Open Letter to President Mutharika: Stop the Carnage on Malawi’s Roads!
Updated: Jan 21, 2020
First version published on Maravi Post on 25 December 2017 (use this link).
Dear Mr. President,
2,637 Malawians die in accidents on our roads, using 2014 WHO data. This is 1.89% of all deaths that occur in our country. The Police Service you command told us 927 people failed to make it through May 2017, since January of that year. Not all these deaths ought to happen, and certainly, many of them are not expendable. I am very concerned.
We have become so naturalized by road accidents that, when we see pictures of people killed pa mseu (on the road) like the November 2017 Mtengowanthenga accident, and many others being circulated on social media every day, we are not moved any more. That is very traumatizing and dehumanizing. And the ubiquity of the fatalities has numbed our hearts into coating every event with "oh, may their souls rest in peace!" Yet life is lost unnecessarily to terrible roads, unsafe driving and unsafe vehicles, frequently with criminals in their charge. This is full of baloney!
What does RIP do for bereaved families? For us, ordinary Malawians affected by everyday motoring challenges, we come to realize RIP never bought a coffin, nor was it ever life insurance to cater to the loved ones left behind. Mr. President, you would not want to rest in peace if all you wanted was to go from point A to B, and somewhere along your journey, someone cuts your life and journey short due to a bad driving attitude, bad roads, unfit vehicles and a carefree neglect of regulation by government. In case of minibuses, the compulsion to maximize on daily targets is a crucial factor. This is uncalled for and it makes my blood boil, because surely most of these accidents can be avoided. But no, Malawians bring God in the mix! Oh, Mulungu anawakondetsetsa! (Oh, God loved them most!)
A major contributor to our strife from road accidents is greed. To begin with, your government is responsible for providing basic necessities to us. Among the top needs are water, transportation (including adequate and well-maintained roads), security, rule of law and healthcare. These are services my grandmother would have wished to see if she lived today. The enforcement of the law would take care of every motoring offence, violation and only cars that are roadworthy would drive on our tax-sponsored roads. In this instance, therefore, Mr. President, greed means people only interested in robbing from innocent people without providing quality service. It means them being paid a salary for no work done. And if laws were truly enforced, they would be held accountable and all this carnage would cease forthwith.
I plead with my fellow Malawians, Mr. President, to see the structural misgivings of your government in that, given the elites you have put in charge are unable to follow through their pledge to service, the blood shed on our roads amounts to murder. If we choose not to do something, and think that "RIP" passed around for a day or two is sufficient, we shall perish…one by one. Sitikukana ngozi (we cannot prevent all accidents from occurring), but the majority of them is no accident but murder with capital M, deserving capital punishment.
Nadi akulu! Tilirenge mpaka pauli (how long are we going to mourn) before we take a minute to think and address the root cause of the problem? When will we roll up our sleeves and, for once, relieve the Almighty of the blame? We must stop taking the passive stand that lets us go, "Aaaah! Chauta wa lora kuti dzitero. Amenewa apita ku paladiso (God has willed it. The deceased is in paradise). If you are like my church, “bali pachipakato cha Abraham (they sit on God’s lap)” or “angogona akuyembekeza kudza kwa Ambuye (they are asleep, awaiting the second coming),” etc. Meanwhile, the coffin vendor is mweeee! mweeee! cashing in on us, as murderers are getting away with excessive crimes.
It is easy to fix some of these anomalies. And on that note, Mr. President, I beseech my fellow Malawians to demand good roads, enforceable traffic laws and a full redress of corruption. If we did that there would be no embezzlement of public funds, no bribery and fake drivers licenses. But day in, day out, even the corrupt drive their Mercedes Benzes, BMWs, RAV4s and whatever wheels the far East produces in zig-zag like snakes motion, kuli kuthawa (dodging) potholes. If you joined us in this call, as a truly concerned leader, Malawi would improve.
Where I live, when an accident occurs, emergency personnel show up within minutes. 53 years after independence, Malawians still spectate accident victims as if they are watching football. There was a lady with broken bones, still breathing, at the Mtengowanthenga accident scene. She sat beside the crushed car in agony and shock with spectators around her. More than two other cars were seen in the video, nobody made an effort to rush the victims to the hospital.
In an accident between Mzuzu and Ekwendeni about two years ago, a witness wanted to perform CPR on a lady whose life could have been saved. But the so called “officials” pushed her away, even after she identified herself as a nurse. They did not care to hear anything from this highly trained registered nurse. I have seen this kind of behavior too many times, which lets people die due to delayed help or negligence. Yet it all peaks on social media. What is the purpose of posting these horrifying images online if not to evoke emotions so that we can improve our situation?
Cashgate would have stood no chance if we all demanded more well-maintained roads and accountability. Miseu yomwe anaisiya (the road networks left by) our founding father, Dr. Kamuzu Banda, were sufficient for the 9 million or so people then. They cannot cater for the 17 million Malawians today. Besides, during Kamuzu’s day, roads were mainly used by vehicles of the Malawi Government and statutory bodies as QM, ADMARC, The Reserve Bank, ESCOM, the Water Boards and a few lucky Malawians, while the rest of us flourished on UTM or more commonly BD10 (a.k.a., walking on foot). Not even a bicycle could we afford.
If we are again going to sit back and relax about these accidents, I personally see two things happen: 1) I should never ever see any more accident pictures of dead Malawians posted on social media; 2) I will forthwith exit social media groups where the appetite to continue persists. But that means detaching myself from a country I love dearly. In many ways, that represents a loss to my country. I have had enough of it.
President Mutharika, if you are ever on WhatsApp, I will personally ensure to send this message over to you. If it is your email address I find first, I will still send my lamentation. In the event that your machinery also runs crocodile farms or your DPP Cadets are up to the tricks we know them for, my message is that I am not afraid. What makes me better than those people lying dead pamseu like they were not walking and talking a minute before? Those poor souls loved life once, just like you and I. In others’ deaths, livelihoods for sizeable families have been lost. What more should I say in order to be heard? Where can we seek help?
I do not believe you must slumber at the New State House, enjoying only the best, when innocent citizens are suffering like this. Some of them are your voters who perish and take your vote with them. Many can hardly make ends meet, yet no ‘real’ ambulance is at their disposal when they are hit. People are left for dead pamseu, because of lack of emergency services. Our hospitals are not functional anymore. This has to end.
I thought they say you, Mr. President, were a professor of law in the USA. Did you not learn anything from the American government about how it takes care of its citizens? The least you could do is make sure to enforce the law. Vindalama mukudzikundikirabzo sivizakupulumutsani mukadzankhala ndi (all the money you embrace yourself with will not save you when you have a…) heart attack. You must surely have learnt something from the passing of our former president. The lack of emergency medications was all it took for a country to lose a leader, while his pretty fat accounts could not save him. Perhaps you are as naturalized to our suffrage as much as we are.
My heart bleeds with Malawi.
My name is Milika Violet Nkosi. You may reach me on +1-574-386-3982. I am fed up with seeing people dying in my country in their large numbers, unnecessarily. That is uncalled for. And I will shut up when someone gives me Mutharika's contact information.
Milika Violet Nkosi.
Milika Nksoi has lived in the State of Indiana, USA for nearly 20 years. She is a Registered Nurse with an Associate Degree from Ivy Tech Community College, South Bend. She also holds a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Degree in Biology at Indiana University of South Bend. She is currently reading towards her Master of Science in Nursing Leadership and Management with Western Governors University.