By Fr. Paul Samasumo –Vatican City.
54 years after independence majority of Malawians live in poverty
In a pastoral letter titled, ‘A call for a new era in Malawi,’ read nationwide, this Sunday, in parishes, the Bishops denounce the fact that 54 years after independence, the majority of citizens are still living in abject poverty.
“We, your Bishops...are saddened to note that the hard-won freedom and democratic dispensation in our country have not yielded the fruits that we all hoped for. We have observed with deep sorrow that the majority of the people in this country still languish under the yoke of poverty, ignorance, disease, hunger and a seriously distorted mindset that has led to dangerous moral decadence in our society. Fifty-four years after independence the people of Malawi have not achieved what they had been aspiring for,” the Bishops say.
We must never pretend that all is well
Malawi’s prelates say that a system of government that favours only a small, powerful elite needs to be interrogated and Malawians themselves need a change of heart, direction and mindset to make things right.
“We are of the opinion that Malawi as a nation needs a change of direction if we are to reverse the situation. We mean a total change in the way of doing things other than business as usual. This entails a change of mindset leading to a new era of fairness and justice for all,” The Pastoral letter emphasises. The Bishops add: “We need to ask ourselves whether this chosen system of government has, over the years, delivered on its promise to uplift the lives of all the citizens ... We must never pretend that all is well,” the Bishops say.
The Bishops have described the thirty years of one-party state rule prevalent after the country's independence in 1961 as, “a period of darkness and gloom.” They, nevertheless, do not endorse the dawn of multi-party politics introduced in 1993 as a resounding success.
Malawi, a landlocked African nation was ruled immediately after independence, by then “Life President,” Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda. He governed Malawi through a highly arbitrary and personalised style. Critics describe Kamuzu as a brutal dictator.
According to the Bishops, after Kamuzu’s three decades of one-person rule, the new multi-party system of democracy has equally failed to transform Malawi into a thriving democracy.
“As we celebrate the silver jubilee of the re-introduction of multi-party democracy, we should accept that the lack of open debate and the stifling of intra-party democracy in this country has not served us well. We cannot expect party leaders who stifle intra-party democracy and promote a culture of fear in their own parties to suddenly become democrats once they are in government,” the Bishops conclude.
As Malawians head to the polls in 2019, the Bishops hope that Malawians will do some much-needed soul-searching.
“Let us vote wisely for leaders who demonstrate servant-style leadership and not just vote for a leader because he or she belongs to a political party that is predominant in our area. “
Malawi’s Bishop endorse Pope Francis’ vision of society
The Bishops’ pastoral letter is a scathing indictment of Malawian politicians and society but also a pastoral call for a change of heart and mentality towards a new era of doing politics and living. The Bishops hope Malawians can, for once, focus on quality leadership; national institutional reforms; a political system that encourages popular participation; eradication of tribal politics, poverty and the promotion of development for all. They quote and endorse Pope Francis’ vision of good and healthy politics as “sorely needed, capable of reforming and coordinating institutions, promoting best practices and overcoming undue pressure and bureaucratic inertia.” (Laudato Sí).