In one week, the most anticipated day will be here. Malawi will vote for a leader to lead the country out of poverty and mediocrity. As usual, the expectations for the next leader are so high that they must have hit Pluto by now. For a country this small, we are quite ambitious, with over 40 registered political parties, all with a promise of manifesting development.
Since 1994, after the second multiparty elections, Malawi has seen four main regimes come in with the promise of eye-catching, ear-tickling and mind-warming promises. However, 25 years later, Malawi is still reeling from pangs of poverty, corruption and mediocrity. The truth is 25 years is long time and there was potential to make tremendous progress. There was potential to make progress enough to substantiate more than two decades of work.
However, just like we do with our football team, we have paraded coaches in and out for as long as I was old enough to read the news and still the Malawi National Team does not perform to optimum levels. Every time our team fails, the quick fix is to fire the coach and install a new one. Indeed, a great leader inspires greatness but it is also true that you can take a horse to the river, but you cannot force it to drink. It is possible that Malawi has had some great leaders in arenas but even they have been frustrated by the system.
There was a tale of a great leader in one of our prominent cities in the country. He came in with a passion to wash out mediocrity and advance the institution and its works. Indeed, he tried his best and some of his works were visible but he was soon frustrated and driven out by a system that is so used to mediocrity it does not know any other way to operate. Anyone who comes in to disrupt the status quo makes a lot of enemies, quickly.
The worst part about our penchant for operating the mediocre way is that we actually glorify it with all sorts of mundane and gullible rationalisations that can better be hosted at a Charlie Chaplin Memorial Show. And when I say our system in the country, I do not limit this to the public sector; this system goes all the way to the private sector and our own homes. Yes, our own homes.
When we hear of big bidders in big contracts engaged in some back-channel deals we get on our high horses forgetting the K200,000 we received on that K2million deal at our little pocket business buried in the city CBD. When we point fingers at officials going on luxury trips and buying fancy cars on ‘ taxpayers’ money, we forget that we would rather have our families go hungry just so we can drive fancy cars and go to lake festivals. It is in the system.
A country is a complex system with many connected lines. No matter the inspirations of a leader, they cannot come in and initiate change in a system that is adamant to operate in the comfortable way no matter how detrimental this way of operating is to them and their families and the country at large. Some good leaders begin with good intentions but are later ‘initiated’ into ‘the way we operate around here’ by political gurus who have been in the system and rounded all the corners of all parties and the government. One is left believing they cannot succeed unless they accept the status quo.
I rest my case.