Signs on the ground, and on Prof. Peter Mutharika's face, are that he is not interested in running for Malawi's presidency in 2014.
When Speaker of the National Assembly, Henry Chimunthu-Banda, openly endorsed his (Peter's) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidacy late 2010, Peter neither smiled nor winced: he merely headed towards the exit door of the New Parliament Building in Lilongwe, collapsed at the back of his Green Toyota VX, and signaled to his chaffeur to put foot (sorry, his shoes, which covered the driver's feet) to the plates!
It was the same case with Eastern Region DPP Governor, Noel Masangwi. For a start, Masangwi was the first DPP official to come in the open and declare his support for Peter- albeit in gender-insensitive fashion when he enthused (rather, declared) that Malawi was not ready for a female president.
This was in direct reference to Vice-President Joyce Banda- now sacked from the DPP and in the process of registering her own political institution, the People's Party. The formation of the People's Party puts Banda afoot with President Bingu wa Mutharika: Bingu went into power on a United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket, but dumped it on February 5, 2005 to form his own party, the DPP.
It was like, in the words of former UDF Spokesperson and Speaker of the National Assembly Sam Mpasu, "getting into government in order to form a political party".
Normally, one (or a group of like-minded individuals) forms a political party to get into government; that is, if you are not standing as an independent presidential candidate.
But here was Bingu wa Mutharika; a Bingu wa Mutharika who went into government to form a political party!
Now, Joyce Banda is proving to be a fast learner.
Bingu snatched Banda from obscurity in 2008. After all, Banda had plucked a few feathers earlier, when she resigned as DPP Secretary General, but clung to her Minister of Foreign Affairs post. DPP party zealots did not know what she was up to.
Some thought she was not dedicated to the party; and cited her decision to stay put as Minister as good enough reason that she was 'money-minded'.
After all, government positions pay; and pay well- party politicking does not.At least in the Malawi set up.
However, from Banda's apparent obscurity rises a woman who becomes a hard nut to crack for the DPP cohorts. Consequently, the party's National Governing Council (NGC), at a meeting chaired by Bingu wa Mutharika (the man who took her away from Mr. Obscurity to kiss Mr. Limelight), fired her alongside DPP Second-Vice President Khumbo Kachali.
Banda was DPP's First-Vice President at the time of her dismissal.When the likes of former Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe later defended the DPP's decision, saying Banda and Kachali "were busy erecting parallel party structures and planting their own people in strategic party positions", many thought Banda would go into full-time farming, leaving politics to the 'real' politicians.
But Banda has been hardened by politics, in a way, having served as Director of Gender Affairs in United Democratic Front, Minister of Gender, among other party and government positions prior to 2004.
So, Banda did no rest, or give up on her 'hidden' (what is hidden is not always burried; the aim of hiding is to protect and not forget) political ambitions. She set them abraze. People's Party is the smoke from that braze!
Banda, in proving to be a fast learner, is now forming a political party while in government. As Vice-President, Banda is strategically better-placed to take over from Bingu (in case one of the things stipulated in the Republican Constitution, including the development of an unsound mind, incapacitation), and chop Peter Mutharika, Symon Vuwa-Kaunda, among other vocal and strategically placed officials, from government positions.
That is why it can be safely said that she is forming a political party while in power. In other words, she assumed the auxiliary-reigns of power in order to form a political party!
Like Bingu wa Mutharika, like Joyce Banda indeed.
Of course, Banda- as Vice-President- is yet to surpass Mutharika at making odd decisions. Mutharika is a strange man, a man who dissolves the Malawi Electoral Commission (the High Court ruled in 2010 that MEC is not MEC, it is the Electoral Commission (EC)- if this is December 5, 2010) and re-instates it on March 31, 2011; he okays the arrest of Rev. Nyondo of Livingstonia Synod in August 2010 for 'uttering seditious words' when he said openly that the C.C.A.P Synod would support Banda's candidature, and unilaterally declares that the State should discontinue the case on April 2, 2011 (making himself the executive and judiciary).
He declares that former President Bakili Muluzi, who has been delayed for almost four months from meeting his doctors in South Africa (for dislocated, and later successfully operated on, disks) be allowed to go down South despite an on-going Muluzi challenge in court. Mutharika adds that his decision does not affect any on-going court cases.
How does that not affect them (on-going court cases), when Muluzi was fighting for that very chance: to go to South Africa. To Muluzi, unlike ordinary Malawian citizens who have to endure the pain of throbing ailments while waiting for their foreign-medical-services applications to pass through the country's beaurocratic health system for a go-ahead, it is a right to go to South Africa (or anywhere else in the world) for medical attention.
All this because he was 'lucky-enough' to become Malawi's president; just like First Ladies are 'lucky-enough' to have married a man who was, sooner or later, to become the President of the country. So, the first ladies enjoy so much previleges, apart from eating free food, sleeping in bedrooms and beds they never bothered to buy, among others.
That is why Callista Mutharika is receiving K1.3 million for simply being the Ambassador for Safe Motherhood. The post was earlier held by Vice-President Joyce Banda, and she received nothing for her sweat.
As Mutharika's Spokesperson, Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba, has it; Banda did not deserve a salary. Ntaba said, because Banda was also serving as Vice-President, there was no way she could receive two salaries.
"In government, my brother, you don't receive two salaries. Madam (Callista) Mutharika is not on another salary; she is thus entitled to what she is receiving," said Ntaba.
That is Bingu wa Mutharika for you, a Bingu wa Mutharika UDF Director of Research Humphreys Mvula has described in today's (4 April, 2011) newspapers as a 'dictator'.
A Bingu wa Mutharika who brands himself a democrat, but assents to the draconian Section 46 of the Communications Act, which empowers the Minister of Information to ban any publication deemed anathema to the 'public interest'.
