A contribution by C. Companyero
I’ve been asked this question several times when I brought up the subject. I find the answer self evident, and the question self defeating. Let me begin with the second part:
Who would decide if anyone is ready for self organization. The concept defeats the whole point: for self organization we do not need anybody’s permission. Nobody has to think we are ready for it but ourselves. We decide, that is self organization. So it is totally beside the point whether anyone thinks Malawians are ready for self organization. Only we have to think so, and those who don’t think so can stay behind. We can organize, whether given the OK or not.
The first point is also interesting, because Malawians have proved beyond reasonable doubt that we are ready for self organization: we have been practicing it since times immemorial. Before the slave traders came we were self organized. When the slave traders came we resisted them, with variable success, through self organization. The whole point of a real indaba is that we get together, all of us, and self organize.
Then the Colonial Masters came and tried to take our self organization away. They pigeon holed us into tribes with their puppet rulers, who were being backed up by Colonial fire power. We retreated into secret cults like the Nyau, were the Colonial Masters could not reach.
When Colonialism lost its profitability (the costs of suppressing the population were higher than the benefits) the Colonial Masters invented the scheme of neo colonialism, where their indirect ruler was a new, in name independent, but in reality very dependent puppet, in our case Dr HK Banda. With his westernized culture (think of his dress and his Victorian English prudishness) he supported the Western Capitalist block in the cold war. He oppressed us more than the Colonial Masters had ever done before. But the reach of his rule was limited, even though it went into our villages more than under the Colonials. Still, his control was not absolute: most of our dealings were left intact. We organized our villages ourselves and the government provided limited services. Education was limited to very small numbers of people, health care was very limited. He did provide services in the area of agriculture through the system of Admarc and extension workers, the way that was common in all African countries of those times.
With the end of the cold war, western need for Third World dictators waned and HK Banda was removed from power. Now came the days of international neo-liberalism. Admarc lost its influence, and extension work waned. Neo-liberalism means that government retreats from most areas of society except for supporting big companies. The population was noticeably less confronted with government, but our self organization skills are still intact. In the village we organize ourselves. The government system of justice is inaccessible for the villager it mostly deals with political disputes and cases concerning Big Men. In the village we organize our own justice system. The other government services, like health care and education are less and less functional as government cuts off funds and the President refuses to take responsibility. The government is so incompetent as to not reach into the village life, the most part of Malawi.
The only time when the villager meets a lot of government is when he/she is selling his/her tobacco. There is money there, so then government comes in big time. Heavy taxes, corrupt officials getting in the way of business, suddenly government is all over. Only to reap the benefits of the villagers sweat, not to organize goodies for us.
This government does not organize the country, the Malawians self organize it.
So are Malawians ready for self organization? Hahaha, we have been doing it all along!