Chapter review by Rodwell Katundu
Chapter 14 – Pandemics, Politics, and Governance: Contestations over State Management of Covid-19 in Malawi, by Bryson Gwiyani Nkhoma, Gift Wasambo Kayira, and Paul Chiudza Banda (pp.324-346).
In this chapter, the authors examine the Covid-19 pandemic in Malawi to understand how public health interventions intersect with the socio-economic and political landscape to shape governance issues in the country. It offers useful insights on the challenges of democratic governance in the Covid-19 pandemic era. Its strength is in its presentation of how ‘poorly designed health interventions without consultations from the relevant stakeholders’ faced resistance and protests. This chapter has critically analyzed the interests of different political stakeholders and how each they perceived the health interventions by the government of Malawi.
The aforementioned strength notwithstanding, the chapter has the following two weaknesses: Firstly, it has failed to take into account the historical resistance and resentments, and protests that Malawians have shown concerning some health interventions. For example, John McCracken (2011:263) who has been cited in this chapter clearly showed that the compulsory vaccination of smallpox in 1948, 1956, and 1959 encountered similar resistance. McCracken (2011) established that this was the case because the state lacked legitimacy. The authors could have done better if they had interrogated the legitimacy of the state from 2019 to 2020, before the fresh presidential elections. Secondly, this chapter ought to take into consideration how the narratives of Covid-19 by the opposition parties contributed to some of the resistance by the general public when one of the same opposition parties implemented similar measures after being elected into government. For example, some Tonse Alliance leaders publicly went against the then government’s pro-active stance against Covid-19, in order to go on with anti-government political activism.