Government hides the truth

If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Saturday, February 12, 2011


A false sense of security

Malawi came to a virtual halt for two weeks as the petrol and diesel pumps ran dry.Petrol and diesel is now coming back. No doubt we will be lulled into a false sense of security, forgetting that this last episode just happened to be the worst of over a year of CRISIS MANAGEMENT while our Chief Economic Engineer remains strangely silent after all the hoo-haa of his book launch in Addis Ababa where an invited audience made polite noises about our Saviour, the Ngwazi. Apparently the African Union (AU) was not as generous to our Ngwazi, the outgoing AU Chairman, as he would have liked because they declined to pay the $9000 per night charge (if the reports are correct) for his Addis hotel. A straw bed in a cow shed was good enough for the Christian Saviour but not good enough for ours. I am sure, however, that anything the AU considers of an adequate standard for their Chair would have been good enough for  most of us and should have been good enough for him. But, then, when you have 'saved' a whole country and preached to the rest of Africa how the rest of them could do it - you are entitled to the very best. Now Malawi is saddled with the bill. It's nothing, really. The forex that could have been saved may have bought another ten or so second hand Japanese cars which our middle class find affordable but of which, according to our Minister of Finance, there are too many on our roads and their thirst for fuel the reason why we have none in the filling stations. $9000 per night is nothing for a sovereign country which can afford to pass up the chance of billions of kwacha of donor assistance for our power generation and the fight against disease.
But I digress. My advice to my fellow Malawiams is: "Be prepared!". There are no signs that the real underlying problems of forex shortage and fuel outages are about to be fixed. We are not now back to normal. The last two weeks were our NEW NORMAL.
The rest of the world is looking at electric cars to gradually replace petrol and diesel powered vehicles. But we don't have enough electricity and we've just, on a matter of sovereign pride, wasted the chance of generous US assistance to improve the situation.

The second age of steam

At the break up of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland the aircraft owned by the Federal Government's airline, Central African Airways, were shared out amongst the three former partners. Air Malawi started with, as I remember, an ex-World War II Dakota DC3 and a De Havilland Beaver. There may also have been a Vickers Viscount which was the only one with turbo-props. The others had thumping internal combusion engines running on aviation grade petrol. I was at Chileka Airport on the waving platform watching the flights take off and land. All the flights were either turbo-prop or turbine (jet). Into this procession trundled Air Malawi's ancient DC-3 with its radial engines spluttering and banging. We might be poor in Malawi but we do have a sense of humour. From the crowd came a laughing comment on our poor old 'plane: "Ndege ya malasha". ("Coal-fired 'plane")
We don't have any oil of our own. We've chopped down most of our forests. We can't afford imported fuel and we've thrown away the chance of generating more electricity.
When one door closes another opens. There is always an opportunity for some clever businessman. We've got coal in Malawi - we just need to dig more out of the ground. That's going to take some time. The steam age will have to wait a while and we may have to go back even further.

Animal power

In the meantime we have animal power. It is good to know that, apart from the 'ngolo' that is made throughout Malawi, we can import a variety of animal-drawn vehicles. Unfortunately, we do not have enough horses or even the correct breeds. Whereas foreign royalty can parade in graceful gold-plated carriages pulled by elegantly caparisoned horses, we will have to rely on lumbering oxen. The lucky ones among us may be able to get hold of a few donkeys. The really rich (and the Presidential convoy) will import very expensive thoroughbred horses.
There's a wide variety of animal-drawn carriages still being made (Check the catalogue. Click here). There are 2-seater 'sports' models; public transport carriages, luxury coaches and even dog and goat-drawn conveyances more suited to the lower orders in society.

So, brothers and sisters, resign yourselves to a slower pace of life. We will communicate at the speed of light but travel at the pace of the horse.

And just think of all manure you can shovel up off the streets replacing all that expensive imported fertiliser.

No comments:

Post a Comment