FOUR PILLARS of Malawian society

In the days of dictatorship, “life president” Kamuzu Banda formulated four pillars of our society:

  • Unity
  • Loyalty
  • Obedience
  • Discipline

And the obvious question: to whom? Is easily answered: To life President Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

  • Unity under Banda
  • Loyalty to Banda
  • Obedience to Banda
  • Discipline under Banda

Pretty typical of the (Cold War era) African dictator.

One would think that with the new era of democracy starting in 1994, twenty-one years later we would have moved on. But not all of us: The honorable Reverend Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the opposition as well as leader of the MCP (Banda’s party) keeps coming back to these four pillars. You would think one would update them to something like the French came up with at the French revolution of 1889:

  • Freedom
  • Equality
  • Brotherhood

Or if you want to go into 21st century ideas:

  • Responsibility
  • Independence
  • Industriousness
  • Creativity

Of course all of this is quite arbitrary, and one can keep on coming up with little lists like this. But the old one is so ingrained in our minds, that it will not go away. And then, one night, it suddenly dawned upon me: it is still very applicable. There is just one little thing where Kamuzu Banda was confused: he had it upside down! We should apply these four pillars to the leadership. We should hold our representatives in Parliament and executive accountable according to the four pillars of Malawi.

  • Discipline in financial matters: no more corruption, stealing, Cash-gating, no more budget violations. Prudent spending on necessities, not on the stuff that gives the minister or civil servant the most personal profit
  • Obedience to the law: no more abuse of power, no one is above the law, and above all: constitutionality.
  • Loyalty to the people of Malawi, not just to ones own family, tribe, or dependents. The whole Nation has voted, the whole Nation has to be represented, and be treated loyally. This also includes hard work, timeliness. No delays in any matters (like tabling the Access to Information Bill!).
  • Unity with the people. No staying away from us in air conditioned 4x4s with tinted windows so we cannot even see who represents us. Listening, and being appreciative of our needs (for drugs in public hospitals, teachers for our children, security, 1 digit inflation, fertilizer and seeds)

If we look at the four pillars in that light ( and I’m sure my readers can come up with a lot more interesting interpretations. Pleeze do, steal my idea. Spread it around, it is not patented!) they are still very relevant to our society. Turn Banda’s idea upside down and you have democracy, it is so logical it took me two decades to figure it out!


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