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

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Big Man syndrome must go!

By GEDION NKHATA - Sunday, April 20, 2008 - 12:55:18

every political party in Malawi, there is a Big Man. The United
Democratic Front (UDF) has Bakili Muluzi. The Malawi Congress Party
(MCP) has John Tembo. The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has Bingu
wa Mutharika. The bad news is that there is the impression that these
‘Big Men’ do not want to be challenged.

In the UDF, it is a capital crime to challenge Muluzi. Contender Cassim
Chilumpha is now looked at with a jaundiced eye by many of the UDF
bigwigs. In the MCP, it is unwise for anyone to talk about challenging
John Tembo. Granted Mutharika has urged the people in his party to
challenge him, it is very unlikely to see anyone come forward at all.
Why is this the case?

To be honest, there are people within these parties with ambitions to
take over the leadership mantle. The problem, however, is with the Big
Men themselves. They are power-hungry. They do not want to tolerate
freedom of thought within the party. They want to emerge as the
all-wise, all-knowing super individuals. The common denominator among
all of them is that at one time or another, they were keen admirers of
Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, the founding president of this country. They
thus crave for the great respect and honour he was accorded. They all
want to enjoy the status of latter-day Kamuzus.

But why do we bother claiming to be democrats then? Why not come out in
the open to declare that we are all a newer version of dictatorship?

Some of these political parties lose because of clinging to the same
leaders who lost the last election and the one before last. Yet it
emerges that these political parties are ready to feature the same
presidential candidate until the day of his death, regardless of
whether they win or lose elections.

In the civilized world, a leader leaves if he/she has failed to win an
election. New blood is given a chance, with the hope that voters might
like the new ideas brought in by the new face. But then we are talking
about the civilized world, which we are not. Here at home, people cling
to offices where elsewhere they should have resigned.

Democracy here is something we use for personal gain. We masquerade as
democrats just to qualify for aid in the eyes of the West. Deep down
our hearts, we are not. Dictatorship still reigns in the veins of our

Why cheat then? Why not come out in the open and start a system that
realistically reflects the way we lead? American presidential candidate
Barack Obama’s words after winning the Iowa Democratic caucus come to
mind: “They said we cannot do it . . . but we have done it . . . with a
father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas, and a story that can only
happen in America.” Yes, it is only in America where people young as he
is are allowed to challenge living histories like the Clintons to the
presidency – and win. Here in Malawi, it is anathema to challenge a Big

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