Malawi: The Cost of a Delayed Action

By Habiba Osman

Delayed action on crucial decisions is what we are experiencing in Malawi. For instance, the dispute between Malawi and Tanzania over Lake Malawi, when the rumour started in the media that Tanzania was claiming a part of our lake, we should have alerted the international community immediately, and not wait for the dialogue to fail. We knew this would not have resolved the issue ANYWAY. Yesterday, Malawi’s Head of State lamented the actions taken by our Tanzanian counterparts and publicly declared that Malawi government need to resort to arbitration. If Malawi only had done this earlier it would not have avoided Tanzania’s last week’s arrogance of drawing a new map with new borders, which indicates that a bit of Lake Malawi belongs to them.

Delayed action for me also pertains to the appointment of Auditor General and Anti-Corruption Bureau Chief. I do not believe that the CABS group, were totally convinced yesterday when they said Malawi government has made positive strides in respecting the rule of law. The aforementioned offices are pivotal in checking and curbing corruption in any country, let alone ours with a struggling economy. It is incomprehensible why it has taken this long for the Head of State and her team to make such crucial appointments. More especially if we consider that until now the promised money by the donors that led to a lot of swift policy changes has not been honored.

Delayed action is the President declaring that she and her Vice President will take 30 percent cuts of their salaries as part of austerity measures and apparently in solidarity with majority of Malawians currently feeling the pain of haste 49% currency devaluation four months ago. This to me is delayed action and even though others may see it as noble, I see it as one way of fooling the electorate, really. The joke in this lies in the fact the Head of State has stated publicly that she will not force her cabinet to take a similar cut, even suggesting? Is she leading such insensitive cabinet?

By the way, the whole saga of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) is one way of averting attention and gaining political mileage. This should have been on the agenda of the People’s Party (PP) led Government six months ago when in assume power. Now we have experienced astronomical price increase in goods and services due to the devaluation of our currency (Malawi Kwacha) that has hit Malawians badly – over 50% of whom live on less than $1 a day. One wonders as to whether those in power are feeling the pain that the rural masses are feeling and experiencing right now.

There must be a way out, especially as we have a female president. Otherwise the perception will be that women cannot rule – fuelling the patriarchal attitudes in this country even further. Every day I hear strong sentiments on the streets and particularly internet social networks sites that women are not ready to carry the Malawi flag. Of course I strongly disagree with such critics who are taking this government’s “delayed action” as an indicator of failure.

I say if our leader begins to listen, read what is being written by the media and the call-in programmes on various radio stations the President will realize that people are dissatisfied with what is happening in the country. These are not just people exercising their right to freedom of expression their views are also a rude awakenings to the powers that be. The government must react to these sentiments, positively. I sincerely hope we are not heading towards that direction of executive arrogance that epitomized the last days of the previous regime – government’s arrogance, which forced noble and humble citizens of this nation to actually rejoice at the death of their leader. It is my prayer that I will not witness that in my lifetime again!

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