Z Allan Ntata’s Uncommon Sense: To transform a country


As nation, it is now imperative that we come face to face with the bitter truth that in order for this country to change and be transformed into a nation of progress, we must call upon unorthodox thinking and innovative ideas.

No problem can ever be fixed by the same kind of thinking that created it in the first place.

If we accept that our political framework, created by our constitution, is the source of the problems of the patronage, the corruption, and the abuse of power that have plagued the country and kept it steadily on a path of retrogression, then to transform it, we need a fresh constitution that addresses all the rotten elements of the current. I will return to this point later.

First, a few words on the need for true transformational leadership.

Transformational leadership, the kind that Malawi desperately needs, is not simply a matter of clever rhetoric, empty promises and good parliamentary debate. It is a commitment to radical solutions and unpopular actions and decisions.  There is so much chatter in the country’s political environment that is promoting the leader of this party or that one as the transformational leader the nation needs. The truth though, is that none of those being promoted as transformational leaders have in fact shown any promise of this. The best the country has had so far are empty development promises from the current president, and vicious condemnation and censure of the current leadership from the leader of opposition, and other opposition elements.

In both cases, a tangible, actionable plan for transforming the country has been desperately missing. Yet as a nation, somehow we seem to be too eager for some kind of political saviour. Unhealthily so for the nation, it seems that we will shout our support for anyone who is ready to either tell us who is to blame for our problems, or someone who seems to have the potential to fill our empty stomachs when they ascend to power.  It is a case of being so thirsty and desperate for water that in its absence, we are prepared to even accept sand and drink it as water. Either as a nation we are this desperate for some kind of transforming water, or we are just so daft that we do not know the difference between the water and the sand. Either way, we cling to ideas and to individuals that have less interest in transforming the nation than in transforming their own lives.

If I ask how many of you who are fierce supporters of the current regime (or any previous regime for that matter) have had your lives, communities or districts transformed because of the leadership you so zealously support, what will your answer be? Will you be able to point at something solid and tangible?

In venturing upon this territory, I will be doing all Uncommon Sensors some injustice if I do not illustrate my point.

Recently we had the fierce debate and political tussling that was caused by the issue of the electoral reform bill. If it had been passed, this bill had absolutely zero potential for transforming the life of any Malawian specifically, or the country in general.  Yet somehow, and perhaps unsurprisingly when one gets to think about it, political leaders and many other various stakeholder groups got a hold of this matter and gave it their full support. The result though, in the end, was that through the actions of those so-called potential transformational leaders on both sides of the political divide, the bill was defeated.  So-called transformational leaders on the government side patted themselves in the back for the inexplicable act of bringing a bill to parliament and having the same government reject its own bill. Somehow, some Malawians cheered this stupidity as some kind of clever political manoeuvring.

On the opposition side, so-called potential transformational leaders worked to whip up supports for a bill to be brought onto the parliamentary floor when they had no clue as to how to make sure that once brought to a vote, the bill will pass. In an unprecedentedly naïve way of doing parliamentary politics, the support of various non-governmental organisations, church groups and the Malawian public to force the government to table the bill in parliament was sought and acquired. The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) promised nationwide protests if the bill was not tabled in Parliament. Church groups urged and encouraged their members to go out and join PAC in protest marches. Non-Governmental organisations and political parties were well in tow. All this without a strategy to ensure that the vote once tabled would pass.

Transformational leadership my foot!

This kind of political bumbling and ineptitude though, is simply demonstrative of a much deeper crisis. It represents a lack of understanding of what it will take to transform this country.

In order to transform this country, a truly transformational leader will need to realise that what is required is a change in certain fundamental elements of the constitution, not a change in how leaders are elected.  This logical path then reveals very quickly that in order to change the constitution at a time when you have an administration that is only too happy to benefit and profit from its flaws, one needs to create a situation where there is popular public support for the change in much the same way that popular support was whipped up for the electoral reform bill. The difference will be that this will be popular support for a bill that ushers in a reviewed, airtight constitution that overthrows and overhauls the currently rotten governance framework. With the government scared of widespread demonstrations, the bill will be tabled against its will, just like it happed with the electoral reforms bill, except that this time, a considered strategy will have been put in place to make sure that the government does not defeat its own bill.

I find it hard to find transformational leadership personalities in aspiring leaders who seem to me that all they want to is become president by any means necessary, without considering the problems with the current powers of the presidency and the need for safeguards to be in place that will ensure that presidents and ruling parties govern only for the benefit of all Malawians and not for their own enrichment.

How can we transform a nation using the same constitution that has created the retrogression in the first place? The answer is that we cannot. This is simply impossible. Thus anyone truly desirous of transforming the nation must put forward their agenda in a tangible actionable form, not simply point to the mistakes of others and hope than in being disgusted with one thieving leader, the country will opt for the next thief.


In 2017, the headlines of failure as a nation dominated the news more than those of any successes. We had cabinet ministers who were shown to been involved in very corrupt maize purchase deals, we had heads of National intelligence service shown to have conspired with lawyers to bribe judges, and we had secretaries to the president involved in dubious office furniture purchases.

As the country reeled from this pulverisation, we had opposition leaders in parliament more concerned about making sure they are elected even if they come second in the popular vote. Was this to help solve these problems listed above, or was it to ensure they too can have the opportunity to see how that other half lives? I wonder.

In my Uncommon Sense, to transform a country, a radical plan to usher in a new constitution is required; and in my uncommon sense, a transformational leader is one who recognises this and put a solid workable plan in motion.

Merry Christmas, folks!

Malawi Digest :