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.
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 freedom 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 wider: 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).
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 manifesto 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 rights. 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!