A couple of years ago, I interviewed the Principal for the Malawi Polytechnic, Dr. Charles Mataya, during a graduation ceremony for Engineering students. The Polytechnic is a constituent college of the University of Malawi (UNIMA).
Our focused our subject on the ‘animal’ called experience. Dr. Mataya had earlier on implored the private and public sector to engage UNIMA graduates, irrespective of prior hands-on knowledge, saying employers’ demands for five or six years’ experience were thwarting UNIMA efforts to oil the country’s industry with able hands.
Then, he said something I remember very well: It is a statement borne out of experience, too. That is the irony.
“There is no course called experience,” he said. This is an old observation, but the phrasing is Dr. Mataya’s. So, whenever we say that ‘There is no course called experience’, we should always attribute it to Dr. Mataya. He said it; more importantly, he phrased it.
Of course, out of experience. He also delved into his life, how he made it through the University corridors, and his aspirations. But those are not part of the issue at hand here.
I have remembered that interview with Dr. Mataya because of what is happening in the United Democratic Front (UDF). A young, brilliant man called Atupele Muluzi has expressed his wish to contest for the party as president during the forth-coming 2014 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Atupele, son to retired president Bakili Muluzi, claims that people have been calling him, pestering him. And that he can’t do otherwise but heed the people’s call to vie for the post.
Already, musician Lucius Banda has shown interest to square it out against Acting party president, Friday Jumbe. And nobody has raised any qualms about it.
Enters Atupele, and there is noise from former UDF husks (madeya, as the late Davis Kapito, former UDF Regional Governor for the South, used to say). The husks are saying that Atupele is too young and inexperienced to context, though he will have clicked 35 years by May 2014.
The Malawi Constitution says anybody can become Head of Government and State after attaining the age of 34. Framers of the Constitution might have known that, at 34, a person can have children- even 10 children, if he or she marries at 18 years (Don’t forget the song, chaka chino mwana, chamawa mwana, chinacho mwana; kubala samabala choncho, kumeneku ndikubala kwagalu- in English, it means: Be family planners, don’t develop dog habits. Dogs bear offsprings every year) .
So, Atupele is eligible to stand. Period.
What is surprising is that former Madeya- the likes of Kennedy Makwangwala, Kenneth Msonda, Humphreys Mvula, Dr. Nga Ntafu, among others- are now up in arms against young Atupele.
Makwangwala has even gone a mile further, accusing the former president of pampering his son to vie for the UDF presidency. The Ntcheu man even described Muluzi as a confusionist.
There is sense in what former husk Makwangwala is saying: Muluzi single-handedly killed the party because of his tendency to make unilateral decisions. However, Malawians should also know that Muluzi was not making ‘unilateral’ decisions because he was the only human being among maize husks. Even rice husks are madeya, by the way. So are wheat’s, and the like.
Suppose you go to a maize, rice or wheat milling place and stand on top of two metres of husks. How many people are there?
Of course, one- yourself. You can’t say four people counting on madeya. Madeya are no human beings.
So, after all, Muluzi never made unilateral decisions; he made human decisions among madeya.
He was the only human being when he dragged the once-mighty UDF into an alliance of convenience with the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), a party he once served, and later so hated I suspected he would vomit himself sore every night before retiring to sleep. He might also have stopped eating nyama yaTambala (chicken-cock meat) because it was the symbol of MCP.
Muluzi was the only human being when he imposed Bingu wa Mutharika on the UDF, after seing his hopes of an unconstitutional Third Term disappear like the once-likeable Youth Leaguers’ red uniforms. Mutharika later changed from Nsalulu (a harmless snake) to Tiger (as he has said it himself), dumped the UDF to form his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
This development still baffles former UDF Publicity Secretary, Sam Mpasu. Mpasu still wonders whether people form political parties to get into government, or they get into government first (as individuals) to form a political party. Which is more important, Government, or a political party.
Mpasu has a ready answer, though: People form political parties in order to get into government, not the opposite!
But Mutharika did it. It is possible, after all. Malawi’s brand of democracy. Viable democracy.
The only time Muluzi the Senior made a unilateral decision despite being surrounded by human beings like Nga Ntafu, Mpasu, Mvula, among others, was when he dragged the UDF into an alliance with the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD); an alliance that did not last because AFORD Tsar, Chakufwa Chihana, later cried wolf over corruption and chickened out.
Some of his Ministers remained with Muluzi, having tasted mazira (eggs), sausage, and scones (to quote Fr. Edward Masauko) in government.
It is the only time Muluzi made a unilateral decision because Kapito had not yet declared UDF big wigs Madeya.
What is clear from the sentiments raised against Atupele’s ‘policy vision’ to stand for the UDF is the fact that UDF big wigs are in a hurry to wear off the term ‘madeya’. Who could imagine Makwangwala accusing Muluzi of trying to bring confusion into the Yellow party, having packed his Yellow blankets and mats from the dilapidated UDF Headquarters in Limbe, to start a colourless life (no Yellow, no Blue, no Black) at BCA Hill in Limbe.
Time has really changed.
It is their argument I have trouble with. Experience is not an issue; the Republican Constitution sorted that out when it fixed the entry point for presidential aspirants at 34 years old.
A 34 year-old man is a dangerous thing; he can impregnate all your daughters.
On the other hand, a 34 year-old woman is too dangerous, too; she can bear more children than your fore-grand fathers. This is victory, in the literal sense.
A 34 year-old woman is also dangerous because she can abort innocent ‘children’, all in the name of personal choice. She will tell you she is too big to think for herself. Period.
So, 34 is a dangerous mark’ it is also a mantle that comes with civic responsibility. Used carefully, man can achieve the best for humankind.
Or so the Constitution implies.
Msonda can not stand against Atupele in the name of experience. It is just last year, during the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections, when he was going around Mbayani Township in Blantyre, campaigning for the position of legislator.
Now, there is nothing wrong with vying for any position. It is the name he took for himself that captivated me and many people: he called himself Obama.
“I am young and energetic,” he told me in an interview then. And then means last year (2009).
To be young is to be inexperienced. That is the archetype created.
And,now, this Obama is broking another ‘Obama’ in the name of experience.
As for Makwangwala, his claim that it is time for people who have been in UDF through thick and thin to take over makes no sense. Which people, if Zachimalawi may ask.
You mean, the husks?
No, it is time for visionary people to take over.
And Atupele is one.
Just look at how he contributes in the National Assembly.
No long ago, when Parliament was dominated by the opposition and MCP President John Zenus Ungapake Tembo (who happens to be my Member of Parliament in Dedza South), people expected Atupele to behave like the other opposition ‘confused-confusionists’, he rose above party lines to talk sense.
His contributions in Parliament, and as former Chairperson of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament, were always positive. A young, wise man.
While the choice to pick him or not rests in the UDF, the fact remains that it is high time young people in this country begun to think outside the box, and take over.
That time is now.
Experience is an animal that does not matter. You don’t buy experience; you acquire it as you go, as you work, as you see, and feel, and be.
It is not a pre-requisite for success.
Experience is a symptom, like headache. It does not always mean the same thing, But it reveals something. We know what is it it reveals when we see it. Meaning; you see things as you go.
As President, you have advisers. You make the decisions as you rule.
Experience, like a big head, doesn’t make for good leadership. Leadership is what you are. What you are is a symbol of what you have gone through.
How do you develop experience over things that you have not gone through; but things you can still learn?
This is too philosophical for madeya. Too Richard Chiromborical for Yellow!