Joyce Banda, Malawi's former President and president of People's Party (PP), has reiterated her belief that Malawians need 'special prayers' and divine intervention to reclaim the ethos of love and empathy and, therefore, rediscover social, economic and political direction.
"It is not an overstatement to suggest that Malawi is now a hopeless nation. There is no love amongst ourselves; Malawians now hate each other more than ever before," Banda told Nyasa Times in an exclusive interview on Friday at her Domasi Residence in Zomba.
Banda, who returned home on Saturday, April 28, 2018 after a long stay abroad, said she was invited as a panelist at the Word Bank sponsored Fragility Forum in March where she was saddened to learn that Malawi was among 31 'most fragile' nations.
The Forum invited policy makers and practitioners from humanitarian, development, peace and security communities to share practical solutions and explore innovative ways to improve development approaches to foster peace and stability.
According to Banda, she discussed the positive role political leaders can play to foster unity and development. She said she believed that conflicts can be prevented if leaders fostered inclusiveness in their political, social and economic agendas, including paying special attention to young people who are frustrated because of idleness.
She said she was "extremely saddened" that Malawi is rated 'fragile' together with other 30 nations, which are either just smarting from violent conflict or are in conflict and others that have suffered enormous natural calamities. These countries, including Malawi, are at risk of missing out on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
"Why should we be 'fragile' when we have never been in any serious violent conflict or faced serious natural disasters since independence? That's why I think something is seriously wrong and we need special prayers and cleansing," said Banda.
Banda said one of the parameters to determine a nation's prosperity is the 'happiness' of its people.
"Happy people are the ones more likely to be innovative and progress. They are also much likely to patriotic, peaceful and well-disposed to serve their nation diligently. Unfortunately for us, Malawi was once again found at the end of a long queue in the recently published happiness index," noted Banda.
She said a critical look at the happiness narrative may reveal that it is pretty overreaching and very much cutting across challenges that Malawians as a people continue to face on a daily basis.
"A majority of Malawians are still nose deep in abject poverty with very few options. They still struggle to put food on the table on a daily basis and don't know where their next meal will come from," she said, adding that over 60 percent of Malawians live in the rural areas and their livelihood depends on subsistence farming. She said their annual harvest is only just marginal and barely enough for them to survive not to mention any surplus to sell and earn something from their toil.
Banda observed that there is total chaos and total breakdown of societal order in Malawi, saying the nation had now degenerated into a cesspool of lawlessness and animosity. Instead of loving each other as one people, Banda said Malawians had turned against each other for no good reason but selfishness alone.
"There are unproven allegations of people sucking the blood of others. There is lack of respect for life in our societies today, which is exhibited through the rampant mob killings and heartless murders of people with albinism for whatever rituals. This is indicative of a decaying social fabric.
"Malawians have always been known as an ever smiling and hardworking people. This is why we have all along been called the Warm Heart of Africa. But today, it appears that warm heart has been replaced with sadism where human life is no longer valued," she said.
She said she is a firm believer of divine intervention in everything and that she is aware that the level of anger, hatred and frustration among Malawians is only a symptom of a much bigger malaise that has been simmering beneath for a long time the surface as a result of various frustrations.
Politicians and youths
She said politicians are now at the centre of divisions in Malawi instead of being the bastion of unity. They are at the core of fermenting division among the youths, and anyone thinks their view is the best and must be the one to be heard, she claimed.
"The youths today have become stooges of politicians used as a tool for heinous political ends. Unfortunately, this often happens at the expense of the ambitions of the youths themselves," said Banda.
She said Malawi is currently experiencing the highest rate of teenage delinquency and substance abuse. There is total lack of respect for elders because the youths think their perspective is the one that matters more than the elders' perspective, she said, adding it does not matter whether one is Head of State, former President, Leader of Opposition, minister or MP and even religious leaders; they are subjected to scorn and disparaging sentiments in various forms.
"Young people are taking to the social media to insult elders any way they like. Similarly, elders look down upon the youths and can disparage them through whatever means.
"Malawi is rapidly exhibiting the traits of being a loveless country that is also losing its dignity and love of God. It is unfortunate that Malawians now find pleasure in backbiting and bringing each other down. People don't wish each other well anymore to the extent of wishing death upon one another," she said.
Unity in diversity
The former President also lamented the lack of love and cooperation between the incumbent and former presidents in Malawi, saying in most countries in Africa, notably in Tanzania and Ghana, incumbent presidents are constantly in touch with former Heads of State on matters of national importance.
The former President prayed for social order in Malawi. She said it is not too late for the country to reclaim its place among the countries that are standing up to be counted.
"Our differences in opinion should be the last thing that must divide us. In fact, we find strength in diversity, and ultimately we will be respected as a country, not based on how we stifle divergent views, but based on how we coexist with those that we don't agree with.
"As much as it is important to treat the root cause of the problems, the unity of purpose that is needed to solve the problems can only be achieved if there is genuine fear of God among Malawians," concluded JB, as she is popularly known among her admirers.