Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is Presidential Anger the Solution to Malawi's Democracy

Malawi is a ball.
Rolled from the 1890s by the foreign hand that was British Colonisation, dressed in that beautiful robe christened 'The Partition of Africa', Nyasaland was always meant to be a puzzle, living puzzle. As trends change, this puzzle mutates.
It is a puzzle of varied colours: there is no green, red, or blue; pink, yellow, green or whatever.
The colours are economic, social, cultural, religious,and more. Rarely, the colours are visible, preffering, instead, to be abstract.
Even the visible have abstract forms of their own: if not in form, at least in description.
Take, for instance, economic emancipation. Ideally, this must be the hybrid child of poverty- changed, transformed, improved, and adored.
Do we have a concrete definition of poverty?
Are we not told, by those chief global thieves- the World Bank and International Monetary Fund- that poverty is relative. In short, that means there is no single definition of poverty.
No wonder that, when I go to my home village in Dedza, I spend 10 days on end without holding a single penny. But I eat: what have you? Mangoes, bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, cabbages, carrot. Anything.
The people, too, are happy. No complaints.
Who said Malawi is poor? For sure, that individual must be sick in the stomach, and mind.
To quote State President Bingu wa Mutharika: "Malawi is not poor; it is the Malawian (as an individual) who is poor".
Just that, the British rollers- who have graciously rolls the ball that is Malawi across rivers and rocks, dishes and puddles of mud- abandoned ship( rather, were forced to let go off the dependent ball) in 1964 when Malawi's first President (first, he was Prime Minister, that is well before Malawi became a Republic) Kamuzu Banda showed signs of a good shepherd.
A good shepherd he seemed, despite his height deficiency and small feet. Actually, there is a school of thought that suggests that Kamuzu's autocratic style of governance- though this was common folder in other newly-independent African states such as Tanzania and Ghana- was a way of making up for his short size!
Nobody, including his hand-picked photographers came two metres close to him. Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda always wanted photographers to take his pictures from a long range, and he was always sitting on something more elevated than the rest of the people. Idea: a shot, taken by someone down, always looks big after processing.
Kamuzu always wanted to look big, to behave tough. The only thing he took in small measure was food.
But, other than that, his shoes were always over-sized. Close confidant, and one-time Kamuzu body guard- now Deputy Minister in President Ngwazi Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika's office (Office of the President and Cabinet)- Nicholas Dausi only laughed when pinned down to talk about Kamuzu's so size.
Even former Kamuzu official hostess, Mama Cecilia Tamanda-Kadzamira, once cornered at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre by this blogger (when we even posed together for a photo, which I keep at home as a sovenir) just brushed the issue off, describing it as "an untimely joke".
But the truth is that Kamuzu always wore long shoes- size nine, according to former Intelligence chief, the late Focus Gwede (who died earlier this year, having lived a good, prosperous life with Kamuzu, only to die poorer than an orphaned chicken at his home in Ntcheu).
Gwede told Zachimalawi in August 2010 that "Kamuzu was an interesting man, a man who over-sized himself. But he was a good man, too visionary to be Malawian".
So, Malawians are devoid of vision?
If that be so, why did they formulate the Vision 20/20 in the early 1990s (when primary and Secondary School students were invited to contribute their views on specifically set days). That time, around 1993, I was in Salima, learning at Kalonga Primary School. I remember being summoned, the whole Karonga Primary School, from the area of Traditional Authority Kalonga (and such other schools as Nsalula, Kaputu, Kambwiri, Kaphatenga) to Salima Community Centre Hall to contribute our views on what we thought could be a better idea of a Malawi.
In the little child's mind, this Malawi is always fair, reasonable, accommodating. And loving. That is what I said, when my turn came, and I haven't seen the Malawi as I thought it would be then.
Even with the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy (MPRS), a brain-child of estranged former President, Bakili Muluzi, nothing has not changed that much. What might have changed, though, is the (mis) perception that Malawians are visionless people, or, rather, stubbornly short sighted.
We have the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) now, championed by economist President- though a rejected stone at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), where he got the boot as Secretary General for his autocratic style of leadership_ Bingu wa Mutharika.
MGDS is a sign Malawians can still hope, though most of these hopes lie postponed.
Kamuzu the short man with high hopes and an oversized vision ruled Malawi till 1994, after Malawians indicated, the previous year (on 14 June, 1993) that they preferred more freedoms than unity; more strength in numbers than purpose; willfull obedience than blind subjectiviy; and earned loyalty, than being cowed into the membership of comformity.
And so ended the reign of a man who was feared more than respected, over-rated other than scrutinised, worshipped more than praised. Kamuzu had turned Malawi from a dark-waters country to a star performer (as the IMF adorned the country with the best economic performance cap), food secure insecure nation to net producer.
Malawi also became one of the world's biggest tobacco producers, with good quality to boot.
