Monday, November 9, 2015

To Tap, or Not To Tap, Water From Mulanje Mountain?

Well…natural resources belong to the President

From the look of things, there are some people who are out to transform Malawi into a money-making factory whose product is designed to make a relatively few wealthy while impoverishing the rest of the population.
I have been compelled to arrive at this conclusion after reflecting on suggestions from some disgruntled quarters that the Blantyre Water Board (BWB) —which stands to benefit from a credit facility provided by the Indian Government to the Malawi Government with the objective of tapping water from Mulanje Mountain—should not get the natural resource for free.
To me, such a suggestion sounds like the last tyre nut to fly off our wheel of national unity.
To begin with, the suggestion is so outrageous that it is inhumane. I have two reasons for saying that. One. It is not BWB that has secured— or plans to secure— the funds from the Government of India. In fact, I did not get the news that the Government of Malawi discussed the loan terms with India from BWB; I got the news from the President of the Republic of Malawi.
Now, there is something ‘national’ about the individual called Head of State and Government in the sense that the occupant of that office is elected by the people of Malawi, including those from Mulanje. Two. Some ‘crazy’ laws in this country declare, implicitly and explicitly, that all natural resources in the land belong to the President of the Republic of Malawi.
In this case, since it’s the President who has secured the loan from India, there is no need to pay for accessing water from Mulanje Mountain. The natural resources on the mountain belong to the ‘national human being’ who has secured the deal with India!
In addition, Malawi belongs to all of us. Unlike countries such as Nigeria, where it is normal and Constitutional for states to be autonomous since the West African country’s constitution provides for the existence of federal states, Malawi is not a federal state. That’s why there are no restrictions imposed on people, or companies, who wish to operate in any part of the country.
It does not make sense, therefore, that we should start imposing monetary restrictions on our brothers and sisters who want to tap natural resources from one part of the country to another.
In fact, more than any other issue, Malawians need to portray a group consciousness— that feeling that we belong to each other— on issues of natural resources such as water, forest resources, mineral resources, among others. More so because the issue of natural resources’ utilisation has been at the centre of turning points— both positive and negative—in the history of developed nations.
However, these ‘turns’ have often been for the worse, largely due to selfish motives such as those being advanced by those who do not want Blantyre residents to enjoy the free benefits of group consciousness. No wonder, countries that are rich in minerals are often said to be courting some ‘natural resource curse’. Whatever that means.
We should, therefore, not entertain divisive ideas. Of course, patriotism is a bloated issue, but we can, still, make the best out of it, instead of looking for opportunities to squeeze a few kwacha out of resources that belong to all of us.
What we need to do is to tone down all selfish sentiments and display a sense of humanism. After all, Mulanje is part of Malawi. The possibility of other Malawian citizens tapping a natural resource from the border district should not provide fertile ground for thoughts that may, in the end, just turn Mulanje into a little world that shuts out the rest of the universe.
Towing this retrogressive line of thinking would, definitely, run counter to the principles of Umunthu. Just Recently, Joseph Mfutso-Bengo, Professor of bioethics at the College of Medicine— a constituent college of the University of Malawi— emphasised the importance of Umunthu, which can best be described as moral capital, in national affairs. Umunthu looks at one’s needs in the context of other people’s needs.
“Africans consider what Umunthuology says. Umunthu is a basic attribute of Bantu ethics in Africa and recognises that while the biological requirement to be human is necessary, it is not the cause of being human. This means to be a human being is not what makes one to be human; one obtains that attribute through a relationship. So, Umunthuology advocates that ‘I am because we are; we are, therefore, I am’.  A rational human being strives to balance the common interest, public good with personal interest,” Mfutso-Bengo observed.
We should, therefore, not allow selfish interests to over-rule our obligations to the nation. When selfishness dominates, the nation loses out in the sense that cases of violence go on the rise. Malawians must do their best to maintain their Violence Contentment Cost which, according to the Global Peace Index, stands at 7 percent of our [Malawi’s] Gross Domestic Product.
Bengo warned that “We are slowly losing it”. These incidents may take us on a fast lane to loosing it.

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