Talking Blues: Barking up the wrong tree manifested


The day when our aversion for corruption is not motivated by our lack of opportunities to engage in graft is the day we will begin making progress in the war against impunity.

Now, don’t applaud me for this statement; it’s not mine. Madam Martha Chizuma tweeted something to this effect the other day.

It caught my eye and sure got me thinking: is she ‘tweeting in tongues’ because having reached ‘the mountain top’, her eyes have seen the glory of the promised land, and she is now worried that if we don’t change, we may never get there?

Kindly allow me to digress.

In the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey distinguishes between proactive and reactive people.

While the former focus on what they can do and influence, the latter dwell on factors beyond their control and their default is an attitude of victimisation and blame.

Covey illustrates using two circles.

The first is a circle of concern. It includes phenomena like global warming, the state of the economy, your children’s fashion choices, attitudes in society, the organisation you work for, the things your colleagues do, the way people drive their cars etc. These vary. But the common denominator is that there’s not much you can do alone to change things in this circle. As such, you end up looking like the proverbial foolish dog that barks at a flying bird.

The circle of influence is much smaller and encompasses things we can do something about. How much leverage you exert depends on three factors, your capability, power (extent of your authority) and willingness (political will) to use the power.

Effective people and leaders focus on this circle because that’s where they make an impact. Once they start working, the circle of influence begins to expand because others, appreciating the effect, increase their power.

Conversely, if you invest in stuff you cannot change, your circle of influence shrinks.

Once again, kindly permit me to change the topic.

You might have heard about our dearest President Lazarus Chakwera’s address to the United Nations General Debate in the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

In my opinion, it is just as well that he didn’t waste funds travelling because the thrust of his speech makes one wonder if Bob Marley, in the foolish dog adage above, wasn’t referring to us.

Look, Malawians elected president Chakwera on the strength of promises he made, claiming that he was “ready to govern”, would hit the ground running and transform our lives.

The understanding was that he would lead Malawians on their return journey out of Egypt, the land of slavery, to Canaan, where milk and honey flows and all one needs is a humongous cup.

People voted for him on the assumption that he had the capability and political will and that he would fast-track them to Canaan if given power.

Progress this far? Unimpressive.

Inflation is rising. Unemployment. University students are in college only due to Onjezani Kenani’s interventions.

Public debt is on steroids. By December 2020, Malawi’s total public debt stock stood at about K4.76 trillion from K4.13 trillion in June 2020. This debt accounts for 54 per cent of our gross domestic product (GDP). As per the Treasury, public debt is projected to grow to 78.2 per cent of GDP by the close of 2021, a further to 81.3 per cent of GDP in 2022, and 83 per cent and 83.8 per cent in 2023 and 2024, respectively.

Concerning nepotism, well, no one is even trying to disguise it. Blood is proving to be really thicker than water.

I could go on and on, but I will just add that since fish rots from the head down, it does not bode well that two of the president’s senior aides were caught in fragrante delicto. Not forgetting the two senior ministers.

This seems to speak to Madam Chizuma’s lamentations.

During campaign time, listening to Chakwera and his minions sounded like voting Chakwera into office meant the spectre of corruption would go for good.

But alas, as Madam Chizuma is learning, Malawians are only disgusted with corruption when denied part of the action. Otherwise, given an inch, they take a yard; given a yard, they take a mile.

If you ask me, corruption, not UNGA politics, is where Chakwera needs to focus. Applying Covey’s theory, once you actually read Chakwera’s contribution to the UNGA, you will see he got everything all wrong.

He was on the warpath, ostensibly fighting against four global crises, namely (a) the climate crisis, (b) the Covid crisis, (c) the sustainable development crisis, and (d) the UN Governance crisis.

His demands?

On the Climate Crisis, his starting point were three words: “Fulfil Your Pledge!”

That is, prosperous countries responsible for the most pollution must throw some dollars our way, and we aren’t taking “No” for an answer.

“No ifs, no buts, no ands!”

On the Covid19 Crisis, Chakwera had another three words: “Release the Vaccines”.

He attacked countries whose stocks risk expiring (as did ours too), asking, “What are you waiting for? Release the Vaccines.”

What were we waiting for that time we allowed ours to expire?

I wonder.

Vis-à-vis the economic devastation caused by this pandemic, Chakwera had yet another three words: “Cancel the Debts”.

These debts precede Covid19. Again, as a country, we have nothing to show for another Heavily Indebted Poor Country (Hipc) and Multilateral Debt Relief we got in 2006.

Anyway, not yet done, President Chakwera used the sustainable development crisis to build bridges again, in three words: “Let’s Work Together!” before adopting militancy again and demanding that the UN be the gold standard of democracy, accountability, transparency, and equity; and in three words: “It must reform!”

Do you know what this is called? Barking up the wrong tree.

The point is, President Chakwera’s ineffectuality this far has been diagnosed by practically everyone. Columnists, academics, and the clergy with one pastor saying, “Kumeta kochotsa nsabwe sitisiya tsumba!”

Check this: imagine that Chakwera summoned whosoever he tasked with delivering legal reforms, including curtailing presidential power, and said, dude, I have three words:

“Table those bills!”

Wouldn’t whosoever is sleeping on the job wake up?

Imagine that President Chakwera legal summoned his underwhelming Cabinet and expensive but redundant advisors and, in three words, said:

“You are fired!”

Wouldn’t more people begin to take him seriously?

Now, imagine that President Chakwera summoned his SPC and, in three words, told him,

“Back to retirement!”

Wouldn’t that be something?

No ifs, no buts, no ands!

Of course, yes!

The problem is that President Chakwera is obsessed with the Circle of Concern at the expense of the Circle of Influence. He is forgetting that if he can impact the Circle of Influence, he will be rewarded with a bigger circle.

If however, he insists on sticking to stuff he can only yap but not do anything about, he has another think coming.


One Comment

  1. Mukatere mwalemba… in summary he should have brought domestic issues onto the global platform?
    Is that what you wanted him to do? And look like a total embicile like you have come across with this pathetic article you have just written.

Comments are closed.