Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fuel, Forex Crises: Solution to NGOs' Problems

...Malawians being used as cards
Times come, in the middle of a crisis, when the truth comes home to you. This truth is strange, because it dawns on one like cold water in winter, flowing from the neck, down the furrow of the vertebrae column, to the feet.
From the surface, everyone is supposed to detect, and ‘listen’ to, this feeling. It is simple to grasp this simple point, because it falls within the realm of common sense; that is, the common senses of smell, touch, sight, you go on.
The busiest, lost in the jungle of triviality and self-engagement, allow it to pass them by, and, consequently, they lose touch with the tangible world. They, then, begin to live in their own world- a world of fantasy and dreams. An abstract world.
Malawi, seen within the prism of common sense, is this man- a pre-occupied man who fails to detect and ‘listen’ to the cold water wetting his aspirations, dreams, and vision. It is a man out of touch with himself, Malawi.
Busy, self-occupied, dull-witted- he lets the water wet his pants. He postpones the sojourn to the party-of-dreams, the party sanctioned by, first, Vision 2020, the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and, then, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS).
How can a man, wet and disgraced by the water that gives many lives, attend a high-level get-together whose invitation card is ‘vision’, common vision, when he lacks, first, experience and, then, foresight?
That is Malawi to the outsider; a man who has lost sense with himself and, then, forfeits his obligations to others.
And that is Malawi to insiders; insiders who have lost touch with the common vision, and are now sharing in the pessimism of the vast, immeasurable world. The problem is that this ‘group’ of ‘insiders’ is a vocal, self-occupied handful.
Their folly has dented the reputation of the entire nation.
This group, unelected and unscrutinised by Malawians (on whose behalf those in power govern in trust, is comprised of cash-oriented Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations, disoriented opposition political parties, and people who do not, as yet, know that the issues of fuel and forex crises have a deep surface.
Of course, the people- the majority who march, and rant, and riot, and property smash- have their own problems. Deep-seated problems that have accumulated into hills and mountains of anger and disorientation, over 111 years since 1900.
So many issues at hand: Problems unresolved. Problems unrotten. Challenges hidden in the folder of the heart.
Non-state actors- that is, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and all those who employ logic to compliment government efforts- know this heart pretty well: a heart that is hidden; a heart of many concerns; a heart that has issues, deep-rooted, anger-inducing issues; a heart that can be exploited.
That is where the problem is; non-state actors have discovered how to exploit this heart, the heart of millions with a million small problems. These problems, combined, can form a mass of anger, anarchy-inducing anger.
How to combine these little bits of anger? Consolidate the small, million bits of problems, with the handful, big problems of the elite, the middle-class, and pretend to be one with the poor. One in suffering. One in anger. One in discomfort.
“Oh, with fuel and forex shortages, the solution is found,” says one balded, obese NGO leader to himself, scratching his head.
And, so, he mobilizes his friends, inviting them to this war of the elite to be fought in Malingunde, Katerera, Takomana, Kantchito, Msesa, Khombedza, Nkhoma, Kazukuta, Makuni; a war of guts, using the unsuspecting, poverty-stricken population to get even with a seating president, duly-elected.
That is what has happened here in Malawi, the Warm Heart of Africa. NGOs have had their problems for years, and lacked the platform, the opportunity, to express their dissatisfaction.
Things like stringent financial and activities’ reporting mechanisms, tough registration procedures, failure to get elected to statutory corporation boards, failure to win elections against ruling party candidates, greed, freezing of National AIDS Commission grants due to abuse of funds, among others, have played out to be so painful to non-state actors they have, for years, been looking for a way out.
The fuel and forex shortages have thus become their way out.
In fact, the fuel and forex shortages have become the longed-for solution to non-state actors problems.
Now is their chance to play even. It is an opportunity to bring the President down to his feet. It is an opportunity to be heard and noticed by potential donors. And non-state actors have grasped it with both hands.
How, if a question be raised, can the NGOs advocate for issues that go against the grain of Malawi culture- despite the public outcry and condemnation- and, then, declare to be representing the masses on issues of fuel and forex shortage?
Something is not adding up.
The NGOs are not fighting for fuel and forex. They are fighting their own battles.
After all, why cling to going on the streets when the President- the target of their July 20 multi-paged petition- has said he has started addressing the issues? Who do they want to impress?
President Bingu wa Mutharika has, really, started addressing some of the issues. The fuel situation is improving, for one. When there is no diesel, at least there is so much petrol nobody is queuing up due to its abundance.
When diesel comes, petrol is disappearing for a time, sometimes for two, three weeks on end. But we have fuel. Minibuses are still plying on the streets, long-distance buses are still ‘eating’ miles, and traffic jams continue to irritate drivers and passengers alike.
If this be untrue, visit Masauko-Chipembere Highway at Mid-day. As for the Paul Kagame Highway in Lilongwe, that route has never been plagued by traffic jams and, so, do not use it as a yardstick.
Mutharika has really shown that he can be stubborn at one time, and, then, humbled the next minute.
That is why the president attended the Tuesday prayers at COMESA Hall. It was his way of showing his humility to the nation. It was his way of playing his part to calm the nation down.
Surely, Mutharika heard from the preachers, and got a picture of how things should be, normally.
That is why Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Television repeated some of the scathing sermons and thinly-veiled remarks. That is tolerance.
But, in spite of this body of evidence that Mutharika is addressing the issues- some of them will not be solved overnight, including the lasting solution to the fuel shortages, which the president has identified as the establishment of the Oil Company of Malawi and erection of fuel reservoirs in Malawi’s major cities by December 2012- and, thus, no need to carry on with Malawi’s ‘Events of death’.
These ‘Events of death’ are the bloody demonstrations that have plagued our nation, sending, at least, 19, somewhere beyond the blue-less skies (if it so be that there is such a thing as blue-less skies).
Surely, NGOs are fighting their own battles; selfish battles that have national to do with the national cause. If anything, the war is more about ‘pocket’ causes than ‘national’ causes.
The war is not about fuel and forex shortage; the real issue is the art of making money out of chaos.
That is why the fuel and forex shortages- other than being problems facing us all, government and non-state actors- are a solution to NGOs. These temporary issues will be employed as fundraising grounds by NGOs, a way of building smiles out of people’s misery and ignorance.
Just like that.

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