DEVELOP DEMOCRACY, DEVELOP MALAWI

In Malawi our democracy appears underdeveloped. We have a large number of party’s big chakwera-600x450and small. But they have no differences in their political philosophy: all are conservatives who just represent different factions of the ruling class, who allow their friends to steal from our national coffers. Chakwera does not have a long enough track record to know 100%, but he is as obsessed with car privileges as his predecessor John Tembo. That makes us fear the worst.

If we compare with South Africa, which attained democracy in the same year we did, we are very far behind. Especially in democratic content: the difference in policies that the electorate can choose from.

In South Africa the ANC still holds a big majority thanks to its standing as the party that introduced democracy after Apartheid. Their majority is rapidly slinking though because of the corruption of President Zuma. robben-island-madiba__800x600_q85_cropAfter Mandela, who did a great job, and Mbeki, who was of lesser caliber, Zuma appears to be a run-of-the-mill African chief stealing from National coffers. But contrary to many African countries and certainly Malawi, Zuma has to deal with opposition with content: an opposition that offers real alternatives from different political philosophies.

First there is the Democratic Alliance. They are a typical middle class liberal party. At first they represented mostly white South Africans, but with a black front runner they now are making increasingly inroads into the growing black middle class. They offer a typical liberal agenda, which will benefit the economy at large, and specifically the middle class and the business world.

julius_malemaSecondly there is the younger Economic Freedom Fighters, an offshoot of ANC under firebrand Julius Malema. They offer a strong style, with their red boiler suits in Parliament, their loud slogans in Parliament, and their vocal opposition against Zuma’s corruption. They are regularly removed from Parliament for unruly conduct, which they do display. Their political agenda is very different from the ANC. They base their ideas on the Freedom Charter, which was adopted by the ANC in 1955. At that time the ties between the ANC and the Communist Party were very strong. This is clearly reflected in the agenda of the Freedom Charter, which was, officially, still the manifesto of the ANC when they got to power in 1994. The ANC has made a U-turn, mostly under Mbeki, who was remarkably pro-business, while he had been a prominent member of the Communist Party for many years. Then Zuma went pro corruption, and South Africa’s trouble multiplied. The trouble with the EFF is that their strongman leader is himself as corrupt as hell. So he cannot be expected to hold onto his policies if he ever gets into power. The EFF with their strong populist strain, appeal mostly to the generation of youth from the school boycott, who lack sufficient education to see through the populist talk and outfits.

Why do we in Malawi not have such choices? On the one hand, communism usually represents wage workers and urban unemployed and we have few of them. Also communism is strongly out of fashion since the Soviet Union was disbanded in 1989. But a less extreme left wing party representing the poor should make a good chance. In Malawi the poor are mostly rural, and farmers are difficult to organize, and mostly conservative. But Mao Ze-Dong managed in China to organize farmers and institute a successful revolution. A social democrat version of Maoism?

On the other hand we can expect a small liberal party to get a number of representatives in Parliament: they would represent the interests of the business community, mostly urban. But in a number of urban districts a party with a clear liberal manifesto and a strong anti-corruption element could do well. Both in Local elections and in National ones. They could provide a counter weight in Parliament for the conservative ruling class that is currently bickering between DPP and MCP (with a little noise thrown in from a dying PP). They could provide real alternatives for the government policies, that now are contradicted by Chakwera.

But Chakwera lacks sufficient political thinking power to come up with real alternatives the way John K Black has been consistently doing for years.

GOD FEARING? NO! GOD LOVING? YES!

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We should consider before we use the term God Fearing.

Fearing God? Is that what Christianity is about? No.

Jesus Christ taught us not to revenge, but to turn the other cheek.

Jesus Christ taught us not to hate but to love.

love__1__-_copyJesus Christ taught us about God’s love. God’s love is unlimited and unconditional. Jesus Christ taught us that God loves all of creation, loves all his creatures, loves all people.

There are those who say: I am a sinner, I am not worthy of God’s love. I am too tainted with my past, with the sins I have committed. But that misses the point: God’s love is here for all of us, God’s love is unconditional and unlimited. God loves all of us, even the sinners. The Cashgaters: God loves them. The child molesters: God loves them. The ones who have killed and maimed: God loves them.believe-in-gods-love

You say: God, I have sinned. And God says: come to me and I will support you.

