Malawi is in break-up mode

Break-ups are monumental. They mark a time of massive transition in one’s life.

In a relationship, you are fully-committed to another person. You make compromises for each other and decisions as a unit. But with a break-up, that all ends. Overnight, you have no one to answer to but yourself.

Everyone reacts to this sensation differently. The sudden sense of change is quite overwhelming.

Some people embrace the time of mass transition by taking things slow, getting used to standing on their own two feet again. Others run. They take off with their new sense of freedom at full speed.

Malawians, they are sprinting.

April 5, 2012 not only marks the death of Malawi’s former president Bingu Wa Mutharika, but the day the country entered its break-up mode mentality.

I shall explain.

From what I have been told, Mutharika was a rather head-strong boyfriend. He always wanted most of the power in the relationship, leaving Malawians with very little. Section 46 of the penal code and the Injunctions Bill are amongst the many examples.

But Malawians are surely sticking this to him now that he is out of the picture.

For instance, Members of Parliament amended the Civil Procedure Bill in Parliament Monday. This law, most often referred to as the Injunctions Bill, refrained Malawians the right to sue or challenge any government worker in court.

Thanks to the Malawian new found sense of freedom, this is no longer the case.

Some of the vary MP’s who defended Mutharika’s support for this law stood in Parliament Thursday before the bill’s amendment retracting their previous approval of the bill. Funny how break ups provide clarity.

But, they also bring confusion. The break-up mode is emotionally all encompassing, really. The highs, the lows, the instabilities.

On Thursday, forty eight MP’s declared their independence from any political party. Forty eight! This would be unheard of in Canada. But, I guess if I had a bad break-up like Malawians, I would want to fresh start too. Time to re-establish myself. No ties to any person, any political party.

That said, five independent party members declared support for President Joyce Banda’s People’s Party.

But with the confusion also comes some blurred priorities. This is also happening in Malawi as a result of the sudden transition.

The flag, for instance, has been a hot topic. Mutharika changed the sun on the Malawian flag in 2010 from a half sun to a full sun. The half sun symbolizes Malawi as “country on the rise,” according to my co-workers here. So Mutharika’s desire for the change to the full sun, then, was to deem Malawi as a country that has “risen.”

But tabled in Parliament Thursday was a bill that suggests Malawians should revert back to the old flag.

On Wednesday, it passed.

This is not to suggest that this was a bad decision. In a lot of ways Malawi is still a country “on the rise.” And Malawians are the ones saying so. The old flag is just better suited, according to most.

But, going back to the old flag does symbolize of the anti-Bingu break-up mentality that Malawi is in presently. The jumbled priorities bit of it at least.

Firstly, this was one of the first things tabled in Parliament this session that began May 18. It was tabled on Thursday, the same day as the Disabilities Bill and Civil Procedures Bill.

The Disabilities Bill took eight years to pass. Eight years! Having it tabled on the same day as the flag-issue suggests they are of similar importance. I would have to disagree if this is actually the case.

Secondly, Malawians now have to apply for new driver’s licenses and license plates because the current ones have images of the old flag. Everyone just got new licenses and plates two years ago when the flag was first changed. Attention could be better placed and money better spent. Blame it on the break-up.

Malawians recognize this.

“I think it’s a good idea,” says Chimwemwe Manyozo, a 23-year-old Malawian who has lived in the country his entire life. “But it is coming at the wrong time.”

Applying for a new license is 15,000 kwacha, says Manyozo. License plates are around the same cost as well. Together, that is about $100 US dollars. That is a lot of money in Malawi right now given the kwacha was devalued by 49 per cent this month: “People don’t have that kind of money.”

No one handles a break-up perfectly. There is truly no right or wrong way. But feeling liberty, confusion, and mixed priorities are all apart of the process.

I would say Malawi is coming out of this one with its head held exceptionally high. And in a break-up, that is all that counts.


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