Devolution Malawi : Federalism vs Decentralization


I sincerely support the decentralization of government operations and implementation of projects in Malawi. I believe that the decentralization program that was initiated long time ago in Malawi just needs political will to be fully and effectively implemented. Time and again I repeated this assertion in my opposition to calls for federalism in Malawi. When these calls surfaced and we threw caution to them, we the opponents of the campaign were seriously ridiculed by several of its proponents and we were called all sorts of names. Several times I asked that they share the model that they were proposing for this federalism but no model was shared. Well, maybe it was a top secret model or we were not that important for them to share the model with. However, I am a concerned citizen and this here is one of the concerns that I pointed out in my opposition. That is their call for federalism being hijacked by sinister elements of division. You see now?

Now I ask the proponents of federalism to note this sad development of calling for of secession the Northern Region from the Republic of Malawi as one of the products churned or fueled by their campaign.

Please fix this and leave our country in one piece in peace.

Thank you in advance.

….. and Please Sober Up and Stop the Bullying.

Sadly most proponents of the Malawi federalism proposal deem all opinions to the contrary and indeed all of us individuals presenting such as ignorant. Please present the model that you are proposing not just talking about it. While you are at it, please tell us what is wrong [outside political will] with the decentralization program that was initiated in Malawi long time ago cannot achieve devolution of powers to regional administrations.

We are more one people than politicians want us to believe

I detest sincerely any name calling that proponents of federalism hurl at anyone who has contrary views. I also detest any name calling of anyone purportedly from one region throwing at others purportedly from another. We are all Malawians, one people. Many of you will realize that you have strong ties to all regions in Malawi through all the intermarriages and free migration that has occurred in our country. So when one says “our north”, I feel pain because I hold all Malawi’s regions dearly because I am linked to all of them – north, central, east, west and south. I am for equitable distribution of development and decentralization of government services. Build and choose your leaders wisely as a nation. Thus I sincerely detest the calls for federalism because of what I have called against before – the promotion of a divisive agenda by selfish elements who would likely call for secession and the eventual breaking of our nation. Well, that has now materialized with a call by one People’s Party official. Nothing stops these elements from becoming tribal or regional warlords like those in DRC Kivu and other regions.

You will also note that people who can call themselves purely from one tribe or region are not many in Malawi due to intermarriages. Thus, we are more a one people than politicians and others may want us to believe for their own selfish ends. Please leave my nation alone in one piece; in peace.

This too shall be broken.

We will fix Malawi if we build the right leadership and elect the right leadership. The leaders who are dividing us or depriving other regions are coming from among us. And they all come from all regions. Parliament, Capital Hill, Cabinet, NGOs all have had representation from all regions. The imbalances have been created by all these movers and shakers who are from north, south, central, western and eastern region. The ones who have not had the will to fully implement the Decentralization Program. I hereby add the following to my Bucket List, “Breaking The New Selfish and Divisive Federation of Malawi”. It seems Federations and people named Hastings do not seem to coexist.

It’s Been Leadership Against Regions

The core of my beef is the hurried and reactionary nature of the calls which obviously have ignored the calls within the campaign from elements that are hijacking the devolution campaign into a secessionist or separatist route. In my argument I have asked for a blueprint that should be presented to the people either than just saying “country X has it” because that begs a counter argument of “but country Y doesn’t have it”. We are going onto a slippery path when people present federalism as a case of one a region oppressing another. It is individuals in leadership who have led us into this divisive mess. These are individuals who have come from all regions. If we build and install the leadership that we want, we will fix this mess. Systems with bad and selfish leadership will get us nowhere good. Some of them are so bad and selfish, they are a breath away from being regional warlords.

Horace N. : People in Lilongwe deciding what should be done in Mzuzi. My district, Machinga, has no secondary school. Pano akutimangira day secondary school pa Liwonde yes the majority of the people are kuntunda ku ntaja and other areas. Devolution is the way to go. Power to the people.

@Horace N., your reference of “people in Lilongwe” inflames the debate by communicating something that could be wrongly interpreted that it is people “from” Lilongwe who are denying other areas development. No. Those movers and shakers “working” in Lilongwe are coming from everywhere including Mchinji which I hold dear to my heart because Ludzi [Boys Boarding School] is part of who I am today. Thus I would not allow Mchinji to be denied a fair piece of the development cake.