You say: God, my sins are too evil. I am not worthy of your love. And God says: come to me, I am here for you. For all of you.

God’s love is there for the saint and the sinner.

god_is_loveFor the corrupt, and the incorruptible.

For the lazy and the hard working.

For the criminal and the baby.

For Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer (LGBTI). And also, yes ladies and gentlemen, all alert: also for the Heterosexual.

For you, and for me.

God love is there for all.

This is not a God to be feared, this is a God to be loved.

Let’s no more use the term: God Fearing.

Let’s use the term: GOD LOVING.

 

CORUPTION (one R has already been stolen!)

corruption-featureWe see that both media and donors are pushing government to make serious strides against corruption. Government keeps promising, but delivery is below standard. This is not only a matter of non-performance. The politicians are stuck in a system that is not easy to change.

48500132.cmsThe system of corruption was recently explained on BBC in connection with the anti corruption summit in London. It works like this: when (hypothetically) you pay a small bribe to a lowly placed official at (hypothetically) immigration or road traffic authority, that money does not stay with the person you bribe. Part of that money goes up the chain, in exchange for protection of the racket. At the top of the chain the number of small bribes that converge become large numbers = large amounts of money. Highly placed officials cannot just break this bond: they were elected in this system, with support from many people who rely on corruption, because their salaries have been hollowed out by tcompliance-anti-corruption-icon_teaser_2_3_gt_1200_gridhe run away inflation.

Bingu was, in his first term, in a unique position: with the Muluzi/UDF he dumped all the support that had him elected. So he had more freedom to maneuver and he was capable of actually doing something for the people. IN his second term he had to pay back all support he had gotten for his relection, and he turned like a lcorruptioneaf.

A President simply cannot go all-out against corruption: this violates the deal that he needed to get elected in the first place, and he would be removed, one way or the other, by the powerful systems in both the party and the civil service. And removed could be in any of a great number of ways including the most permanent.

This systematic rot is widespread and hard to fight.

Calls from donors and media to make serious strides against corruption anger highly placed targets of those calls, because, the way the highly placed politicians see things, they do all they can. Within the system that is. And of course that same system benefits them greatly with great amounts of money and unchecked power  (the President appoints all top law enforcers and the top of the judiciary.)

Donor representatives, especially diplomats, cannot call for a fundamental change in the system: that would be meddling in internal affairs of the host country. So they, being diplomats, have to use diplomatic language. But in the media we could do better, and analyse the situation including the system. We need a thorough overhaul of our system of governance that will replace the corrupt patronage system that we have with one of merit. This will not be an easy task: if all salaries are hollowed out by inflation, it is very difficult to motivate the civil service to become corrupt-free. If we raise all salaries in the civil service to reasonable levels the already over-stretched government finances are going to go hay-wire. If we adjust the wage-bill by firing all civil servants we don’t need, we create mass unemployment. And all people taking the decisions we need to effectively stop corruption are benefiting in one way or the other and often in more than one way.

Deeper analysis in the media is only the start…

Peaceful? Not so peaceful!

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With striking regularity we read that one commentator or the other pats us all on the back for being such a peaceful nation. Now one could argue that peace is the only asset we have: we have (almost) no economy, no wealth, no science or art to speak of, the morals of our leadership are questionable at best. So peace is the best we can congratulate ourselves on. But are we so peaceful?

That depends on the definition of peace. If we agree peace is the absence of violence we have the question how we define violence.july20

We have had one peaceful mass demonstration in the 20 years history of democratic Malawi, and that was met with murderous violence by the authorities: 20 unarmed demonstrators were murdered by merciless gunmen from the State. And exercising our constitutional chasowa_robert_bannerfreedom of speech in other ways has also been met with murder in the cases of Evison Matafale and Robert Chasowa. In the case of Chasowa the investigation has even revealed the identities of the people involved, and they walk around scot free. Is this peaceful?

But the definition of violence is malawi1wider: it includes economic violence, which is perpetrated on our population with a nonchalance that defies all description. The President declares that no one will die of hunger and the same week the first victim of hunger dies. Our population is for the most part kept in dire poverty by a ruling class that creates ample opportunities for itself to steal. (The administration of State funds (that is our tax money) is not kept in order, so we can only estimate how much is being stolen. But the most reliable estimation is around 30 percent!)

Our children are denied the human right to quality education, the population as a whole is denied their human right to health (both in the form of healthy living conditions and food, and in the form of deplorable state of health care).

