TALKING POINTS (Malawi NewsNow) –We look forward to happy days in 2017. But as we welcome 2017, let us take our precious time and look back at the year just gone—2016. It is a year that Malawians will live to remember as a year a former Minister of Justice and Attorney General got thrown into the cooler. Oh 2016, let Malawians’ hands wither if they ever forget you.

First here is the closure of institutions of lower, or sorry, higher learning. With such never-ending closures our colleges are no doubt institutions of lower learning. Anyway, the point is our colleges have to run continuously. Remember that the ‘granny of closures’ Chancellor College and its sister colleges Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) and Polytechnic got closed after students legitimately  protested University of Malawi (Unima) Council’s fees ambush.

Truth be told here, the new Unima fees are prohibitively high. Sadly, Polytechnic remains closed as you read this. Any solution to these closures? My humble opinion is that Unima Council members should have no active political links and should be appointed by the president on recommendation from an independent body, say, Parliamentary Committee on Education.

2016 is the year that Malawi was at its knees. To be frank, it was a year of pain, misery, and sadness. In no particular order, it does us justice to recount some of the events that made 2016 an undeniably a low-down year.

And then comes the Northern Region MPs block. Remember this one? The Members of Parliament (MPs) from the northern region organized themselves into a sort of a think-tank to promote pro-north interests. Now you remember, not so? I, for one, do not think that the idea of MPs coming together to strong-arm government(s) is bad. This is what we need in a democracy. What I find bad about this, however, is the regionalism implicit (or explicit?) in this arrangement hence making it into the 2016’s low-downs. To avoid the birth of a Southern region MPs block or Central region MPs block, let every government have the development needs of all regions at the back of its mind.

Seven rotten ministers. But who really are these seven low-life ministers? There is no doubt that these seven are not only cabinet ministers but politically-connected cabinet ministers. If it were the case that these ministers were such as to be tossed around as the recently fired Minister of Information we sure could have seen, given the wide coverage and international pressure on this issue, the Pro-Corruption Bureau, I forgot, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) institute legal action against at least some of them. Sad to say no single person of the seven has been brought before a court law because they remain politically-connected to the powers that are. Let them enjoy while they can because sooner or later the long arm of the law will catch with them somehow. But, any solution? Yes! ACB should be independent and bite without fear or favour or else shut down. Additionally, Malawians should collectively start demanding what is right and right for Malawi.

Next on is albino killings. It is true that Malawi is a shame of a country. “How so?”, you might ask. It is a shame of a country because it is a country that lasts for more than half a day without electricity, a country whose (un)civil servants connive with business owners to steal from their government, a country that kills those that speak sense about the way government is run—Raphael Tenthani, Issa Njaunju, Robert Chasowa, Evison Matafale all come to mind when I think about their politically-orchestrated natural deaths. That be true as it may, you note that Malawi graduated from a ‘shame of a country’ to a ‘horror of a country’ in 2016 considering the barbarity with which we took away life from our friends with albinism. Kill those that intentionally kill because we do not want any blood of a person with albinism shed in 2017 by these juju-worshipping riffraffs!

And there was the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) trip that our president overstayed.  What is even disheartening about the whole UNGA trip is the fact that, when asked about expenditures, President Peter Mutharika failed to account. And, as usual, Malawians just kept quiet and life continued as if nothing happened. The long and short of it is that this impunity goes with 2016. In 2017, we expect the president to provide servant leadership and show Malawians that it is possible to wield power and be ‘decent’ with funds. We do not want another Mutharika financial probe, period.

Last on the list of low events in the year 2016 is ADMARC’s maize scandal. The way ADMARC has handled the maize purchase does not only leave a lot to be desired but also speaks volumes of the fact that Malawians will never get it right. It really beats logic as to why ADMARC decided and went ahead to buy maize from a private company by, firstly, flouting government procurement procedures and, secondly, at a slightly higher price than that which was offered by Zambia’s state organ. Anyway, that is what we deserve when government agencies are filled with political buddies who do as they wish because they know that they are untouchable as long as their appointers remain at the helm of government.

In as much as the year has been nauseatingly ‘low’, there are a couple other events which gave Malawians valid reasons to smile. Take, for instance, the match against abortion. Nowhere have Malawians ever shown solidarity than that shown by the men and women of God on their anti-abortion match. That was great. Malawians, we need at least half that same spirit in other areas of life hoping thereby we may direct our leaders to a better Malawi that we all hope for.

There is also the good rains. The rains this year appears to be the kind of rains that is good for crops. It is for this reason that Malawians can be seen to walk tall knowing that they will, if it continues to rain this good, kiss hunger goodbye in 2017.

That’s the raw truth about the year just gone. With exceptions of the anti-abortion match and the good rains, the year 2016 meant pain, misery, and dullness to Malawians.