It is interesting to note that a majority of the respectable Bwanas, Donas and Captains of industries who are tagged in Malawi Federalism or Northern Region Separatism campaign posts on Social Media by the campaign machinery are always quiet on the matter; no comments for or against the idea(s). I guess they are hiding in the closet; enjoying themselves among countrymen from regions that they detest while cheering on the campaigners through private Inbox messages. Hey People! Come out in the open with your stance. Come out in the open like [whatever the motives are] EChih, HMhan, BKhond, BMkand, CKamwa, CMNgwi, AMNyas and the rest of the federalism [and some separatism] campaigners. Show your support if you are behind the campaign or show your opposition if you disagree. Yeah Right! What right to remain silent? To avoid calling it cowardice, I will call it “wanting to have your cake and eat it as well”. It is more comfortable hushing it out with open debaters and campaigners than making merry with sleeper cells or pseudo-characters.

For the record, I am not against Federalism. I am just for building and electing non-divisive leadership and fostering the will to implement the already formulated Decentralization Program which has in it tenets of devolution and localization of decision making. The Decentralization Program gives no room for self-serving politicians to pit one group against another for their own selfish gains.

Tidziwane ndi bandi yonse tisanagawane zida. Come out and be counted. We do not want Sleeper Cells among Malawians.

Keeping Malawi One.

BKhond wrote (Social Media) :Arguments for a federal system of government to me are solely premised on ensuring equitable development by devolving power. I don’t want to be a bystander in the process of shaping the country’s and personal destiny and let others decide what constitutes equitable development. We all want to be represented where decisions affecting the only country we call home are made. federal system of government is a matter of when and not if.

I totally agree with the need for us to have equitable distribution of resources. I just feel all these are stipulated in the decentralization program which none of the leadership [by the way, from north, central, east, south] wants to implement. By the way I have also opposed the Quota System ever since I knew what it was about. Even though I believe in devolution, but as a matter of principle, I cannot add credence to a campaign that is dominated by politicians who have been catalysts of division in the first place, and are taking advantage of the situation not for the good of the regions or to reverse the plight of the inhabitants of the regions but their own selfish ambitions. Federalism can happen but first we must sort our our leadership issues in Malawi. With that we can implement working systems of any type including federalism. It is not impossible. But with the leadership that is at the forefront of this campaign and their message, my words will hold water later after they have marinated, and the dirt has hit the fan. By the way, I have been a victim of regionalism due to decisions of politicians and I know a lot of my friends from all regions who have been victimized by selfish politicians.

Thus Malawi’s problems are not a result of lack of federalism but leadership.

BKhond. wrote (Social Media) : ….Malawians have never had a president from the northern region of the country. When you say leader automatically I think “the president” the man with a lot of power in Malawi

I repeat, “Leadership, Leadership, Leadership”. The leadership that has gotten Malawi where it is today has come from all regions (north, south, central). Contrary to the assertion by others like BKhond has alluded to, Leadership is not just about the presidency. It is a collective. In our case, it is our presidency, the cabinet, legislature, judiciary, party leadership, government principal secretaries and directors, city and district assembly, ward councillors, and parastatal leadership”. That’s my list for now. This collective has comprised people from the north, central and southern region. They are the ones who have presided over the decision to distribute resources, allocate funds, hire and fire people, making Kamuzu Life President, conferring Ngwaziship on Kamuzu and Bingu, allowing extra powers top leadership, orchestrating “zonse zimene za Kamuzu Banda”, selling our treasures like railway lines, Chikangawa forest, Zomba plateau, game reserve concessions; saddling future generations with debt and many more. Proponents of federalism and secession are losing the plot on this when they make the argument that it is the all the people whose surnames originate from one region who have victimized other regions. In that, they are dangerously tagging every ordinary person whose surname originates from that region, some of them are even their own family. Then they are also ignoring and absolving leaders whose surnames originate from their own tribes and regions from the responsibility of imbalances in distribution of development even though they had a huge role in our leadership.