As Kamuzu used to, "I found some people, especially those from Mwanza and Neno, completely naked" (This is how his speech reads at the National Archives in Zomba, where I went twice this week).
When he left, though, some homes were still reeking, some people were still drinking unsafe water (Bingu wa Mutharika said yesterday during World Water Day Commemmorations 80 per cent of the Malawian population now had access to safe water), and many remained uneducated, with the country's illiteracy rate being one of the highest in Africa, when fellow Southern African Development Community (SADC) member state Zimbabwe remains a shining example despite an economic meltdown that has survived more shots than the majority of people living with HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa.
And Kamuzu went (partially, because it was only the reigns of power he left, his heart beat still), only to realy go when Malawians needed him most in September 1997.
The Father and Founder, having endured arrests from the new United Democratic Front (UDF) rulers, now rests in peace in Lilongwe, just next to the Chinese-built New Parliament Building. A statue also stands at the Heroes Acre, reminding Malawians of who once was, and is not. At least what he is, is that he remains a true son of Malawi. This is what remains of him, a legacy.
But he left the University of Malawi intact; auction flours in Lilongwe and Blantyre; the M1 road, strong and still; Kamuzu International Airport, among others. He left a smiling nation, too.
And went towards the way of all the earth.
In comes Bakili Muluzi. Muluzi came with open arms, handcuffs dangling. He wanted the hands of Kamuzu, who he arrested and molested, and humiliated in public. Alongside Mama C. Tamanda-Kadzamira, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President John  Zenus Ungapake Tembo.
But Muluzi also introduced hand-outs politics, winning people's minds wth pockets and not through reasoning. It worked with the rural poor, 62 per cent being too big a head to fit into the cap of poverty.
He also introduced the Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF), a borrowed concept that was financed by the World Bank.
He established the Auction Floors in Mzuzu, brought forth the Mzuzu University (a public university), constructed more boreholes than school blocks, among others.
Muluzi joked on the podium, his dreaded UDF Young Democrats beat people up on the streets.
People say Muluzi started well in 1994, with his less-than-charitable education back ground, as he communicated well with the general public, "a man from the village'- Kapoloma in Machinga, to be precise.
His first term, from 1994 to 1999, was relatively better in terms of respect for people's freedoms. It was his second term, from 1999 to 1994, which was devoid of the many positives Muluzi started with.
When he wanted to run for an unconstitutional Third Term, his Young Democrats torrorised people. The likes of opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) leaders such as Mark Mezalumo were hacked in broad day light around the Clock Tower in Blantyre, after organising an Anti-Third Term match. Typical of Malawi, the match was peaceful, but others shed loads of blood.
This history will forever shaddow over Muluzi's many successes.
When he finnally realised that Malawians were more clever than he thought, he imposed a rank outsider Bingu wa Mutharika on the party machinery- and Mutharika stood on the UDF ticket in 2004, only to dump the party much sooner than later on February 05, 2005 (during the Anti-Corruption Day) citing the party's attempts to frustrate his anti-corruption drive.
Mutharika later formed the Democratic rogressive Party (DPP), Malawi's ruling party now.
Former UDF Publicity Secretary, Sam Mpasu, has always argued: "You don't gointo government to form a political party, instead, you form a political party to go into government".
Bingu wa Mutharika is the difference. And the difference he seems to be, following his many negative encounters with civil society organisations, university lecturers, students, opposition parties, the private media, among others.
For the first time in democratic Malawi, University lecturers have pitted themselves against the Chancellor of the University of Malawi (UNIMA) Mutharika over the academic freedom banner.
Mutharika's former (personal) body guard, Peter Mukhito, (who is now the Inspector General of Police) last month invited associate professor in Political Studies at Chancellor College, Dr. Blessings Chinsinga, to question him over remarks he made pertaining to causes of uprisings against governments.
Dr. Chinsinga is said to have referred to the situation in Egypt, analysing how the situation became so pregnant as to be revolutionary.
Mukhito's step has angered lecturers, who are now afraid that they may not give relevant examples in class.
Mutharika is the Commander-in-Chief of the Malawi Police Service, Malawi Prisons Service and the Defence Forces, and has publicly declared that neither he nor Mukhito will apologise. He cites issues of national interest for his stance.
A couple of weeks ago, Mutharika also said he will ban demonstrations, proposing, instead, a damage-control fee of K3 million for those wishing to demonstrate- peacefully or not.
Just this week, United Kingdom-based Malawian, Ben Chiza Mkandawire, had been collecting signatures (200) with the aim of petitioning British MPs over rights abuses in Malawi.
Last week, when Mutharika opened the Auction Flours in Limbe (Blantyre), the prices were said to be better; after he left they slumped.
Everything seems to be going against Mutharika, an angry Mutharika at that.

No comments: