Malawi’s Elite (Honourable Mentions) — Part 8, Series : The 4 People who can change Malawi

Turns out that after completing this series, I realized I forgot the two “honourable mentions” I stated in the first article of 7. Therefore, to be true to my word, this article exists to quickly discuss those two very important people. Unfortunately, it may not be very pretty. Here goes nothing.

We discussed:

The two people who we must talk about are: The Political Elite and Malawi’s 1%. Going forward, will shall call them “the Elite”. I will try and be very careful not to paint anyone as the villain because Malawi is not where it is because of one person or one group of persons. It is where it is because of the whole nation. However disproportionately, some groups of people have had more influence and power to effect Malawi: negatively or positively. It just is how it is. However, again: no one group is the villain, Malawians all collectively created present-day Malawi by all our combined effort: our collective tacit compliance, our resistance and our complicity.

However, have you ever sat for a second and thought about the whole picture? It is easy to assume that everyone would be super happy if Malawi took a leaf out of China’s book and became a modern day economic marvel. If Malawi develops, we already know who gains. The question is: who loses? Who are the people that may be negatively affected by national development? The assumption most of us make is that if Malawi develops, everyone wins. Is that true though? Let’s look at this further… in particular:

1. The Political Elite

This individual evolved from post-colonial era, out of the single party dispensation. 54 years of independence, one may wonder what they have contributed towards Malawi’s development, (apart from their personal investments). Perhaps one thing we can be grateful for is their “help” at making Malawi stay peaceful and civilly obedient. As most Malawians who drawing the short end of the straw would argue that Malawi must be better.

Political or not, The Elite have the best of Malawi: the best healthcare, foreign medical care (including access to evacuation if need be), best schools and access to prime real estate in Malawi etc. Additionally, because of their VIP status, they can circumvent processes that may take the average Malawian months, years or decades to achieve. Don’t believe me? Here’s a personal example: Back in 2009, I decided to try and buy land or rent a house from the government facilities. Literally in one day I went to Malawi Housing, Ministry of Lands and also Lilongwe City Assembly. I filled in all their application forms and paid the necessary fees. Of these three, the clerks at Malawi Housing advised me to make regular follow-ups. They suggested weekly ones. I did. My last visit is seared into my memory, I will never forget it. I had booked an appointment with the manager (the second of two) to plead my case, having waited then for about 6 years or so. Yes, 6 years. Motivated by one two many inspirational videos, I gave what I felt was a heartfelt plea, after all, I had waited 6 years on their list. This is what he told me: A few weeks prior to my coming to his offices, someone influential had come to his offices and said her relative had come to her needing a house. He then told her that it was not a problem at all, there was a house available that had been meant for someone working at the State-house and instead of it going to that person, he would make sure it went to this influential woman’s young relative. I was lost for words and actually cried (I’m a crier, we do that). I never went to those offices ever again. Two things struck me: The first was how “matter of fact” his candid exchange with me was. Secondly, it was clear that this individual who got the house was not in the income level that needed subsidized housing. That experience convinced me that this system is not designed for everyone to win. It is a “whose who game”. The game’s been rigged and the elite have the cheat sheet. If you don’t know any “giant” on whose shoulders you can figuratively stand-on, then you won’t get very far. This, therefore, led me to believe that the system is NOT broken …the machine works as intended — by those that are benefiting from it still.

So, Malawi is not broken to everyone. For some, it’s working mighty fine. I am not saying politicians and rich Malawians are the devil. That would be unkind and untrue. Some of the elite are very generous towards national development. Additionally, we have corrupt and uncouth rich and poor people anywhere in the world. However, I am saying that some politicians and some of Malawi’s 1 percent are definitely not keen on a more economically equal Malawi. Why would some people not want Malawi to develop, you may ask? Well, I don’t know but I can’t help toying with these possible reasons:

  • Change (whether good or bad) can be very threatening. It is natural to prefer things to remain just the same when you feel that things are working as they are.
  • Less Power for them & More for others: The fear that their piece of the pie will be smaller if other members of Malawi are economically empowered. Think about it: A more developed Malawi might mean higher wages for her workers, The elite would have to shoulder those costs, to some extent.
  • A more developed Malawi might mean a more informed and more assertive workforce. They might demand better work conditions. Malawians working in tea estates, shops owned and building construction sites spring to mind. Let’s also not forget that middle-class Malawians would probably not appreciate the higher wages for domestic workers who have always been traditionally low earners but very helpful for our respective homes. Most of us would not be able to afford full-time gardeners, maids, and guards. It’s a fact if Malawi stopped paying them “Monopoly money”.
  • It would be harder to circumvent the law if checks and balances actually all worked: Imagine if money actually went to where it was supposed to go? Imagine if no manila envelopes were exchanged behind closed doors? Imagine if rich Malawians or the political elite did actual jail time for their national indiscretions? It’s a scary thought if that happens to be you.

Writing this, I do apologize for the “us versus them” approach I used here. It couldn’t be helped though. Regardless, I hope I have drummed on the point that not everyone may actually want a more developed and equal Malawi. People who oppress others won’t have as many people to subjugate.

This article was also not my cup of tea… but it had to be said.

Having said all the above, I truly believe the elite have tremendous power to contribute to significant lasting change. However, the question is after 54 years of abysmal national development, will they?

What are your thoughts? Please leave a comment below.

This article is always first published on www.afrineur.com/blog .

Want to discover more about Maclean Mbepula? Find her on Linkedin or here on Medium. She’s written 3 books (one in entrepreneurship from a grassroots perspective (“Challenge Accepted) and 2 poetry books which are available for purchase on Amazon or you can sign up and get the kindle versions 100% FREE.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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Author. Tech-Entrepreneur. Web Designer, Artist / Creative/ Poet. Stand-Up Comedian. Founder of Afrineur, Creative Africa Space & Shekinah Invest. ENFP. :)

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Maclean Tamanda Mbepula

Maclean Tamanda Mbepula

Author. Tech-Entrepreneur. Web Designer, Artist / Creative/ Poet. Stand-Up Comedian. Founder of Afrineur, Creative Africa Space & Shekinah Invest. ENFP. :)

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