Contrary to what you might have heard about Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika as of late, one must be entirely biased (consciously or unconsciously) not to acknowledge the fact that Mutharika initiated a socio-economic revolution in order to practically improve the living standards of Malawians and promote an upward re-calibration of the normative standards in the country.
And yes, contrary to certain accusations, there are visible results to show for his electoral promises.
Four years down the line, Mutharika has spearheaded an infrastructure development never seen before in Malawi.
The road network has increased tenfold across all regions and Mutharika has constructed or rehabilitated more roads in the country than all the previous presidents combined.
Yes, there is robust delivery on his development programmes; he has taken it seriously and the results speak for themselves.
Moreover, the Malawian Kwacha has been stabilized and the country’s economy has rapidly improved with a relatively stable inflation.
Even the Economist recently conceded that Mutharika restored confidence in the economy battered by the previous administration and created economic stability which, in turn, enabled other macro-economic objectives to be achieved, such as stable prices and stable and sustainable growth.
This is not merely an axiom by the way, international financial institutions have published relevant analyses on the issue.
Additionally, under Mutharika’s presidency, Malawi has also witnessed exponential investments in the tourist sector.
Five-star hotels are currently under construction in Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mangochi; the Liwonde- Mangochi road has been rehabilitated on top of a new stadium in Mangochi. Stadiums were built in Mulanje, Kasungu and Karonga as well, while there has also been considerable development in quotidian infrastructure, notably state-of-the-art markets and bus terminals.
Of course, conveniently, the government’s achievements are rarely mentioned. Oddly, one could even argue that the government’s achievements are actually more mentioned in the foreign press than in the local one.
Furthermore, the current President has invested a lot in education. Possibly owning to the fact that he has lived and has been educated in the West for years, he realizes that one of the most important measures for creating a more equal society involves making education part of everyone’s mental opportunity maps.
Admittedly, the educational system has seen dramatic changes and the community college dream is now a reality. There is a community college in almost every district in the country and the first cohort of graduates seems thoroughly promising. The University of Malawi (UNIMA) has been unbundled, allowing numerous colleges under it to become standalone universities.
This will ultimately remedy issues of harmonization, encourage creativity and, more importantly, boost funding and research opportunities.
However, no one contends that the country is in excellent condition; far from it. There is so much room for improvement. Nonetheless, there has been steady progress and genuine will.
With regard to all those who publicly bash the president for not delivering on his promises, even though this might sound disheartening, it is important to ask oneself in which country of the world have the Presidents done exactly what they promised prior to being elected?
If they even manage to carry through with 60-70% of their pre-electoral commitments, they are laudable. It is not that they are unwilling to do what they promise, it is simply that the governmental apparatus faces many challenges, from practical hindrances to budgetary limitations to potentially divergent elite/public opinions. Nothing is as simple as it seems. ‘Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins’.
At least the current President maintains a more realistic stance compared to other grandiloquent pledges originating from the opposition.
Repeatedly, concerning the infamous corruption saga, apart from the fact that corruption allegations have sadly become more of sheer prosaic platitudes in Malawi than actual accusations, the moralizing tendencies of certain individuals lead them to regions of the namby-pamby or redundant truisms, without actually helping the country in any way, shape or form.
Undoubtedly, it would be ideal to live in a country where there is not an ounce of corruption, everything is meritocratic and nepotism and cronyism are considered obsolete practices. But can anyone really promise that? Because at least for the time being, it appears that those who make accusatory remarks have themselves succumbed to such practices over the years. As the saying goes ‘it’s easier to criticize than do better’.
There are realistically no promising prospects -much less guarantees- that the self-touted ‘anti-corruption paragons’ will strive towards meritocracy, justice or equality. In order to effectively fight corruption, we have to thoroughly transform our collective mindset and mentality, including cultural changes and moral imperatives. Only then will we be able to eliminate corruption…for good.
Indubitably, when it comes to changing political or social outlook, which is key to bringing about systemic changes, a couple of things are certain: it is a long-term game, and -for now at least -an inexact science.
Nevertheless, it is a starting point that should not be ignored. An at this point, remember Plutarch’s quote ‘it is a thing of no great difficulty to raise objections against another man’s oration – nay, it is very easy; but to produce a better in its place is a work extremely troublesome.’
The story was first published on Maravi Post on 31st August 2018