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We are being denied our constitutional rights and our human rights. That in itself is  violence. And this goes on day after day. We are not so peaceful. People die daily as a consequence of this violence from the State. I do not advocate to reply with stronger violence. Violence always turns against the group using it. However, I do propose that we look into ways of being more confrontational towards the State (or the ruling class) than we are now. When Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati calls the PAC “confrontational”, they can take this as a badge of honour. But clearly, the government is not listening. The President refuses all their actionable recommendations (such as following the manifeKapadwamj, India, 6th May, 1930, Gandhi volunteers in camp at Kapadwanj watching members of their band making salt following the civil disobedience riots and demonstrations demanding the boycotting of British goods and the arrest of leader Mahatma Gandhisto he was elected on). So stronger confrontation is called for, to make the State follow our recommendations.

Remember: in the history of humanity, no privileged class has given up their privileged position voluntarily. They need pressure to do so. This, for now, can be non-violent. We can study the movements of Dr Martin Luther King as well as Mahatma Gandhi, for techniques to pressure the ruling elite into recognizing our wk-am512_books1_20080724114731rights. For now we do not have to look into strategies as proposed by people like Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela and Che Guevara. They were up against powers that clearly did not listen to any reason and answered any call with murderous violence (in the case of Guevara the state of Cuba, in the case of Nelson Mandela the Apartheid Regime, in the case of Malcolm X it was the economic and Police violence in the US cities). Let us stay non-violent for as long as possible!

Democracy in our beloved country

Democracy is not elections once every five years. That is only a small part of it. Democracy is a process, and much of that process is struggle.

In many countries all over the world the population is fighting for their rights. In Iraq Parliament is occupied. The Greeks are holding many actions. In Venezuela and Brazil there are actions going on all the time. In Netherlands there were 27 strikes last year. In Germany and Belgium demonstrations are frequent and big. Recently there were big demonstrations in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. President Zuma of South Africa is under heavy pressure to resign, and South Africans are demonstrating frequently. During the Arab Spring of 2011 most of the Arab World was fighting for their rights. In China Ai Wei Wei is only the most visible of an army of activists, who fight for their rights. Anonymous is fighting for you, me, and themselves on the World Wide Web (internet). I could go on forever, but my point is clear: to defend our rights we cannot sit back and let PAC take care of things.

PAC names a few contentious points after their “all inclusive” indaba (which was far from inclusive) and the President says they are doing it the wrong way so he is not going to oblige. Kaliati tells PAC to be not confrontational. (PAC was overly respectful and not confrontational enough to get the government to move).

A clear problem with the lack of inclusivity is the list of the most urgent problems that comes out: PAC invited only the urban wealthy, and almost all delegates were old men. A few women, even some token representatives of youth organizations (who were not that youthful themselves!), and that is it. So what comes out is:

  • limit Presidential powers like appointments of the head of police, judges, ACB, FIU, MBC and so on. (the President refuses, even though this was in his own Manifesto for the elections!)
  • pass the Access To Information Bill (the President refuses even though this was in his own manifesto for the elections!)

I asked around in the village, and the outcome of my non-scientific non-representative research suggested that the problems of the common Malawian are very different from these issues. What I found was that Malawians want:

  1. A decent income
  2. Decent health care
  3. Decent education for their children
  4. Security

Now these things may partly be addressed in the (very) long term by the PAC issues, but this is too far off for my non-scientific research population. A decent income means that the economy needs to grow; I propose we follow the ideas of the President of the Republic of Imagini: fight corruption, red tape, government inefficiency, and institute the rule of law.

For health care: do not waste our tax money on a prestigious cancer centre that already is costing US 40,000,000 (instead of the budget of US 15,000,000) Instead empower the rural clinics with enough staff (hire all those graduated nurses and doctors!) and drugs (fight corruption in the drugs supply chain and use the US 40,000,000 for more drugs).

For education: hire those graduated teachers and bring back the funds that were transferred to State Residences at the last budget review, to buy textbooks.

For security: first of all hunger, poverty and inequality are strong drivers of crime, they need to be addressed (like under 1). Second the police needs to have a realistic operations budget.

PAC comes up with the upper middle class values that they represent, they did not listen to the average villager. So we need to organise ourselves. Check the international news for inspiration, and the way to go.