Who said development was a privilege that could be withheld as a punitive measure for non-compliant citizens? The strategy worked for dictatorial regimes but it is no longer relevant with the advent of competitive democracy. The fact is development is a human rights issue that should not be politicized. It is unethical for anyone delivering development project to poor citizens to expect to be thanked for it. Why should voters thank their elected representative for development? People do not vote for leaders to simply help them get rich. They vote to get different types of development…
This is the dichotomy between elected representatives in Malawi and their voters. The elected leaders expect to be adored forgetting their campaign promises. Why do the elected representatives treat their own voters this way? There may be two reasons; the first is cultural influence. Traditional leaders are not paid any fee by their subjects for being chiefs. Richard Dowden (2008.56 confirms that the idea of paying chiefs was introduced by the colonialists as a strategy for exploitation. Irrespective of the foreign interventions, it has never occurred to citizens to pay fees chiefs. It is only government that pays honorarium as form of indirect rule in villages.
The second reason is immoral and amounts to corruption. Cheerleading is a professional job in developed countries. The foreign culture is slowly creeping into some developing countries such as Malawi. Since the regimes of Dr Banda, women dancers at political rallies were treated to drinks and snacks as well as given ‘free accommodation’ while others slept in classrooms, etc. The culture of using women as cheer leaders has failed to die with the advent of democracy. These women are not fools; they do it because they receive ‘token payments’ after delivery of their services.
Those who drink in pubs will agree that there are some tricksters who move from one drinking joint to other getting free drinks by pouring false praises. The folly is with human nature. Generally leaders get corrupted by praises as they make them feel indispensable. In recent times we have had ‘political spin doctors’ using public resources to justify indefensible actions. During the dictatorship some intelligence officers got rich because of writing false intelligence reports on unsubstantiated information about pronouncements purportedly made by perceived enemies of the state. This is how many people have been victimized.
The article is about why elected representatives should expect thanks from their voters for development? The problem is probably illiteracy on the part of voters. In a democracy, voters have a right to demand development in the form of employment opportunities, bridges, bituminized roads, clean water, hospitals and schools from their elected representatives. It is a right not a favor to be withheld or given. Their votes were cast on trust in confidence of the capabilities of the candidate to bring development. Unfortunately the trust is not permanent; it only lasts as long as the promises are being delivered. It is not a prize for working in an international organization or not as the constitution does not stipulate those qualifications. Therefore, it is wrong for an elected representative to behave like a king and expect citizens to legitimize selfish motives. Unlike chiefs, elected leaders are expected to be responsible and accountable for their actions. The responsibility starts from the language of business. It is important for an elected representative to tame the tongue. The Bible cautions the usage of the tongue in (James 3 verse 6. Unfortunately, the elected representatives surround themselves with boot leakers who have nothing to offer but lies. It is these boot leakers, mostly sycophants who make elected representatives get angered by critics who offer alternative views.
One obvious indicator of arrogance is total discard for governance and rule of law. Recently, Malawians were surprised when the office of the president unconstitutionally announced the suspension of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) on allegation of abuse of public funds. In a democracy this decision should have been made by the Public Accounts Committee. It is also doubtful that an effective forensic audit could be conducted without the involvement of the MEC staff.
Having read some of the findings in the audit report (leaked to the local press) conducted by Price Water House, there is overwhelming evidence of criminal negligence at MEC. If proper bureaucratic channels were followed and hasty decisions made in the recent past against perceived political opponents were a reference the controlling officers at MEC should have been brought to book by now. This brings into question relevance of zero tolerance to corruption to this case; was it a smokescreen to hoodwink citizens and donors? Another bone of contention is the criteria for selecting KPMG. Is it a matter of new rules, the same game? There are many innocent citizens being held hostage by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) on alleged cases of corruption since 2004 which were not even substantiated by audit reports. Generally most of the corruption cases targeted perceived political opponents and have since not been concluded, giving the impression that the aim was to victimize them.
In conclusion development is a constitutional matter in Malawi and a human right issue. Any acts to the contrary amount to corruption as tax payers’ money and external debts are involved. It is surprising to note the praises that pour when government borrows money to invest in a development project. The country’s external debt has already risen to $700million after a couple of years of debt relief. Loans are liabilities not assets. It is actually like mortgaging the economic independence of future generation. It is the young generations being mortgaged to lenders whose cultural backgrounds are not known to them. It is the citizens of Malawi who will pay back the loans when those who secured them are dead.