"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Thinking Malawi first: A poetic perspective
by Bright Molande, 12 July 2006 - 06:51:04
The twilight of independence went, with sunken hearts, out of the cloud the dust of the dances. President Bingu wa Mutharika retreated, not amused.
The “real opposition” was celebrating its own way—howling, strutting below the darkening sky and bragging their gift to scorn their own Independence Day.
But the humble, sober and patriotic opposition attended the celebrations: Justin Malewezi and Aleke Banda—names that historically, stick thicker political respect than John Tembo and George nga Ntafu.
They oppose on principles and know what is partisan and national. They know Malawi is the only motherland we have and we do not owe our living to anybody but ourselves. But what patriotism does one expect of the UDF and MCP leaders that we know?
Perhaps, all they see in their shared, still picture is Bingu, Bingu, Bingu! They see more of a still picture, coloured with what Mutharika has done to their wounded parties than a national vision.
The MCP and UDF henpeck the eyes of a national visionary like vultures bent on seeing Malawi reduced to a useless carcass. They are hellbent on seeing Mutharika down from the high political walls. Unfortunately, government has cracks in its image. It ought to reinforce its advisory team—sealing the cracks.
Whatever the cracks, it is little about where we are coming from, not so much of where we are, but where we collectively intend to go from here.
The fight for rallying us to think Malawi first remains a challenge for the present administration. This thinking will not pour into our craniums like rain. It must be programmed, even if it means a dosage of brainwashing to make us think Malawi first. Without planting such foundations in the mindset, the walls of our oneness cannot stand, not forever.
There are lessons from Africa.
“Perhaps the biggest obstacle to African integration is a psychological one; learning to think as an African first and foremost, and not, for instance, a Ugandan, or even an East African,” writes Sarah Grainger in Focus on Africa, April 2005.
The progress towards African Union that arrived at the Togo 2000 Organisation of African Union (OAU) on a 200-vehicle convoy that carried the idea and the flamboyant Colonel Muammar Gaddafi never began in any serious way.
Half a decade gone, the path to the African Union remains winding and uphill, and faded far up beyond. Some, including the South African Reserve Bank Governor, one who ought to be an economic spokesman of an African superpower in the union, are not sure if we will get there.
The idea of the AU is caught up with pessimism because it was never planted from real foundations. The goal to create strong African-based institutions that would “compete in tough global environment” spelt out in the Gaddafi vision looks far-fetched to some. Maybe there is no patriotism, which is essentially psychological.
But remember those times when Africans were beginning to think Africa. When Kwame Nkrumah was ousted from the seat of the President of Ghana in a CIA operation, next door, Sekou Toure did not simply invite Nkrumah to seek refuge in Guinea.
“Sekou Toure declared his intention to step down as president of Guinea to allow Nkrumah to take his place” on 2 March 1966, an announcement which “was greeted with thunderous applause,” writes June Milne in New African, February 2006.
Nkrumah only accepted to become a co-president of his neighbouring country. This is the highest peak of Pan-African thinking one can ever think of. Imagine Mutharika being asked to lead Zimbabwe while Mugabe voluntarily steps down, imagine!
But if we cannot think Africa first, we must, at least, think Malawi first.
One thought when John Tembo publicly confessed that Mutharika has a vision, he did not just mean Mutharika but that the State President of Malawi has national interests. Or did Tembo mean it?
One thought Muluzi was reasoning Malawi first when he confessed, at the height of their wrangle, that Mutharika “sends the right message on the economy to the people and donors” (Malawi News, July 30 – August 5, 2005).
But to what extent have these opposition giants behaved like Sekou Toure? How much have they allowed this very visionary Mutharika to peacefully run their own country towards the vision they too claim to see?
Our collective behaviour issuing from thinking Malawi first can change our political and development progress. Unnecessary political henpecking, regionalism and ethnicity will vanish like a wisp of smoke out of the window, slowly but largely permanently.
Then not even a Cabinet minister will think of “serving Mutharika”. We will serve Malawi. In fact, thinking that “I serve Mutharika” (or his government) is to wrong Mutharika. That thinking portrays Mutharika as a self-seeking individual who owns and runs a country like his estate, when he is not.
Correct to say “I serve the people with or under Mutharika”. Noone will serve Tembo. These national attitudes must be reprogrammed.
Then, we will tell our leaders nothing for the sake of pleasing them. We will tell the President only the truth that serves, not his pleasure, but the people. He will take pleasure in hearing truth, no matter how ugly. Politics of bootlicking, flattery, gossip and appeasement will die out.
Thinking one Malawi, we will see a Goodall Gondwe calling for a political rally in Thyolo; an Uladi Mussa mounting a rally in Mzuzu; a John Tembo freely speaking in Mulanje while Aford plants a headquarters in Lilongwe. We will liberate ourselves from our current silly self-imposed politically suffocating prisons.
That day, our business community of Asian origin will come out of their present social self-prison.
Then, we will all see a common path to our future. Mutharika will not be seeing ships carrying cheap cargo from the Indian Ocean while na├»ve scribes who ought to be selling Malawi’s face only see “white elephants” floating on Shire River. We will share a common vision.
But perhaps, the sharpest axe hacking our vision apart is a psychological one. We must relearn, be programmed to think Malawi first.
We must plant a seed of patriotism in the collective mind of the people which must be the inner foundation and fuel for living our vision. We must collectively and consciously work for it.
But this is also a season of faith in Mutharika’s lieutenants that the ministries of Information, of Culture and that of Education will tailor and ingrain a positive development propaganda that makes us have faith in ourselves that we can sprout and take off towards greater heights.
-Bright Molande is a poet and lecturer in literary theory, University of Malawi— Feedback: amolande@chanco.unima.mw

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