CKamwa et al, let me repeat what I have said elsewhere. I do not oppose devolution of power. Neither do I oppose federalism. But as long as calls for federalism and its related secession are linked to tribalism and regionalism, I shall vehemently oppose the campaign with all the energy and time that I can spare. So, trust me CKamwa and all who are on the other side, as a matter of principle, I shall be in opposition as long as there are elements of tribalism in the campaigners messages because I have opposed elements of regionalism and tribalism since I saw its true colors with my own eyes when I was in high school (1985-89) and beyond. We shall fix this country.

10 October 2014; Joyce N : When you see certain things happening you wonder if it’s a bad dream or reality. In this case it’s the later. Then a thought comes to mind, why are they so much against federalism?? After having lived in the USA and seen some of it’s benefits I say let’s give it a try chifukwa izi zomakhala ngati the country belongs to one tribe suzitithandiza ata pang’ono! Personally I feel like I’m in the USA again with some white dude yelling nigga go home and yet….. …… Thoko T : Well we are ready to start but not at the scale that is being proposed. Let us devolve some powers to the local police, let us devolve some powers to the city councils lets monitor that, fine tune the system and as the years go by devolve more and more powers soon we will have a working system. Ted you are a builder and am sure you know the importance of starting with a foundation. I am not against federalims infact am trying to help the argument. As it is it sounds too expensive and too tribalistic.

Thoko T, your last sentence says it all. I do not oppose federalism, I am just for the proper implementation of the Decentralization Program with all the provisions for devolution that are in it. Since 1995, I have lived in countries that are running Federal systems. I have seen what federalism can do. Not that I would not want Malawi to enjoy the positives of federalism. But the tribalistic and regionalistic nature of the campaign itself is what I would not wish for Malawi. We are more one people than the politicians are making us to believe … For their own selfish gains.

Our leaders come from among us. Federalism has a lot of positives. However, federalism in the hands of the same leadership that we keep on building and electing; the leaders who are the architects the current situation and the rifts that they have perpetuated among the peoples, tribes and regions; I am afraid that federalism will fail Malawians. My fellow Malawians, build and elect inclusive and progressive leaders and you will not even call for federalism or secession. That is why on this issue, I prefer Malawi than any one particular tribe or region. And please note that I am not naive to the challenges and rifts which exist. However, there are enough commentators who are talking about the issue of poor distribution of resources from a “them-against-us” stance. I chose the “us-for-Malawi” and “tonse ndi AMalawi” stance. Otherwise who is looking out for Malawi. We are more one Malawian people than these selfish politicians would want us to believe. Vote wisely.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism by Aastha Dogra

As of today, twenty-four of the world’s one hundred ninety-three countries have a federal political set up. Looking at these countries’ political history, it can be said that there are both advantages and disadvantages of federalism.

What is Federalism?Federalism is a political system in which the powers are divided between the central government and numerous regional governments.

A majority of democracies around the world have a unitary system of government, wherein power is centered around the national government. In federalism, there is a written constitution which formulates this power sharing arrangement between the state and its units. These units, referred to as the provincial or regional governments, have the power to act independently in certain areas of governance. In the United States too, the power is shared between the national and regional or state governments. The local governments have exclusive powers to issue licenses, provide for public health, conduct elections and form local governments, look after the intrastate trade, etc. This political system was adopted to ensure greater safety and autonomy against internal and external threats.

At present, federalism is being followed not only in First World countries like USA, Australia and Canada but also in developing countries like Mexico, India and Brazil. Contemplating a change in the governing set up of the nation, some countries like Sri Lanka and Philippines are intently scrutinizing its advantages and disadvantages. In today’s changed environment though it does make sense to question the pros and cons of the following the federal system of governance.


Localized Governance
Every province has political, social and economic problems peculiar to the region itself. Provincial government representatives live in proximity to the people and are most of the time from the same community, so that they are in a better position to understand these problems and offer unique solutions for them. For example, traffic congestion in Oahu, Hawaii is a problem that can be best solved by the local government, keeping local factors in mind, rather than by somebody living in New York.

Local Representation
Federalism offers representation to different populations. Citizens of various provinces may have different aspirations, ethnicity and follow different cultures. The central government can sometimes overlook these differences and adopt policies which cater to the majority. This is where the regional government steps in. While formulating policies, local needs, tastes and opinions are given due consideration by the state governments. Rights of the minorities are protected too. For example, in states like Arizona where there is a large Hispanic population and therefore, a large number of schools provide bilingual education.

