Chances are you have met those Malawians who are overtly negative about their own country. You know, the kinds that is quick to point out the shortfalls of their nation. This kind tends to be those who have once traveled beyond our country’s borders. Hearing from them, you get the impression that there is nothing that we get right as a nation: governance, education, service delivery, sports, you name it.
Their narrative is always the same: “Ku Malawi ndiye ayi; sungayerekeze ndi …”, as they fill the blank with whatever nation that comes to mind. These people are even skeptical about any attempt put in place to fix the nation’s shortcomings. It is as if Malawi is broken beyond repair. Honestly, sometimes it does feel like our country is beyond help. Even with a change in government, some of the stories that make headlines remain head scratchers.
In the evening of Sunday, August 16, I tuned in to Times Television’s to watch that day’s “The Hot Current”. In their topic of discussion, Brian Banda and George Kasakula asked: is Malawi too broken to be fixed? One of the subjects the two touched upon was the K 7 billion that the justice system has determined MEC must pay to the legal teams that represented the plaintiffs in a case whereby the judiciary annulled the outcome of the 2019’s presidential election.
Whether the K 7 billion is justified or not, the fact is the amount represents another example of the citizenry’s hard earned taxes that end up in the hands of the few. The riddance of Peter Mutharika from the State House was supposed to be a dawn of a better Malawi whereby the government’s purse was used for the benefit of the entire population. So when such an amount ends up being shared among few lawyers, it is worth asking if our nation is indeed broken beyond repair.
Signs of a broken system don’t just manifest themselves in the highest offices nor do they always entail huge sums of money. In our daily lives we see things that need to be fixed. Just this week, one of my friends and I were talking about the experiences we have had with poor service delivery. My buddy told me about the time he ordered pizza at some joint in Blantyre. While ordering, he specifically asked for a guesstimate of the time when his order would be ready. When he showed up at the time he was given, he found that the pizzeria hadn’t even started working on his order. Worse still, the pizza joint was working on orders of customers who had showed up after my friend had already paid for his order!
Even big banks that are making huge profits provide services as lousy as the lies of a toddler. National Bank of Malawi charges K 3,900.00 per page to print a bank statement. Even when you decide to have the document emailed to you, you are charged K 500.00 per page. But when you choose the email option, chances are you will have to make several trips to the bank just to remind them that you had requested to have some documents emailed to you.
These are just few examples; I could go on and on. I’m sure you too have your own personal encounters of the things that are holding this nation back, even relative to some of our neighbors. But, it is not enough to simply point out the things that are wrong. Fixing the shortcomings we see requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. To borrow the phrase of Saulos Chilima, change is not a spectator sport.
Truth be told, some Malawians are already doing their part to help repair the nation’s broken parts. Based on tips from well-meaning citizens, the ACB stopped a shoddy recruitment drive that was underway at MRA. This was after it was discovered that out of 125 individuals who were earmarked for recruitment, 71 didn’t even attend the interviews! Of the 71, some were from families of Nicolas Dausi and Charles Mchacha, prominent members of the DPP, while others were related to top officials at MRA, as well to other connected kind.
As we speak, HRDC has a confidential tip line that people can use to report any corrupt practices of which they are aware. Already, we have seen the organization take the following issues to the ACB for further investigation: the illegal awarding of a plot of land in Kanjedza Forest, the corruption involving the procurement of meters at ESCOM, and the fraud related to the purchase of fuel level sensors at MERA.
The people who are going to the authorities with evidence of the wrongs of the past regime are testament to the fact that there are sufficient Malawians out there who still believe that this nation can be fixed. Understandably, change is slow, so there is need for patience and persistency. It is also important to keep in mind that not all change has to be big to be effective. It can be something as simple as improving the quality of services, be it at a restaurant, bank, hospital, or from your elected representatives.
An example of a small but effective change is how that friend of mine responded to poor services he received at that pizzeria. He protested by walking away, choosing instead to give away his order to a homeless person. Ever since that day, every time he has returned to the pizzeria, the workers there remember him and offer him better service. Maybe if more of us took a stand against poor services, things would change for the better. And brick by brick, we would fix what is broken about our beloved country.