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

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Cracks in the wall
by Bright Molande, a Correspondent, 11 April 2007 - 12:44:08
What is the best way to get political credit and votes? In Malawi the opposition thinks voting against government bills is one way. But it is not. The rejection of the recent supplementary budget works against the opposition, not the Executive.

There are souls labouring so much, sweating blood, but earning so little.
They are labouring to get money, their means and survival. But there are those with so much money, and their problem is how to spend it. And in spending their money, they spend their life too.
There are those wriggling, struggling and clambering to get to the heights of power. Then there are those with so much corrosive power, and their problem is how to use it. And in using their power, they spend their own political souls.
And, it is either “you get busy living, or get busy dying,” according to the composer of “The Shawshank Redempetion”. There are many who are busy politically dying, instead of being busy living. This is what the opposition in Malawi is often doing; plunging so deep into self-destruction at the moment.
The trouble with most African leadership since independence has been that we do not know what to do with our own Africa, with our own power, our own destiny. When a leader emerges who knows exactly how to develop our people, we labour and toil to destroy him.
While Joseph Kabila is labouring to bring peace and stability to the bleeding war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, the opposition won’t let him work for the people. While President Bingu wa Mutharika is fast salvaging Malawi from the moral and economic ruins, the opposition sings tunes of its own wisdom.
At first, it was like a cruel joke spoken of The Wretched of the Earth. This is a book in which Frantz Fanon, the legendary nationalist whom Sam Nujoma found in Ghana dining ideas with the likes of Dr Kamuzu Banda “in the centre of the campaign for African independence and unity”.
Fanon said, if we do not know what to do with Africa, then sell her to the Europeans and Americans. The least of their kind know what to do with Africa better than the most intelligent of you. Maybe so.
Yet, we are the best qualified people to take charge of our welfare and destiny, no matter what! Four decades after this conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth, the opposition (or the government in-waiting) in Malawi does not know what to do with and for us, the people.
When Members of Parliament contemplate and plan to reject a national budget meant for the welfare of their own people, just for the spite of putting government in a fix, this is worse than self-destruction. Wisdom would be to scrutinise, advise and monitor. If anything, corner the government when it spends outside approved budget lines.
But they choose to spite their own people. Old wisdom said it many seasons ago: when you hurl stones into a market place, you should not be surprised when your own mother comes blinded and with blood bathed. Somewhere, the piercing pain of voting down a budget becomes real, really painful to the souls of the wretched of earth.
There is the school teacher some of whose students is now Parliamentarians receiving over K200,000 a month while she has to make do with a K9, 000 per month. After many years of service, and she has a family of human souls whose survival is on the salary bait. Her house is grass-thatched, and somehow rain finds its way in. Government says this is the house that should have been renovated with the supplementary budget.
Well, our MPs know and understand the social needs of people like this teacher, even better. There are many who once served our beloved nation as (primary school) teachers. These are teachers we spite yet they must teach our nation. We spite the policeman and the soldier, those “forgotten heroes”, who do not sleep just to ensure that you and I are secure and safe.
Well, it does not matter that the lizard who swore to spite the rock by scraping his belly hard against the rock ended up spiting his belly. John Tembo, the leader of the opposition in Parliament, has sworn that proudly, “we will reject the budget again if government...” this or that. He said, contemplating rejection of budget in advance.
The listeners to this vow jeer, clap and laugh at it within as they walk home while Tembo drives back to the city. Yet, they are the underdogs wriggling like maggots in the mire of poverty, the people who must suffer the worst consequences of rejecting a budget. Perhaps, maybe, Malawians are that naive.
Tembo’s voice in Parliament hurls weight, his say in the Malawi Congress Party is said to be final. He is said to have so much power in the party. And one remembers chilling whispers of how much “power of association” he commanded in the Kamuzu Banda regime. But bragging to voters that “we will reject your budget again” is being in self-destructive and plotting doom of the people.
These people want to hear articulation of policies that will out-compete those of Mutharika. They want to hear someone who out-competes Muluzi’s most colourful dream of distributing free fertiliser, certainly more meaningful than the free shoes Muluzi distributed in his 10-year rule.
The MCP leader ought to be busy cementing the foundations of the party.
And Kasungu has been the base of the MCP for the decades. Here, 65.5% of voters swarmed after Kamuzu in 1994 just when Aford was commanding fire in part of the district. Then 74.8% voted for Gwanda Chakwamba in 1999, but only 48.4% voted for Tembo in the 2004 elections. Tembo’s popularity has been falling here, a district accounting for one tenth of the Central Region population where the party is strongest.
Now Kamuzu’s spirit is walking out of the MCP, slowly. And Tembo has publicly fallen out with the Kamuzu family. Ken Kandodo Banda, nephew to the first president, told him off the fortunes of Banda which now the party is yearning for to run its affairs.
In voting terms though, Lilongwe has been the iron heart of the MCP. But of all those who have led the party, Tembo has been least charismatic. In the 1994 elections, 71.7% voted for old Kamuzu, then 73.3% voted for Chakwamba who came from the South. Now, 67.7% voted for Tembo for presidency in 2004. Yet, this district accounts for over one third of the only region where the party has roots. Tembo has a party, and an image to build.
Besides, as we move towards the 2009 elections, another crack is clearly predictable. There are those who silently yearn for younger blood to lead the MCP with new ideas. But they can’t speak before Tembo. It has been in whispers for time to tell.
The wisdom that generally lacks in Malawi’s politics is the question of where to get voter credits. You do not get credit from voters for rejecting their own budget. Certainly, there is deep rooted wilful ignorance among opposition parliamentarians of what government is, whose budget is “government’s budget”. Sadly so.
Those opposition members who aspire for political immortality beyond should have been aligning themselves (even without changing their party) with whatever is good for the people, even if it is pioneered and steered by the ruling side.
But one opposition MP is off record, saying “I cannot ask for a road construction for my area because I know the government will not hesitate to build it.” He does not want credit to go to government at the expense of his people, whatever government is!
I am yet to understand the opposition.
Bright Molande is a poet, political commentator and lecturer in English Literature at Chancellor College in Zomba.

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