Whose electoral promises should Malawian voters believe? Written by Patseni Mauka
It’s amazing how children trust their parents. Every child believes his dad is all powerful, he can beat up anybody. The fact that the father always lost fights in school does not exist to them. Such is the trust and belief that kids have on their parents that a child who I will call ‘John’ believed his mum so much that it led to one embarrassing and sad incident.
One day John’s mum cooked meat, a rare dish in the family. Being a rare dish, John wanted to have it for lunch and dinner that day. But there was a problem, the family suddenly received a visitor just before lunch. John’s mum had to include the visitor on that day’s lunch. That meant sharing the meat with the visitor. Sadly, all the meat would be finished during lunch. That was a big headache for John’s mum. The only consolation that slightly helped lessen the headache was the fact that the visitor came just on the right day, when the family had a meat dish. Every family wants to have visitors on a day when the meal includes meat. Ndizonyaditsa.
When John saw his mum emptying the meat pot in the kitchen, he started crying. He cried because he would have no meat to eat in the evening. To avoid embarrassment and keep John from crying, mum told John that the visitor would definitely leave some meat in the plate. She promised to give John the visitor’s expected leftover meat for his dinner later that day.
John ate his meal quickly and went out of the house. Carefully hiding, he stood on the window peeping through a small space, watching the visitor and mum enjoying their meal. The visitor hungrily ate his food. Then he grabbed the last piece of meat and devoured it. Just at that moment, John broke into a loud cry on the window, “mami amaliza nyama ija!”(“mum he has finished the meat!”)
Johns mum banked on the fact that visitors have the tendency to be shy and eat just a little, leaving some food. Unfortunately, not that visitor. This was a very hungry visitor. Perhaps that could explain why he came just around lunch hour. He finished eating all the food. The visitor was embarrassed. Mum was shocked and embarrassed. But John simply believed her promise. Such is the power of promises.
With the Malawi general elections just about five months away, party leaders are competing to prove to the electorate on who is the best person to lead the nation after May, 2019. So many promises are being made. Some so real, credible and convincing you just wish the implementation started immediately. Some so wild, and unbelievable, you wonder whether they can be fulfilled. Some so abstract, it’s difficult to understand whether those making promises really understand what they are talking about.
Some promises are so dumb you know they are outright lies. Some party leaders have completely abandoned the promises they made just about five years ago and embarked on a campaign of new promises as copied from other parties. Some are making new promises believing that voters have forgotten scores of unfulfilled promises they made just about five years ago. Such is the race to win the elections next year.
So whose promises should voters believe? No one want’s to be lied to. Nobody wants broken promises. Nobody wants to be taken for granted. Nobody wants to be taken for a fool. Therefore, it’s easier to start with who we should not believe. We should not believe those who have lied to us before in terms of election promises. We should no believe those who promised us the moon. We should not believe those who deliberately promised things they had no clue on how to deliver. We should not believe those that promised us excellence but delivered mediocrity.
Take DPP, for instance, they promised five universities in five districts of Karonga, Mzimba, Nkhotakota, Mangochi and Nsanje. Until now, not even one university has been built. The best the DPP government and President Peter Mutharika did was to lay a foundation stone for the Mombera University in Mzimba. As usual, millions of Kwachas were spent on transportation and allowances for the president and his henchmen to attend the foundation stone ceremony in Mzimba. DPP members danced and praised Mutharika for this achievement of laying a foundation stone. Over three years after this expensive jamboree, the foundation stone is still lying in loneliness gathering mosses. No university in sight.
Peter Mutharika promised to fly in a helicopter soon after the 2014 elections to open the Shire Zambezi Waterway or what is also called the Nsanje port. The 2014 elections are way gone. He partly won based on this promise. But about five years after this careless promise, Nsanje port is dry with some small boats rusting away on the surface. Not to lose everything after being lied to, Nsanje citizens have devised a genius way to make use of this multi-billion Kwacha white elephant. The Nsanje citizens are using the platform of the port as a wedding venue!
The promises that DPP made and failed to fulfill are numerous. They promised zero-tolerance to corruption, fraud, theft and other economic crimes but now the president is the highest suspect of corruption. If I were to list all DPP broken promises, this article would easily transform into a book about DPP’s lies. But this article is about whose promises voters should believe, not DPP broken promises. So let’s not waste time talking about people whose promises should not be believed. DPP is a bunch of liars. They should not be believed when they come back with more promises on the back of the numerous unfulfilled ones.
There is a new broom in town which is also making promises. It’s the UTM party, formerly movement of the people that was formed by people who just couldn’t permit DPP and Mutharika to continue with mediocrity, cronyism and corruption of the highest order. The party is led by Vice President of Malawi Dr. Saulos Chilima. Chilima and UTM have brought a totally different kind of politics in Malawi. For once, we are able to sit on our couches, watch and listen to rally speeches without immediately switching back to football highlights of the 1998 World Cup. Switching to old football highlights was what we used to do before Chilima transformed the art of speaking at a rally in Malawi. In the past, it was insults after insults at political rallies. Now we are able to listen to alternative policies and vision for the country with keen interest.
UTM under Chilima’s leadership seems to have done fantastic homework. The party has come up with original promises, which in my opinion, are genuine and implementable. What other way to know the quality and credibility of promises than to have all other parties copying and pasting them in their rally speeches? DPP and MCP have already copied some of UTM promises.
But the question is; should UTM’s promises be believed? My answer to that question is affirmative. The reason why one would give UTM the benefit of doubt is how it’s leader, Dr. Chilima, has consistently and passionately articulated the party’s vision and promises. Chilima has not only made promises, he has even gone to the extent of proving what will be the source of financing for the promises made. For all promises to deal with infrastructure, health, education, agriculture and others that need money, Chilima as a person who has seen the government at the highest level, has said the country has enough resources to meet most of it’s needs.
If you are in doubt, note that over 20 billion Kwacha was misappropriated in the cashgate scandal within six months! That’s only money that could be traced in the financial system! What about the money that could not be traced? What about potential revenue that is not corrected because of corruption? With good leadership and proper governance structures, this country can do a lot of things with locally available resources.
As for MCP, it’s main promise is to run the country like it did under Kamuzu. At least this is what it’s leader Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and his supporters tell us consistently. Nothing new from this party. Just copying other parties’ policies and repeating ‘we will do what Kamuzu used to do’. No clue whatsoever. No one should believe parties that rely on past policies unless the old policies are refined to suit realities of modern life. So many parameters of development have changed since the Kamuzu days. MCP’s insistence on old ways of doing things just shows why they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.