On Independence Day, the 6th of July every year, the greatest hypocrisy of our time is played out.
Our political leaders pretend to be religious and meet at some venue to apparently pray for Malawi.
The idea of a national day of worship, apparently praying for a better Malawi is a ritual that is not spiritual at all.
When did you ever hear the president and his friends confess their sins of corruption, theft and self-enrichment and asking for forgiveness at those services? These costly pantomimes are nothing but empty ceremonies.
Malawian leaders, no matter what religion, good character or good intentions they confess, preach or claim at the time of their ascendance to power, they are commonly denominated by how soon they succumb to greed and self enrichment as power gets to their heads.
It is these very leaders that have brought untold poverty and pain to the majority of Malawians. They have put Malawi in servitude by advancing failed economic policies and refusing to transform the country’s political framework into one of good governance and accountability.
The true spirit of independence is not simply a matter of remembering the day the British walked out of Malawi. It is about understanding what drove the movement to wrestle governance away from them.
Independence and self-governance was sought on the promise of a Malawi where economic development was evident in all regions; not blackouts, water shortages, strikes of school children and minibus drivers, and failing infrastructure and public service delivery, while a few kinsmen from Thyolo and Mulanje enrich themselves with taxpayer funds taken from a nation classified as the poorest in the world.
Statements like that from DPP secretary general Jeffrey wa Jeffrey declaring that a person from the Northern region will never be president in Malawi tell us how little the independence we got from the British actually means to the mindset of those supposed to be our leaders.
This year’s anniversary celebrations are being celebrated under the theme of thanking God for a season of plenty.
The irony here is that the real truth in that theme is that indeed this is a season of plenty in Malawi: plenty of corruption, plenty of governance failures, and certainly plenty of looting and plunder for those in power.
To demonstrate true contrition and make these independence celebrations sincere and meaningful, especially these so-called national prayers, these political leaders first must confess their hand in causing Malawians pain and misery.
What has independence brought to Malawi? Let us go once again down the memory lane. Kamuzu Banda had good intentions when he became the first president of the Republic in 1964. But soon, power went to his head.
He declared himself life-president and brutally silenced critics and opponents, while amassing more wealth for himself and his cronies.
By his death, Kamuzu Banda’s wealth as an individual exceeded that of Malawi as a nation. Bakili Muluzi followed the same self-enrichment formula set by the late Kamuzu before him.
Coming into power with so much good will at the dawn of the new Malawian democracy, Muluzi soon lost sight of the tenets of democracy that had become almost his identity, and his swansong to Malawians was the undemocratic acts of a man blinded by the love of power.
Muluzi pushed for third term and open term bills, and having failed on these, went for a ruling behind the throne strategy that backfired terribly. He left the political arena a disgraced man, still desiring the power and the unexplained wealth that the presidency had brought him.
The late Bingu wa Mutharika promised much after his controversial break away from Muluzi’s United Democratic Front. And for a while he seemed to be determined to deliver even during very politically turbulent times.
But he soon followed the same well-travelled road. Mutharika soon endeavoured to demonstrate his newly found power after 2009 elections by changing the Malawi flag, a needless idea that simply betrayed his vanity.
Mutharika then attempted to make Malawi parastatals and civil service’s staff lists resemble that of the Thyolo district council, a move that exposed more clearly his hubris and blinded him to the vision that he had once had for Malawi.
Self-enrichment was also evident in the building of expensive mansions and mausoleums, numerous property purchases and at one point even an intention to open a bank.
By the time he passed away in April 2012, Mutharika had managed to transform a goodwill that had evidenced itself in an overwhelming electoral victory to a populace that was baying for his blood and which even celebrated as his body lay in state.
Joyce Banda’s appetite for wealth and power by far overshadowed all those that went before her. Her speeches of love, forgiveness and economic development when she became president quickly transformed into unscrupulous plunder of state resources, rampant corruption and persecution of her critics.
President Mutharika simply picked up where Joyce Banda left off. Hospitals continue to go without drugs, salaries for civil servants on numerous occasions have been paid late, university colleges are closed, and the delivery of public services is in tatters.
On top of it all, the most disturbing and devastating looting of state resources ever seen in Malawi continues. To an analytical observer, it should be quite easy to appreciate that our so-called independence is simply a political fallacy.
What do words like freedom and peace mean when economically a country is on its knees? In order to get true meaning from the concept of independence, the clueless, decadent, corrupt and unscrupulous leadership needs to be truly checked.
The only real guarantee for that is the strength that will be found in a unified effort to change our political framework, not through a godless National Day of worship services that are simply a political stunt to hoodwink the masses into believing that our politicians are God-fearing; or worse still pointless celebratory football matches that just end up in stampedes that kill innocent citizens.
On Independence Day, I too prayed. I prayed for my fellow Malawian to have the discernment to realize that true independence is economic independence.
I prayed for my fellow Malawians to realize that it is foolish to pray for the longevity of a political leadership that is steeped in corruption.
I prayed that Malawians begin to see that a truly independent country does not look to the yokes of World Bank grants and IMF loans as god-sent providence, but works to create an economy that is truly self-reliant and self-sustaining. Our confession as a people at the national worship service should have been that we have been accomplices in attending Independence celebrations where we praise corrupt and self-centered leaders, not fully understanding what the concept of being an independent country should really mean to every Malawian.
Take it or leave it, Malawi is not independent. What President Mutharika and his friends were commemorating on Thursday was simply the delusion of independence. The very delusion that they want us to continue believing, so that they in turn can continue to enrich themselves at our expense.
For Malawi to get some meaning back into the concept of independence, an overhaul of the political framework is not just necessary but indispensable. National prayers and ceremonial football matches will continue to deceive many into continuing in this fool’s paradise, but the truth of the matter is that this is a nation chained by its own political framework.
As far as I am concerned, this country is not independent. It is in bondage. And these national prayers we love so much, when I think of the corrupt and selfish souls offering them, I cant help but wonder whether they are not an abomination, bringing a curse instead of a blessing upon this nation