"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

Gunning for presidency at all costs

By CHARLES PHIRI - Sunday, April 20, 2008 - 13:10:58

An Atcheya Production

Lights, camera, action

Most successful people it seems they know exactly what they want in
life and they go right after it. No effort is spared and no resources
are withheld. While these traits have made the Richard Bransons and
Bill Gates of this world prosper in business, but when these same
traits appear in public officers or aspirants for high offices, then
you can get ready for action packed drama.

Take for example the former president, Bakili Muluzi. He is a man on a
mission. He has no time for half hearted attempts. You cannot help but
admire his tenacity. This time around he has made it clear he wants to
become president of the country again and you can be certain he will
stop at nothing. By his own account he has never lost an election and
he has no intention to start losing now.

While many of us wait for others to author the script and direct the
play of our lives, Muluzi believes in ‘do it yourself’. He writes his
own script, acts in his own plays, he directs them himself and he is
the producer. I bet he has several grammys to his name. And guess what?
He wants more.

That way no one can accuse him of double standards because he makes the
rules and he can change them as he wishes and where there are no
written rules, he will simply improvise. He cannot even be accused of
contradicting himself because he is the executive producer and it is up
to him to switch roles depending on what the scene demands.

The latest of his plays, is his comeback bid to become presidential
candidate for UDF and eventually president for the country. He will
effectively be combining the role of chairman for the party and its
presidential candidate — unifying the two championship belts, if you
will. In case you have forgotten, he was both president of his party
and president for the country for a good ten years before he discovered
that it was cool to separate the two.

Come time for his reluctant departure from State House, the new scene
dictated that the presidential candidate should not be president for
the party. He was not even a member of the executive, while Muluzi held
on to his new found role as chairman. This, he argued, would help
separate the party and state powers. Now he is going for bloke to
become the undisputed champion as he combines the two titles once more.

How then shall the state and party powers be separated, you must be
wondering? Well he makes the rules and directs the film and him alone
can decide who combines the two belts and who doesn’t.

Lights, camera, action:

Another scene, different actors and a different plot. No one can fault him. He is the master.

The only problem in this whole episode of I alone will decide what is
right and what is wrong for the country, is that it is not just another
play. Real lives of people are involved. People’s lives depend on it.
But Atcheya is not bothered with that. The end justifies the means.
Here is a determined man who wants to get to the top whatever it takes.

Can you remember, when Muluzi addressed one of his very first rallies
at Ferries Ground, in Blantyre/ Boy, did he not struggle to address the
people? I almost concluded that the man will never be a public speaker.

Today, the man who clocked ten years at State House and believes the
country owes him at least another five years, is a fierce orator who
can hold his own anywhere. If you ever doubted that practice makes
perfect, then look no further. That is what determination and hard work
can do to man.

When Muluzi speaks today, he exudes confidence and style, now and then
cracking a joke or two. It must be said though that some of his jokes
are for adults only. Of course of late there has not been much to joke
about. Take the infamous shopping debacle at Metro, K21 million is not
a laughing matter. It would not even pass for a practical joke not even
if the bill was slashed to K5.7 million.

Next Scene

Enter some unknown James Phiri who wants the courts to determine that a
Cheya cannot bounce back. Well if Phiri wants a fight, he will get one.
There is a score of 24 lawyers waiting for him. As you can see, the man
is taking all the steps to remove all obstacles on the road back to
State House. His starting point is the UDF presidential nomination.
Nothing will stop him. He is a master of his own destiny. Whether his
destiny should also be the country’s destiny, is for the electorate to

He is believed to have anointed both president Bingu wa Mutharika and
his deputy Cassim Chilumpha as his successors. Today he has decided
that the two are not good enough for the high office. In fact there is
no other person, not in his party, not in the country, who deserves to
be called First Citizen. Whether he was speaking out of turn or he
meant it, he has more than once intimated that the country has a
vacancy at Sanjika as we speak. I wonder whether the man loves the high
office more or he hates the country more.

Tell him that perhaps he may have been out-witted by God who determines
the future of nations, that He may have been used him to help put in
office the current crop of leaders, he will tell you that he did not
need help from anywhere. He single-handedly got those ungrateful people
into office. He is the one who put them there, they have let him down
and he will remove them and replace them with himself. End of story.

Muluzi believes he has a responsibility on behalf of 12 million
Malawians to determine the future of the country and who should lead
it. It’s far too much responsibility for one man, if you ask me. He
tried it with the open term, tried it with third term, tried it with
Bingu and he will try it this time with a third but non consecutive
term. The danger is what if this one man band is wrong? Is it not
better that if there are mistakes to be made, the 12 million make their
own mistakes?

Keep watching as the real life drama unfolds. Of course, there will be
many twists and turns as we cruise to destination May 2009 and brace
yourselves, tighten your seatbelts and enjoy the ride of your life.

Muluzi would like to be remembered as the one who led the country to
the second Republic and should be credited for having introduced free
primary school, introduced television and cellular phones and generally
having championed a reclaim of human rights and the various freedoms –
including the freedom to make fools of ourselves, if we so choose.

This is commendable work which the country should have remembered
Muluzi for if he were to retire. Unfortunately, by deciding that he is
the only one fit to rule, it will not be on his successes that he will
be judged but on his shortfalls. It is the many things that went wrong
when this country was on auto pilot for ten years that will be under
the microscope as we head for elections. You may find some of the
pictures disturbing.

Perhaps this is the price of wanting to bounce back. People are forced
to remember even the things that they should have forgotten considering
that a president is really just one of us with all the shortfalls of a
human being.

When they retire we can console ourselves that their good or bad works
have gone with them. But when they want to bounce back, it will be at
our own peril if we want them to bounce back complete with their
excesses from the past.