Freedom to Form Policies
State governments have the freedom to adopt policies which may not be followed nationally or by any other state. For example, same-sex marriages are not recognized by the federal government of USA but they are given legal status within certain states like Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts.

Optimum Utilization of Resources
Division of work between the central and the regional governments leads to optimum utilization of resources. The central government can concentrate more on international affairs and defense of the country, while the provincial government can cater to the local needs.

Scope for Innovation and Experimentation
Federalism has room for innovation and experimentation. Two local governments can have two different approaches to bring reforms in any area of public domain, be it taxation or education. The comparison of the results of these policies can give a clear idea of which policy is better and thus, can be adopted in the future.

Federalism no doubt has many positives vis-a-vis communism or imperialism but still, some political scientists often raise questions about its advantages.


Conflict of Authority
Sharing of power between the center and the states includes both advantages and disadvantages of a federal organization. Sometimes there can be overlapping of work and subsequent confusion regarding who is responsible for what. For example, when Hurricane Katrina hit Greater New Orleans, USA, in 2005, there was delay in the rescue work, as there was confusion between the state governments and the federal government on who is responsible for which disaster management work. This resulted in the loss of many lives.

Can Lead to Corruption
Federal system of government is very expensive as more people are elected to office, both at the state and the center, than necessary. Thus, it is often said that only rich countries can afford it. Too many elected representatives with overlapping roles may also lead to corruption.

Pitches State vs State
Federalism leads to unnecessary competition between different regions. There can be a rebellion by a regional government against the national government too. Both scenarios pose a threat to the country’s integrity.

Uneven Distribution of Wealth
It promotes regional inequalities. Natural resources, industries, employment opportunities differ from region to region. Hence, earnings and wealth are unevenly distributed. Rich states offer more opportunities and benefits to its citizens than poor states. Thus, the gap between rich and poor states widens.

Promotes Regionalism
It can make state governments selfish and concerned only about their own region’s progress. They can formulate policies which might be detrimental to other regions. For example, pollution from a province which is promoting industrialization in a big way can affect another region which depends solely on agriculture and cause crop damage.

Framing of Incorrect Policies
Federalism does not eliminate poverty. Even in New York, there are poor neighborhoods like Inwood. The reason for this may be that intellectuals and not the masses are invited by the local government during policy framing. These intellectuals may not understand the local needs properly and thus, policies might not yield good results.

Thus, it is understandable that there have been both pros and cons of federalism in the USA. There is a general feeling that the rights of the minorities, like blacks, are compromised in USA. But at the same time, the United States now, has a democratically elected African-American President. Similarly, there have been advantages and disadvantages in other countries as well. For this to be truly successful, it should be accompanied by other ideals like secularism, democracy and liberalism.

End of Advantages and Disadvantages of Federalism by Aastha Dogra

Sunduzwayo J wrote : Nothing good ever came out of tribalism and i don’t see why we are busy talking about federalism when we might as well discuss tribalism, deal with it and move on as one people – Malawians

Thanks Sunduzwayo. We are more one as a people of Malawi with different heritages than politicians want to drive wedges among us for their own gain.

Felix M. wrote :“Chitaganya” referred to the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland which we the Africans of Malawi and Zambia overwhelmingly rejected. It does not stand for federalism as a system of govermment. Federalism has a great deal to recommend it especially in the face of the pattern of voting we have followed since 1994 and in the patterns of development we have
followed since the adoption of multiparty democracy.

I beg to disagree on the reference to the voting patterns as justification for this federalism. In my view, the voting patterns are the whole reason why we should not be advocating federalism especially considering the undertones that the current calls are laced with. We can fix Malawi. Federation or federalism or secession – all of them will not help Malawi. But hey! Who am I in the society!

Hastings C. wrote : The status quo has done nothing but to perpetuate the problem. Ever wondered why Kamuzu had the position of Regional Minister (who was part of cabinet). Then it became Regional Chairman which was really just a party position (as the current Regional Governors). That Regional Minister position was federalism. I rest my case.

Hastings C, I totally agree. In fact the case has been rested for a long time. I have argued elsewhere similarly that the structures of federalism or devolution are already in place through our regional, district, municipal and ward setup. The Decentralization Programme leverages on these structures to achieve localized decisions and development while keeping an eye on a national agenda.

