"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

One last piece
by Mzati Nkolokosa, 15 March 2007 - 07:03:13
Politics, like language is, by nature, dialogic, meaning a voice should speak, come to an end or stop and listen to other voices. A voice that speaks and does not listen is authoritative.

We see far from the experience of years. We see and learn a lot from education—both formal and informal.
Which is why when an old person speaks, we should listen because he or she does so from the perspective of years lived meaningfully in a world that teaches lessons everyday.
When an elderly, educated person speaks, we should listen carefully, we should pay attention. One such person has spoken. Malawi has a question mark, he said in Weekend Nation.
Desmond Dudwa (DD) Phiri is an elder, over 70 years. He has the wisdom of humanity. He is a human being who has commented—and mostly competently so—on almost every topic. He is educated, too, and well read. He went to the London School of Economics where he graduated with a BSc in Economics in 1962 and returned home to work as a civil servant until he retired in 1976—and that is 31 years ago.
When such a man speaks, wise people stop what they are doing to listen.
“Tanzania has had several presidents (Nyerere, Mwinyi, Mkapa). Now there is [Jakaya] Kikwete,” said DD Phiri in the Weekend Nation. “But you don’t hear that former presidents want to run for the presidency again. You don’t hear Mkapa [saying] I want to run again. There is too much struggle for power in Malawi.”
He was not through. “In Tanzania former presidents are not quarrelling with Kikwete,” he said. “Malawi has a question mark.”
Perhaps not Malawi but some individuals. Perhaps DD Phiri coated his talk with diplomacy for he worked as a diplomat for years. After all, there is one former president living in Malawi, Bakili Muluzi, and he wants to contest again in 2009.
Muluzi and some who support him say the laws of Malawi do not stop him from contesting. But one question he hasn’t asked himself is on political morality. As Bright Molande—young, wise and brilliant—likes to say, not all that is legal is moral. This is another voice we should listen to.
It seems we we can’t stop the United Democratic Front (UDF) from fielding Muluzi as its presidential candidate in 2009. But we can stop Muluzi from becoming president, again. The reasons are legitimate.
One, Muluzi has not done much on the national or international scene since he retired from office in 2004. If anything, he has spent the last years seeing his doctors in the UK and South Africa. Now that he is well, he is on a campaign trail, saying he will contest in 2009.
The office of the president is a serious one that should not be pastime for someone who doesn’t have much to do.
The office needs people who are busy. President Bingu wa Mutharika has been busy in the last decades. No wonder life in Malawi is coming back to normal.
People, including those at Kapoloma, have food, thanks to nature which has seen our seriousness and has been giving us rains. Five years ago, we were all playing, ayimanso, sayimanso and so on that even rains could not come. The gods were laughing at us.
Two, Muluzi was president and economically messed up the country. His rule confirmed that it takes one man to build or destroy a country.
Muluzi worked with Goodall Gondwe as economic advisor and Mutharika as Minister of Economic Planning. But the economy was bad news. Today the same people are in power and Malawi is turning around. Muluzi had brilliant ministers, Justin Malewezi, Aleke Banda, Ken Lipenga and that team from Aford, the Aford of 1996, not the one that supported the Third Term Bill. These were failed by Muluzi.
Three, Muluzi should find a meaningful retirement life. If he can’t manage his retirement days, he can’t manage the affairs of the country. It is not that he should retire from politics.
In case Muluzi doesn’t know, he can campaign for UDF candidates just like he did in 2004 and just like all retired presidents, everywhere do.
Four, Malawi is moving forward. Muluzi should not take us backwards by disturbing the political atmosphere with an early campaign, confirming that he doesn’t have much to do except addressing rallies. Muluzi might not contest but may simply wish to disturb Mutharika’s administration having failed to impeach him.
Yet we will allow Muluzi to do what he wants. We will allow him to take us one step backwards so that we move two forward. As Vladimir Lenin said of communism, democracy may allow Muluzi take us one step backwards so that “we shall take two forward”.
This is the last article I will ever do on Muluzi’s manoeuvres to contest in 2009 presidential elections. His politics is not journalistically—neither is it intellectually—engaging to attract meaningful analysis from serious journalism that strives for a better Malawi.
But I will finish by quoting two journalists I admire so much: Fareed Zakaria and Michaell Elliot. Zakaria, a former professor of political science at Harvard University, now editor of Newsweek International, says democratic elections do not automatically produce democrats. Muluzi is a typical example. He failed to run the country and now he is failing to run his retirement.
Elliot, a former professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, now editor of Time International, has the magic of the pen and is everything a highly ambitious journalist should aspire to be or beat.
In one of his famous commentaries on George Orwell, Michael says, “if you are a writer on contemporary events and aspire to immortality, you had better have something special in your pen.”
This is true of politics. If you are a politician and aspire to be a statesman like Nelson Mandela, then you had better have a peculiar, listening heart. If Muluzi aspires to political immortality, if he really cares about his after life, he should listen to wisdom.
If Muluzi can listen to the elderly, the better. If he can listen to the elderly, educated people that’s even much better. He needs to listen to voices from outside UDF for those from the party are his own voices and a man who listens to himself, and himself only, ends up the Shakespearean tragic way—always.

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