Seeing a vision
by Mzati Nkolokosa,
The UDF was in the news again last week, hitting hard at President Bingu wa Mutharika saying he has not performed.
“President Mutharika has done absolutely nothing in two years,” says a press release from the party citing the mausoleum for first President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda as Mutharika’s only achievement.
This analysis from UDF is understandable. The party sees a picture while Mutharika sees a vision. UDF is in typical politics while Mutharika is in statesmanship—at least he is going into that direction. This, as one brilliant pastor said recently, means UDF is thinking of next elections while Mutharika is thinking of the next generation—our children and their children for whom we live today.
Seeing a vision is one fundamental question of leadership Mutharika has got right. It was cloudy during the 2004 General Elections campaign but crystal clear on May 24 when Mutharika was sworn into office and spoke in new tongues; when he spoke of a vision for Malawi in a speech titled: “My vision for Malawi”.
“Let me start my speech this morning by outlining my vision for
The speech, hailed by critical thinkers, was the beginning of differences between UDF and Mutharika. The party wanted pictures, temporary benefits, something tangible while Mutharika spoke of a vision and he has remained focused on his vision.
But most Malawians, like UDF, see the physical picture and not the vision which brings hope. The reason is known. Hope is invisible. Hope that can be seen, according to Greek philosophy, is no hope at all.
This is why UDF is fond of reminding people of how former president Bakili Muluzi delivered free primary education within months of coming into power. People saw their children learn under trees and hoped that classrooms would be constructed. People saw their children being taught by boys and girls who had failed Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) and hoped that some day, there would be qualified teachers.
But that was not to be. Years later K187 million meant for construction of school blocks went into the pockets of contractors who did not build a single classroom. Years later a tree fell on pupils at
Is this the free primary education UDF is talking about? It is true the enrolment doubled to a little over three million. But free primary was not the only reason. The main factor was that people were motivated to send children to school because for the first time, there was a national propaganda to show that education is important.
That propaganda could have been anything different from free primary education. People simply needed a motivation.
Mutharika has a vision for education. That is why the universities are being funded reasonably for the first time in years. That is why teacher training colleges are about to revert to old programmes lasting two years.
That is not all. The removal of minibus touts and vendors from townships and cities is a vision that must be dissected carefully. The country’s cities and townships have become cleaner than a year ago. The deeper one is that order and sanity have returned to
There is another deeper meaning. Mutharika is saying do meaningful businesses from which government can tax you and provide social services in return.
Minibus-touting was a chaotic business yet well organised. Touting managers had plots in town. They had boys, too.
The managers didn’t report for duty at all but received proceeds everyday and, in return, paid the touts. Government made nothing from this business yet they expected the Blantyre City Assembly, for example, to provide them with water and public conveniences.
The challenge is now with the city and town assemblies to formalise the work of touts. It’s not that the boys have been chased but the assemblies can employ them to organise minibuses in a formal way, not the chaos of months ago.
The chasing of touts was also a message that people should go back to rural areas. This is an important message because
Mutharika has always been adamant that
Some people in the villages have been working hard and are successful. They have built good houses when you and me—white collar job holders—are blaming landlords for hiking rental.
Take the example of the many success stories the media has highlighted. Think of Nation Achievers 2005, the Chingale Integrated Farmers Association which has a K7 million revolving fund in bank.
These are people who don’t need Mardef loans because they are self-reliant. Yet they are in rural areas. Instead of vending in cities, people must own shops at Thyolo, Kamwendo or Bwengu, for example.
Mutharika is building a foundation for a better tomorrow. Sadly, not all Malawians are helping him, not even some Cabinet Ministers who are lazy and seek cheap media publicity. Muluzi built walls. Mutharika is attempting a huge task of building a foundation.
The challenge is that by starting from the beginning, by being a seer or prophet, Mutharika risks being misunderstood.
UDF wrote off Mutharika’s claims as if the President does not exist at all. No wonder Muluzi’s policies focused on the visible (pictures—classrooms and numbers) not visionary (the intellectual backbone and the intellectual foundation) which Mutharika is constructing.
If Mutharika pushes for more reforms and sticks to his vision despite prophets of doom, generations to come will, for sure, sit, speak, study and conclude that once