On second thought, the case does not rest because elements of division will ignore what you have said above about federalism during Kamuzu’s era. However, some of them are not elements of division. They are justified disgruntled elements because due to recent developments, it seems if your tribe doesn’t get a chance to be represented in the presidency, you shall have mediocre patronage at events and fundraising for your cultural or tribal grouping. Our leaders are fanning these problems and divisions. We shall fix this.

A Citizen’s Note to Malawi’s 2014-19 Presidential Advisers and Ruling Regime Elements, 9 November 2014.

Even though some who were paraded at the beginning of November 2014 on MBCTV to voice their opposition to federalism for Malawi were of the view that President Peter Mutharika should come in with his views on the matter at the end of the whole thing, a few days later, the President submitted the statement in this MBCTV clip which communicated his views on the matter. I must submit that I do not oppose federalism. I am for devolution of powers and localization of decision making. However, I am for the proper implementation of the already documented and approved Decentralization Program whose implementation has stalled due to, among other things, lack of Political Will. Now that President Peter Mutharika seems to agree with the idea of the proper implementation of the Decentralization Program, may the Presidential Advisers and regime elements who are reading this post please make sure the President delivers on this by according the Political Will that has eluded the Decentralization Program and all its elements of devolution of power and localized decision making?

As a citizen of Malawi who, like many, believes in a Progressive Agenda, Unity and Equitable Distribution of Development for Malawi, I hereby submit to all concerned citizens that the successful implementation of the Decentralization Program should be included as one of the key performance indicators for the Peter Mutharika regime for 2014 to 2019. This one is for any Advisers, who might just ignore this and say “this dude is just a loud nobody”; please just go advise the President in your next few advisory sessions to dust off the Decentralization Program and implement it. You might as well dust it off for him. He already believes in it anyway; so you won’t be convincing him on it. Less work for you.

#‎ShootingOwnFoot‬, 12 November 2014.
On 12 November 2014, One clergyman in the federalism debate in Mzuzu broadcast by Zodiak Broadcasting Station said that having multiple parliaments and multiple chief justices is not ideal for Malawi but in the same breath he said that we have failed to run things with one parliament or one chief justice. Implicitly saying that the unitary system has failed. Thereby giving credence to the campaign for federalism. Really? This clearly demonstrates that some people are not really sure about how to articulate their stand on the matter.

Power of The Media
Pa 27 August 2015 pamene ndimamvela pologalamu ya “Mawu a Kumudzi” pa Capital FM Radio Malawi, kuchokela ku Mzimba komwe amajambula maganizo a anthu pa nkhani ya kukwela kwa mtengo wa thumba la feteleza kuchokela pa 500 Kwacha kufika pa 3,500 Kwacha, mkonzi ndi muwulutsi wa pologalamuyi anafunsa anthu angapo kuti [paraphrasing] “Inu takupezani kuno ku Mzimba koma mukuyankhula Chichewa, zimenezi zakukhala bwanji?”

Tribes and Regions: The elephants in the room.

That is coming from our media. By the way, we are not even federalized yet which I am not against at all by the way. But if such questions are coming now, what will we ask our fellow Malawians then? Will we ask them to “Pronounce so-n-so to prove that you belong to this province”?

It is my country, my people therefore ndazitengela hadi. I know some of will trivialize this and ndipo munena kuti ndawonjeza koma we have some ways to go my fellow Malawians. We should deliberately address this issue. It cannot fizzle away by itself. If anything, it is getting worse.

I fear from my own Malawian children who have links to at least Rumphi, Ntcheu, Zomba, Likoma and Mulanje and many of the majority our children in similar situation. We are more one people Malawians than others would want to make us believe.

Capital Radio Malawi LTD and the rest of the media, please do your part kulunzanitsa Mtundu wa aMalawi.

May God Bless Malawi and Her People!



About Hastings Fukula Nyekanyeka Betha

Born in Malawian and advocate of community mobilization, citizens' active participation in sustainable community development, and youth empowerment. Primarily focusing on "Organizing Against Poverty" by encouraging a new generation of players to participate in and influence the development of our communities
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One Response to Devolution Malawi : Federalism vs Decentralization

  1. Canaan Naphulu says:

    Great stuff indeed, I know Malawi was gifted with a lot of valuable human resource that is not yet used to a maximum capacity.

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