In the history of the world there have been many successful instances of non-violent resistance. The most spectacular ones have been the liberation of India from its British colonial masters, and the civil rights movement in the US in the 1960s.
Both movements had similar strategies, and those are ones we can learn from. The concept is: by non-violent protests the authority of the unjust rulers can be undermined, and public opinion be mobilized. Especially public opinion from outside the oppressed group must be informed on the unjust situation. Media are looking for news that sells, so spectacular actions are called for. This is step one, but this will not lead to improvements in the situation without step two: appeal to higher authorities than the oppressive ones, to overrule them.
Mahatma Gandhi in India staged non-violent protest against the colonial authorities, appealed to the British people and the British Government, as well as the Queen to grant the Indian people freedom from colonial oppression. It took time, but it worked.
By the same token: the civil rights movement in the US in the 1960s staged non violent protest, with sit ins and demonstrations, inviting the news media to see racist oppression in action, and then appealed to the US Federal government to overrule the racist state and local authorities. This worked and the 1970s were a great decade for improvement of racial minorities in the US.
Here in Malawi we see a government that is not interested in protecting our human rights. The shadow report on human rights of our CSOs lists numerous violations by government, or other actors where government has failed to protect the population. The CSOs report to the UN, as they are supposed to do according to the treaty that the Malawian government has signed. Government gets angry and insists the CSOs should complain with them, and not with the UN. Here government is clearly not interested in protecting our human rights. If they were, they would thank the CSOs for their information, and act on that information to protect us from violations of human rights. But that is not what they are doing; they are complaining that their public face is damaged because now the world knows that they are violating our rights. They are only interested in window dressing, not in upholding our human rights as they are obliged to do by the treaty that they themselves have signed!
The CSOs are right to report to the UN that is the higher authority we need, to overrule the Malawian government that is violating our (unalienable) human rights. But they forget to make noise around it. We need to mobilize public opinion internationally, to shame the Malawi government into protecting our rights. Then we can be proud of being Malawian; that is patriotism: fight to improve our Patria, our Fatherland. Long live Malawi.
We have seen lots of proposals to revise the Farm Input Subsidy Program. (FISP). Significantly higher prices for the beneficiaries seem to be the most viable concept that streams out of Capital Hill. But, wait a minute, for whom was the FISP intended? For the middle income farmers who can afford to pay MK3000 for a bag of fertilizer? NO, three times NO! It was intended for the poorest, who cannot afford the fertilizer but who need to eat anyway. The ones left behind by the privatization schemes of Muluzi, who bent without criticism for the SAP (Structural Adjustment through cutbacks on social programs Program) of the Bretton Woods International Capitalists. The people who were working hard but not reaping because they were outcasts of the profit based Reagan-Thatcherite thinking of the horrible 80s, that reached Malawi only in the 90s. Bingu, for all his faults, had an idea that the poor farmer would not have to suffer under this rich man’s thinking. He subsidized the inputs and to every capitalist’s surprise: it worked! Food security, maize surplus, poverty reduction, equality, we improved BIG time. Then, unfortunately, in his second term Bingu lost direction and he allowed all his cronies and a lot of others to practice large scale corruption, which undermined every government program and every private business in the country, and he wiped out all the gains he had made during his first term. Now let’s get back to the original success: zero tolerance on corruption, combined with a social program was the recipe for economic success, and many international prizes (that were later retracted when he started trampling on our human rights and constitutional rights.) But let us see it clearly: the program worked before it got undermined by corruption. So, why not reform it with a large scale PRESIDENTIAL anti-corruption program?
Subsidized fertilizerThe price of fertilizer had risen because the price of oil (the raw material for fertilizer) had gone up. This pushed up the cost of FISP. But now the price of oil is way down. Fertilizer is affordable on the international market. Still the cost of FISP is unaffordable, because of the corrupt people that steal at every level. I personally have observed bags of fertilizer in the corridors of ADMARC. Does any one of you readers believe these bags were there to be distributed, or do you believe these bags were tapped off by unscrupulous ADMARC employees? We all know that even the honorable (?) Minister Patricia K has gone out to the field to steal fertilizer for her cronies, and even though that was reported in the Daily Times, authorities did not act on it. If we just cut out the rot, and leave the distribution of fertilizer to the private sector instead of the notoriously corrupt ADMARC, and we make any corruption in FISP a total priority in the prosecution policy, we can make the project work, make it affordable and APM (Arthur Peter Mutharika) can follow his brother’s footsteps in collecting international awards for food security and poverty reduction. And PLEEAASE, do not let the program go down the drain in corruption this time around, keep it clean. For the sake of the poor and the smallholder farmer.
Malawi is on its knees. Recently we found that we have the lowest per capita GDP in the world. Instead of bickering about: does that mean we are the poorest or the second poorest in the world, we need to do something about it. It is clear that the main reason for our poverty is the lack of performance in the way the country is ruled. And the saying goes: a people gets the leaders it deserves. Now that is true to a high extend in a democracy. We have the right to do something about this, and we should, or it is our own fault.
Look at how we, the media, treat our leaders: Last week the First Lady, Madame Gertrude Mutharika, said that “children are a battlefield in the war to contain aids.” And we as media report on that with a straight face. Have we forgotten that she is the same person who stole the funds of the people infected and affected by aids? Remember: she got her “Beautify Malawi Trust” funded by the National AIDS Commission, while her trust has nothing to do with the fight against Aids. Should we just consume her insincere concerns about children being a battlefield when she is on the side of stealing from them? Ladies and gentlemen, we should hold them to account. Think of Julius Malema’s EFF: every opportunity they get they scant to President Jacob Zuma: “PAY THE MONEY BACK, PAY THE MONEY BACK!” And if they don’t get the opportunity, they seize and opportunity. We as Malawians, we get excited over the theft of money from the powerless, the disenfranchised, the poor the sick and the others affected by Aids, and then we report on this lady as if she is a respectable First Lady, Madame Gertrude Mutharika. Should we not have a policy comparable to the artist Zapira, also from South Africa, who does not let the population forget Jacob Zuma’s remarks about taking a shower after unprotected sex to minimize infection. Zapiro consistently draws Jacob Zuma with a shower over his head. Year after year. Can we not hold our ruling class to account in a similar way?