Muluzi came to power as a political engineer, and a very fine one at
that. When he was done, he invited an economic engineer to turnaround
the economy and he did not disappoint. Trouble is Muluzi believes that
a former president should have a say on how a country is run.
Truthfully that should never be the case whether in Malawi or in any
part of the civilised world.

The sitting president should call the shots and decide what role, if at
all, a past president should have in the new government and not the
other way round. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of changing regimes
if the country should remain in the shadows of its former leaders.

According to Atcheya, Bingu is not acting according to the directions
on the script written and handed to him since he wants to be his own
man, hence the fight to get back and wrestle the play from those who
have hijacked it and want to change a comedy into a musical with
Nkasa’s Mose wa Lero as a sound track.

Muluzi knows that come 2009 people will remind him that he is just
another political engineer. The man has been doing his homework. Word
has it that he has been polishing up his knowledge of economics and the
first fruits of his enhanced knowledge of the subject have already been
on display at rallies, complete with such teaching aids as iron sheets,
match boxes, the works. Will this be enough to persuade Malawians that
the political engineer is a better economic manager than the economic
engineer? Was the Malawi’s economy better managed in Muluzi’s reign or
in Bingu’s reign? It will probably be easier to just hire another team
of 24, economists this time, to discredit the economic achievements
made by his anointed successor.

Remember how Muluzi criss-crossed the country drumming up support for
Mutharika as the man for the job? Now he is going back to the people
that it was all a lie. How can one tell which lie is bigger, the first
one or the second one? Can he really go back to the people to tell them
that they can forget about food security and economic development all
they need is politics and more politics? That’s a tough one, especially
when the people have already tasted the benefits of Muluzi’s wisdom
that you cannot eat politics. However, you can trust Muluzi to find a

Some of the people that Muluzi used to call all sorts of names, that
should not be repeated anywhere before midnight, are by his side
supporting his comeback bid. I bet some of them have their own scripts
in their back pockets. They are hoping and praying that Muluzi’s bid
meets a train smash and they can pick up the pieces – assuming they
come out of it unscathed themselves.

They understand all too well that if Muluzi says jump, the only
question you can ask is how high. They either accept the new roles
given by the executive producer or forsake. If the executive producer
says he will double as the lead actor, that is how it is going to be.
Almost all those who have ever questioned the roles he has given them
have ended up in political wilderness.

For a moment, just suppose that Muluzi finds his way back to Sanjika.
There are those foreign governments that simply refused to dish any
more money to Malawi during his rule, I would not be surprised to learn
that Muluzi already has a solution on how to deal with them once he
returns to Sanjika. But the donors have the pulse and they write their
own scripts too. They pay the piper and get to choose the song.

What do we get to call Kamuzu Stadium and Kamuzu International Airport
if Muluzi returns to power? Do we then ditch China and go back to
Taiwan – they of the billion kwacha to people’s personal accounts fame?
Do we get to reconnect with brother leader, he of the Blantyre
Hospital? What about those fugitives who run away instead of facing the
law? Will they comeback under the Muluzi protection? Honestly, I hope
those supporting the comeback bid have the answers.

Agreed that man is innocent until proven guilty, what will happen to
the many cases in our courts that the former president has to answer?
Will the slate be wiped clean by the presidential immunity? Or is this
perhaps the real motivation to want to run for the high office. Is he
running for power or for cover? Or it is the case of I will protect
myself, if no one else will.

Just to make sure that the Muluzi who wants to go back to Sanjika is
not the same one who left Sanjika in a state that resembled a Tsunami
aftermath and who tolerated lawlessness, we need to pose a few
questions and the answers must be convincing or else we are in serious

The Young Democrats must be waiting in the wings, sharpening their
pangas. You remember the ones that would descend on anyone who
suggested that Sayimanso? Who could have forgotten them? Malawians will
be asked whether they want an echo of that at the next polls. The
vendors will be back into the streets trading from any corner
available, hand bags being snatched here, a cellular phones being
snatched there.

Flashback one

It is a day like any other. Law enforcement agents are going about
doing their lawful business of impounding vehicles not properly
cleared. Enter some gun totting friends of a sitting president
threatening to shoot if they do not get back their hot car. This is no
western movie. It is real life drama that happened in an MRA office in
Lilongwe. This was lawlessness at its best by those with political
connections. Will those scenes come back to haunt law enforcement
agents should Muluzi return to power and win his bid for a third term?

Flashback two

There is a traffic jam in Victoria Avenue in downtown Blantyre.
Everything is at a standstill. No, there is no presidential convoy or
an accident. It is a deliberate ploy. Two henchmen of the president
have parked vehicles right in the middle of the road as they are
chatting blocking all traffic at peak hour. No one dares say a word.
This was happening live during Muluzi’s era. Will his comeback bring
those scenes back in the streets?

Will millions of Kwacha be paid to party zealots for orders of drugs
that are never delivered to Ministry of Health or for a promise to
deliver substandard electricity transformers to the power utility
company? Will treasury bills run in the high seventies where the only
people that gain are money launders? Will government expenditure
routinely stay out of control?

Will the hand out culture return when Malawians were just reclaiming
their dignity to work and fend for themselves and their families? It’s
ugly head was seen somewhere in a Blantyre departmental store.

Will dubious characters be pardoned and be assisted to leave the
country by state agents? While those who should be pardoned languish in

If Muluzi retired many would not bother ask these questions, but if he
runs he needs to develop a thick skin because these questions and many
more unpleasant ones will come up. Not because he was a bad president
but because Malawians want to go into this third term madness with
their eyes wide open.

If the answers to these questions make you wonder whether you are day
dreaming, then welcome to the drama that is gunning for presidency at
all costs.

Curtains draw.

Exit Atcheya.

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