There is a little tale that is going around. Apparently, the head teacher told teachers to tell students to bring K200 the following day to school to support a development project. The teachers told the students to bring K250 to school the following day. The students went home and told their mothers they needed K300 to take to school the following day. That evening, the mothers told their husbands that the children needed K400 to take to school the following day.
My first reaction to this tale was laughter. Then I stopped. Because I realised there was more to the story. It was meant to be a joke but it literary was not funny when one deciphered the meaning behind it. Then I remembered that a joke is hardly just a joke; it usually has an element of truth in it. And whoever coined this interesting tale was not just thinking of jokes when they wrote it down.
Here is the thing. Almost anyone on this chain (because we are not certain if the K200 is actually the contribution needed for the project. It might as well be K100) is looking to get what is called a little piece of the cake. Tidyepo. And this little anecdote is a vivid recollection of the trend that has taken over almost all monetary transactions in the country; in government, in business, in our offices and between friends and families. Aliyense akufuna adyepo basi. Apparently, this is considered taking care of oneself.
And this selfish mentality is exactly what is gnawing at our taxes like a wild wolf. This selfish mentality is what is running businesses down. This selfish mentality is what is stalling development projects. This selfish mentality is why people are dying in the hospitals. This selfish mentality is why ordinary people can no longer trust their fellow ordinary people when it comes to issues of finances.
The chain of corruption in the country is deep-rooted. Nowadays, I worry less about the older people who have already made it big because of corruption; my main worry is the generation that is growing into this chain of corruption. This generation will be raised in a society that might as well have banners and signposts everywhere saying “Corruption is life”, “Corruption is normal” or “Be corrupt or die”.
It is different when one is raised knowing something inherently wrong and they should avoid engaging in it at all costs. It is different when children copy a bad behaviour along the way that is not considered the norm and as soon as society learns of this, the children are admonished severely – forever leaving a print in their brains that the particular behaviour they engaged in is wrong.
But with the current trend, children are going to grow up in a society that has made corruption synonymous to having a cup of coffee to jump-start the day. They are going to grow up in a society where they see corrupt people thriving and being protected by authorities (authorities who are corrupt themselves). It seems we are living under a different Constitution; maybe we have another one called The Guide to Corruption because people who are supposed to heed the Constitution as the sovereign guide to running the country are definitely not doing that.
As a country, we foster mediocrity and petty politics and corruption instead of fostering development. When the new Mayor of Lilongwe Desmond Bikoko was announced as a winner, the buzz among us and in the media was about which party he belongs to. Apparently, his win was a win to the Malawi Congress Party. We need to think less in party colours and selfish colours and start embracing development colours.
Not to dispute the role and importance of political parties but for people who seem tired of underdevelopment, I would have thought the main questions in regards to the new mayor of the capital city would have been what can he offer us? What are his achievements? And with the corruption also rampant in city councils, another important question would have been: is he a man of integrity and financial prudence? Unfortunately, that was not the case.
However, these questions remain pertinent and answers will come when people decide to ask the right questions. And come 2019, we can also make better choices when voting by asking the right questions about candidates and having the right analytics instead of obsessing over party colours and getting carried away with the chain of corruption.
I rest my case.