Who hijacked our democracy
by Mzati Nkolokosa, 02 November 2005 - 06:31:21
"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"
Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)
| Malawians will always remember June 14,1993 because that is the day multipartism triumphed over the one-party system in a referendum called by first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda. |
Twelve years later, Malawi is in political mess. Four years ago it was Ayimanso — a campaign for Bakili Muluzi’s open and third term bids that divided the country. Now it’s impeachment. Where has our democracy gone? Decades from now, historians will attempt to determine the real cause of the political instability prevailing in Malawi now.
They will ask the question: What went wrong? Malawi doesn’t seem to be stable, at least for the past six years.
This is very different from the spirit of the early 1990s when we were fighting for multiparty democracy. Then, one was either for or against one of the two marketed systems, one party or multiparty. The 1994 general elections were peaceful and were followed with a lot of goodwill and support for the Muluzi administration.
That goodwill was slowly betrayed. The unity that once prevailed in the country was attacked. Seeds of division were sown and the fruits are ripening now.
Who hijacked our democracy? Some analysts will mention Muluzi. They could be right.
Once upon a time, UDF was a good party; Muluzi was a saviour. The formative years of the early 1990s, says former Vice President Justin Malewezi, were “very exciting” and enjoyable.
“We were working together,” Malewezi told Weekend Nation of January 3, 2004. “We were close to each other and consulted very closely and we had very competent people.”
This excitement existed during Muluzi’s first term. However, there were signs that the unity and respect for each other in UDF were slowly fading; there were signs that democracy was being eroded.
Parliament, in late 1994, resolved that the country’s currency should bear neutral symbols. That was reversed by cabinet and, as a result, Muluzi’s face was on bank notes and coins. Further, months into the Muluzi administration, it became clear that the Senate was not a priority.
Then people blamed UDF. But that was lack of careful examination of the situation. It was Muluzi, not UDF, because the party was founded on principles of democracy, respect for the rule of law and people’s power.
Malewezi recalls that respect for each other, especially among senior members, was visibly coming to an end towards the end of Muluzi’s first term.
The second term was worse. Muluzi, once a hero, was not listening to anyone, not even the cry of the common man, the voter.
Instead of grooming a successor, Muluzi tried to rape the Constitution to have open presidential terms.
He kept on saying he had no interest in remaining in the hot seat because he had better things to do after State House; that he would work for peace in the region and fight HIV and Aids.
Did Muluzi really want a third term? Yes. He addressed more rallies during the ugly third term campaign than at any other time. These rallies were a platform for open term campaign by party officials.
Chiefs were reduced to robots to direct people to support the undemocratic move.
Violence rose to ugly levels. No one except Muluzi himself, was safe. Even cabinet ministers were living in fear of the notorious UDF Young Democrats. They often interrupted Muluzi’s speeches with ‘Ayimanso, Ayimanso’ chants and he tolerated them because that’s what he wanted — another term.
This is how Muluzi works — by remote control.
“Muluzi is a very shrewd character,” recalls an MCP official who worked with Muluzi in the party.
He says it is hypocritical for Muluzi to seek Mutharika’s ouster when his era was characterised by gross mismanagement.
“Those who seek equity must come with clean hands,” he advises.
One lesson of our 12-year-old democracy is that it takes time for genuine democrats to appear from a one party dictatorship background.
A one-time international administrator in Bosnia, Paddy Ashdown, often argues that starting a political process too soon empowers those who happen to have money, megaphones or legitimacy in early days.
Muluzi appeared to have these in 1994 and he was Mr Right simply because, as Charles Simango once said in his newspaper The Democrat, the only choice was not there.
Once the bid for an extra term flopped, Muluzi imposed Mutharika on the UDF. Analysts suspect this was Muluzi’s calculation to rule from behind in the name of Mutharika. It remains reasonable to insist that Muluzi and Mutharika agreed to do things to each other.
For sure, Muluzi pledged to campaign vigorously for Mutharika, to make sure the man takes over the reigns. In return, Mutharika accepted to do things we will never know, but which perhaps, meant the country’s third President dancing to the tune of his predecessor. This is confirmed by Ken Zikhale Ng’oma who resigned from Mutharika’s DPP recently.
“When Dr. Muluzi resolved that you be the presidential candidate for the UDF, he did it with the understanding that you would recognise his efforts and not victimise him in the way you are now,” says Zikhale Ng’oma in his resignation letter to Mutharika.
Muluzi did his part. But Mutharika, it’s clear, has not acted within the terms of the unsigned agreement. This is what led to the Fast Track, a movement started by the late Dumbo Lemani, aimed at reorganising the UDF.
The Fast Track was a real thorn in Mutharika’s flesh. He demanded its abolition. Muluzi, too, asked Lemani to slow down. “I can’t,” said Lemani. He was not punished. That showed Muluzi’s interest in Fast Track, otherwise he could have punished Lemani.
It’s a reminder of Muluzi’s double standards. When Cassim Chilumpha, Jan Jaap Sonke and others co-founded Forum for the Defence of the Constitution (FDC), Sonke was fired from UDF while Chilumpha remained Muluzi’s favourite.
Whatever Muluzi and Chilumpha agreed!
Now Muluzi is at it again. He is the most likely person behind the impeachment of Mutharika. The disagreements between them attest to this. The differences became apparent on May 24 last year when Mutharika was sworn in as President.
While Muluzi was at his enemies, castigating them, Mutharika talked reconciliation and economic prudence.
The gap grew until Mutharika resigned from UDF and formed his party.
Now we are at the climax of the differences between Muluzi and Mutharika.
Muluzi wants Mutharika out. Why? Muluzi himself knows best. He is using UDF MPs. He started with Lucius Banda who proposed the inclusion of impeachment procedures in parliamentary standing orders.
It’s not surprising. Lucius owes his fortunes to Muluzi. “We were cleaning toilets barefoot,” he sung in his song Mayi Zembani from his Zembani band’s only album. In the same album, he declared that “Malawi will never ever have a good President like Bakili Muluzi”. Perhaps people ought to understand that Muluzi has been good to Lucius.
Zembani band’s major customer of all time has been UDF. Lucius was once on Muluzi’s entourage to Italy. Muluzi appears on almost all covers of Lucius. The musician always thanks Muluzi.
The UDF is using the same tactics it employed during the third term campaign. The party’s argument — it was a loose one — was that people wanted Muluzi to contest for another term so he could finish the development projects he had started in his two terms.
In years to come, even now, well researched history will record Muluzi at the centre of “Ayimanso” and impeachment, two events that are making Malawi a very unstable country.
" I am a good dictator who wants to maintain peace and stability in my country "
Speaking when the High Court of Malawi declared unconstitutional President Muluzi's ban on demonstrations against the controversial presidential third-term debate, but the head of state said he would ignore the ruling.