"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Muluzi – backward flight
by Bright Molande, 15 March 2007 - 07:05:25
Tragedy, Africa’s tragedy!
Four decades after his death, he still stands tall above the earth of Africa. Poised at a calculated, an envisioned stride with a finger pointing far into the future, this is not just a statue elevated but Kwame Nkrumah lives into the future today.
It is because he had a vision. He wanted Africa united, and Ghana developed. Great men of humbling lives. The great Nelson Mandela had a vision too.
“When I walked out of prison,” says Mandela of his 27 humiliating years spent on bare feet without underpants, “[I wanted] to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both…that was my vision.”
His Long Walk to Freedom says it all. Mandela had to liberate his enemy from hatred. He longed to reconcile with his oppressors for the greater good of South Africa. What a rare vision, built on a solid motive for the common good!
Humans are made of their thoughts and motives matter in politics, too. The motive with which one comes to the seat of power largely determines the quality of leadership and its place in history. Two things: wrong motives and lack of vision are the greatest problems with Bakili Muluzi’s coming back.
A vision is not just a manifesto. It is not a political promise. It is seeing a new path for a people. We have learnt and taught over the decades that Malawi is a landlocked country. Books, teachers and Internet websites still say this. It took one man to see the passage we have all seen for seasons and to say Malawi is not landlocked. President Bingu wa Mutharika has seen the Shire-Zambezi Waterway to reverse our thinking.
Schoolbooks in Social Studies are still teaching our children something called urbanisation. They say the movement of people from rural areas to urban places is a factor of development.
This is the thinking that began with colonialists who thought they brought development from the West and planted it in towns to which villagers had to flock.
Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda endorsed the thinking when he told the Asian business community to leave the rural centres for the city. Reversing gears, Mutharika is urging the Asian business community to go back into the villages because even the villager needs development at his doorstep. Development does not, and should not, belong to the city. These are true examples of thinking with a vision, and leading with the motive to develop a people.
Muluzi’s 10 years are pitied between two visionaries and great statesmen. He had a mandate which was accomplished. It was short and transitionary. Muluzi’s mandate was to take Malawi from where Kamuzu Banda had left off particularly in 1964.
Our societies had forms of democracy even before the coming of colonialists. This is what also made Mandela a true and great democrat. He grew up in a traditional palace with a king who knew how to listen and to build a consensus, a team.
Traditionally, “democracy meant all men had to be heard, and a decision had to be taken together as a people. Majority rule was a foreign notion. A minority was not to be crushed by a majority,” writes Mandela in his biography. And he says he has always followed these principles.
Kamuzu Banda must have found a democratic spirit of the people which he lost from the 1964 Cabinet crisis onwards. Muluzi’s clearest mandate was to restore democracy, to remove the terror the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had brought. This, he accomplished and put in place the structures and institutions of modern democracy.
Then, he understood the needs of the people. Now, he says “I understand people’s wishes”, and they wish him back. But the people’s wishes are not necessarily our needs. Our need is development. Muluzi does not understand people’s needs.
Those that are vehemently supporting his candidacy are driven by “selfishness and greed”, according to The Daily Times. We have spoken publicly, shamelessly, that we want UDF back into power because we need easy access to money “to finish … [our personal] houses that have installed at window level.”
These are the people’s wishes, and if Muluzi is a true leader, he must see beyond the wishes to locate and pursue the needs. A leader must speak not what the people want to hear, but what they must hear. But that is not his focus.
The focus is, “whether Bingu likes it or not, he is getting out of power in 2009.” This is the agenda Muluzi has declared when he declared his candidacy at Njamba Freedom Park on a rainy bleak afternoon—the beginning of another long, bleak season if Muluzi comes back. Bleak because his vision, focus, agenda and longing are as myopic as to remove Mutharika, not to develop the country. Everyone in the UDF camp says they want someone who can remove Mutharika, not someone who can develop Malawi beyond what Mutharika is doing. This is tragic.
What Muluzi should have known is that after his mandate of restoring democracy, Malawi needs leaders with a vision to take over. There may be some within UDF.
But now all sane Malawians of goodwill know that Muluzi was not gifted with a vision or commitment for development beyond his mandate. This is why it is extremely dangerous for Muluzi to come back.
Suppose that His Old Excellency Bakili Muluzi is our next President!
The more a person is opposed upon getting in power, the more one longs to consolidate his power base. He will, perhaps ruthlessly, want to secure power that dribbled and eluded him when “the shameful” Third Term Bill was defeated, only to dodge him again when Mutharika denied him ruling by remote control. Muluzi may just make a worse dictator.
He will want to settle scores, and he has made hints. He says he is “forced to bounce back in 2009 because of what President Bingu wa Mutharika is doing.”
Clearly, Muluzi is driven by the motives of the selfishness of those who used to plunder government coffers, by bitterness, hatred, frustration and vengeance, yet, without a vision or any serious intention to develop Malawi.
Mandela had love to liberate his enemies, the white oppressors and for the greater good and love of his country. Now, Muluzi’s mandate is to defeat and demolish Mutharika, which now sounds like to demolish Malawi because Muluzi does not intend to build beyond and above Mutharika. Muluzi’s comeback is a national tragedy!
Yet, what the people of Malawi need (not just wish) is to move forward, beyond! The standing again of Muluzi in 2009 is a symbol of UDF going backwards, not forward. It is Malawi’s backward flight. It is symbolic of its failure to hand over leadership to new blood, new visions.
If you argue that UDF tried this with Mutharika in 2004, you should also remember his candidacy in UDF was not by any long-term plan of succession. It was because the Muluzi who never wanted to quit failed to make it through the Third Term. Mutharika’s standing again, even his winning is Muluzi’s falling—morally and politically.
It will be painful; Muluzi’s fall will be tragic. But no matter how deep the pain of the loss, the bereaved won’t be buried with the corpse. Malawi will not go down with him.
Bright Molande is a poet, political commentator and lecturer in English Literature, University of Malawi, Chancellor College.

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