody is more important than the rest.

The ordinary villager, actually, is as important to Malawi as the President.

And the President and Malawi Government have no right and business violating the laws of this land; let alone formulate draconian laws.


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