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The Pedagogy of the Malawian Voter

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

Photo by TRT World

Oppression—overwhelming control—is necrophilic; it is nourished by love of death, not life. While life is characterized by growth in a structured, functional manner, the necrophilous person loves all that does not grow, all that is mechanical. The necrophilous person is driven by the desire to transform the organic into the inorganic, to approach life mechanically, as if all living persons were things. . . . Memory, rather than experience; having, rather than being, is what counts. The necrophilous person can relate to an object—a flower or a person—only if he possesses it; hence a threat to his possession is a threat to himself; if he loses possession he loses contact with the world. .. . He loves control, and in the act of controlling he kills life. ~ Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire.

The 2019 Malawian tripartite elections.

I think it is fair to say that the official results as they stand are not what we as a Malawian people expected but at the same time, are not surprising. We were hoping for change, a change in government, in leadership, in how things have been running in Malawi so far and on 27th May 2019, we were informed by the Malawi Electoral Commission Chairperson that our hopes and dreams are yet to be fulfilled.

While we may sit here, heads low, contemplating our fate as a country for the next five years, some saying we are heading for much worse. Others remain hopeful that the strong opposition this time may become a good counterbalance to any potential notoriety of the executive.

But what exactly is worse? As of April 2019, Malawi ranks as the fourth poorest country in the world, in the league of war-torn countries and we are not at war nor have ever been. Over MWK5 billion of our taxpayer’s money has gone missing unexplained, our public debt is at MWK3.3 trillion. Malawi has suffered its share of the scourge of killings of people with albinism that continues to prevail while the perpetrators remain free. We have people living with disabilities, the LGBTIQA+ community, sex workers, street women and children in Malawi who are discriminated against and whose rights continue to be threatened.

The youth are grossly unemployed. Our re-elected government once attempted to rectify this challenge by hiring 2,500 graduate youths, in 2018, under the Graduate Internship Programme (click here to see my recent article on this), which seems to be hanging in the balance. Rumours are rife among many that the permanent employment in the Malawi civil service that was promised, or the extension of the Programme, will materialize. None of these have been confirmed, as many millions continue to go about without a job or any prospect of it.

We are a country suffering from poverty, hunger, the devastating consequences of climate change (cue the recent Cyclone Idai), the prolonged effects of colonization. By many standards, we are as much an oppressed people as we are a country.

I desperately want to believe that we are capable of liberation, I also want to believe that our government is capable of change, but my motivation falls short when I look at the state of insurmountable challenges our people face. When it comes to the opposition of the Government, there was a post by Hon. Kamlepo Kalua in January where he said, “The results of the 2019 polls will be divided among 2 presidential candidates and I’m afraid the one with the minority vote will win, whether we like it or not.” Hon. Kalua further went on to say the opposition will want to unite after the elections, probably after losing, as we will be going to the courts.

Now while I would not want to speculate, I do believe if we are to achieve any semblance of change in leadership then perhaps that is what we should have done or maybe should do. At the moment, some and supporters of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) have aired out their grievances on social media declaring it is the fault of the United Transformation Movement (UTM) Party that has resulted in MCP’s umpteenth loss in a general election. I am afraid I cannot agree with this statement because I believe every other party that contested for the presidential seat has been at fault in the running this year.

While MCP, UTM, the United Democratic front (UDF), the Mbakuwaku Movement for Development (MMD) and the independent candidate all had the goal for changed leadership for our country, they managed to gather a collective majority vote against the current leadership in spite of their differences and motivations. The fact of this outcome is that, of the 5,105,983 Malawians that voted last week, 3,090,555 (or 61%) voted in full support of change. This is a victory for the Malawian people they must not lose sight of. It is tempting to think that perhaps if the presidential candidates had coalesced around such a common goal, i.e., that of change, we would have been singing a different song today. But here we are.

And perhaps as we enter another five years of demonstrations for better enforcement of human rights, petitions against misconducts and appeals to repeal laws and policies, may we remember that that majority vote has the power of every citizen to demand accountability, fairness and justice by all means peaceful. So, perhaps to say we are an oppressed people is not a loud enough statement. The oppressed individual often does not know that they are oppressed, and the presence of the liberator is therefore presented as a threat than a sign of peace and salvation that is the Malawian people.

But we are slowly learning because what we have now is over 61% of the Malawian people who have, for lack of better description, seen the light and want something different. Now we must address the 38% who must see this light as well.

But where do we go from here, I wonder? More protests? And private sector, maybe? Where do go from here to redeem our beloved country? Do we give in?

In case we subscribe to our being an oppressed people, we must also realize we are a resilient one at the same time, and we must fight for what is ours. If not for our generations, then we must do it for the generations to come.


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