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

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

Of promises and grand alliance

28/03/07—Two weeks ago, I talked about why former president Bakili Muluzi better stop dreaming in colours about his prospects for returning to the State House, because I said, the odds were stuck against him. I dwelt at length on why it would not be prudent for him to contest the 2009 presidential elections because he has a name or integrity to protect, which he would lose if he tried and failed.
I also said the economy is so far doing well: interest rates are going down, inflation is down to a single digit (9.6 percent), which is the first time in 12 years it has come this low. Donors not only resumed aid to Malawi which was cut because of lack of good governance and accountability during Muluzi’s administration, but also cancelled all multilateral debt accumulated during his reign. The gods have also smiled on us by giving us abundant rains for two straight years resulting in bumper harvests in these years. I said Muluzi has an uphill task to make people forget these things in order to win them over to his side.
But Muluzi is just too power hungry. In Chichewa they say ‘mwana akalilira nyanga ya nsatsi musemere, imufotere yekha’. That is exactly what Malawians should do to Muluzi. Leave him. Let him fullfil his ambitions selfish as they are.
I was, however, quite disappointed this week to see that government is so determined to stop at nothing in its efforts to frustrate Muluzi in his comeback bid. Let us call a spade by its real name and not a big spoon. Deploying the army to stop the UDF rally in Mulanje, some 80 kilometres away from Blantyre, where President Bingu wa Mutharika was supposed to hold his DPP meeting last week, showed total desperation on the part of government. If I may warn Bingu, these are some of the things that create heroes out of villains. Muluzi, and anybody in the UDF or opposition for that matter, should be allowed to hold political meetings freely and anywhere in the country without fear and intimidation.
We cannot have a better demonstration of political ineptitude on the part of government than last Saturday’s incident. Bingu was ill-advised on the matter.
Having said this, I now turn to the substance of Muluzi’s speech at the rally he addressed in Mulanje on Monday this week, which I find lacking in depth and breadth. I will comment on three things: Muluzi’s free fertiliser talk (reminiscent of his 1994 free shoes promises); that the combination of the MCP president John Tembo, New Republican president Gwanda Chakuamba, MDP president Kamlepo Kalua (and did I hear him say Amunandife Mkumba?) and Muluzi himself, cannot be a losing team; and that Muluzi will put money back into people’s pockets to enable them to complete projects that are now at a standstill.
What Muluzi means is that opposition leaders will form a united front to oust Bingu from power. It is always easier said than done. An alliance with Tembo? Unless Muluzi is contemplating joining forces with Tembo as a junior partner, I do not see the MCP leader being anybody’s running-mate in 2009. It is actually nonsensical to even expect Tembo doing that looking at the strength of his party.
As for the free fertiliser, Muluzi has said he has already identified donors to fund his dream plan.
Hear this: This year government has spent K7 billion to subsidise fertiliser by about 60 to 65 percent of the total cost. All fertilisers were reduced to K950/50kg (K3,400 for 23:21:4; K3,400 for Urea; and K2,750 for CAN). Assuming all variables remain the same by 2009, Muluzi will need to source a minimum of over K12 billion or seven percent of this national budget from his donors. The basic question to ask is why Muluzi was not able to do that between 1994 and 2004 when the country experienced the worst hunger in decades? Is he not talking about free fertilisers now just because he has seen what magic the subsidised fertiliser programme others have introduced is doing?
Muluzi’s promise to put money into peoples’ pockets to enable them to complete their building projects if re-elected in 2009 is another perfect example of the rot that characterised the former government.
If people were earning this money, they should have continued to do so long after Muluzi left government. This man is now openly saying he was getting the money from government coffers. The reason Muluzi wants to come back is, therefore, to continue filching government.
Now let us bring Tembo in the context of Muluzi’s grand alliance and his fee fertiliser plan. We have said Tembo cannot allow to partner Muluzi as a junior side. The only option for an MCP/UDF grand alliance is if Muluzi can accept a running-mate position. Assuming the plan succeeds, would Muluzi as vice-President still be able to bring into the country the K12 billion for his free fertiliser?
I leave it to you readers to make your own conclusions. One thing about which there should be no doubt is that the 2009 presidential campaign has started. Maybe too early for many people’s comfort.

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