How they define 'public interest', nobody knows; to make matters worse, this definition is left out of the Section, deliberately; to give powers vast enough for the Minister to develop a bloated stomach.
All these are signs of power getting into the bowels of Malawian politicians. And Peter's look, mannerisms, speeches do not seem to offer alternatives, yet.
On Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) Television and Radio, it is Peter all over; no where do you see Banda as Vice-President of Malawi talking sense, or nonsense. That could explain why Banda has sought a court injunctions restraining MBC from saying anything 'Bandash'; that is, related to her. She feels that MBC is out to discredit her, and thinks that gagging the State-broadcaster is the best solution.
If that be so (best decision), what chances do Malawians (read, the Malawi media) have that media institutions (not only mouths) will be muzzled by Banda? The way Mutharika is doing?
While on the issue of Banda's coverage black-out on MBC (the court injunction not withstanding), is it because, as one American columnist once joked, the only serious duty and responsibility of the Vice-President is to represent him or herself at the president's funeral?
It is clear, however, that Peter is being groomed for power.
And people, including strategic businesses, are beginning to read through this very well, and positioning themselves for Peter's (post-2014) world.
Rab Processors Limited has shown this very well. At the opening of its buscuit factory late last month (March), the company's directors gave Peter Mutharika a gift.
It is not known what gift; only that it was announced by the Director of Ceremonies that it was a gift.
Only two people received gifts at the Buscuit Factory launch: President Bingu wa Mutharika and his younger brother, Peter.
Yet, government protocol dictates that the function fel under Industry Minister, Eunice Kazembe. Peter Mutharika was a mere Education, Science and Technology Minister at the function, one of the many obscure, but prominent officials around Rab Processors' premises.
For reasons known to themselves (but reasons well known to political analysts and scientists, and enlightened citizens), the Rab Processors Limited directors chose to honour Bingu and Peter, and shame Kazembe in public.
Why not prepare three gifts, at least, to conceal the company's 'indirect' endorsement of mere aspiring ruling party presidential candidate; one who makes people believe he is being forced?
But nobody should fault the Rab Processors' bosses; they were merely rubbing shoulders with history before it crushes on the entire nation. Or, rather, history was brushing their cheeks, and they couldn't do otherwise but get overwhelmed!
As things are now, it is not Malawi that is the playing ground; the playing ground is the time we are living in.
And this playing ground has become fertile ground. Fertile ground, by its very (innocent and not political) nature is interesting.
To Malawi, the play ground is (has found itself)along a busy road; he road to 2014.
Already, opposition parties have started smelling potatoes where lies the python that swallowed Malawi's last democratic toe. Everywhere, they see conspiracy; sometimes things that are not there. It is part of their zeal to get their voice heard.
Ten years ago, Malawi had toungue-tied opposition political parties. These were political parties that were,largely, on the receiving end of ruling party machinations. They never set the agenda; they just sat on their raulels, waiting for government and ruling parties to make the first move (or, in Malawian political language, 'kill the first Chinese').
So, the ruling party was always calling the shots. The UDF, for instance, could make unsubstantiated claims against an opposition party, or opposition parties, and such a party (or parties would spend much of their time putting water in the fire.
Time that could have been used to constructively criticise government, or ruling parties.
That is, until some four years ago, when the Netherlands-based, and funded, Centre for Multiparty Democracy decided to bring party Spokespersons, General Secretaries, among others, to a drilling session.
The likes of Sam Mpasu attended.
The parties- especially opposition parties- were drilled in how to put ruling parties on the defensive.
Among other things, opposition parties were made to learn that they could make unsubstantiated claims against ruling parties, attack the government on administrative shortfalls,voice out concerns, where necessary, and make them appear as if they contain the conscience of the whole nation (even when such concerns benefit only the opposition parties, and not the entire population).
It is after this 'brain-beating' that the opposition in Malawi begun to speak. The Mpasus because a thorn in the 'dried-fresh' (how can fresh be dry; after all, is it self-explanatory that it is fresh?)of government. The general perception at the time was that government was a roaming wild animal with a thick skin; with constant beating and whipping, the skin gives in, and develops cracks.
Soon, government was on the defensive; defending this defendable thing along with that indefendable issue. Government, for a large part, lost focus on its policy and development goals.
Gaps, in development, also developed, offering the opposition probable campaign areas.
Of course, the oppposition in Malawi is yet to exploit this strategy to the maximum. Otherwise, Malawi should have an opposition party upstaging those in the ruling confines.
The only time an opposition party inflicted a defeat on the, or a, ruling party in Malawi is twice. This means it is not "the only time' anymore, it is times.
First, it was in 1963, when the locals upstaged the colonial political party institution to pave way for Dr. Hastings Kankhwani Kamuzu Banda's autocratic regime.
1994 then came with the only other good news to the opposition, when UDF's Bakili Muluzi- having endured castigations that he was uneducated, and 'embezzled' Malawi Congress Party (MCP) funds when he was a senior member of the party in the 1980s- took over from an ailing and exhausted Banda.
Banda- as if taking advantage of the defeat to pass an immortal, political message- conceded defeat well before announcement of electoral results by the Electoral Commission.
It must be said, and remembered, that the Electoral body was headed by inspirational Malawian woman, devout Catholic, mother and judge (then Justice of Appeal), Madam Anastansia Msosa.
Justice Msosa handled the elections well, and received world-wide acclaim for her professional, non-biased handling of Malawi's historic polls. Polls that saw a cock, the symbol of the MCP, appear for the last time on May, 18.
Surprisingly, Muluzi 'fired' Msosa from the Electoral body just before the 1999 General Elections, raising suspicions he (Muluzi) was up to something ('stealing' the vote).
No wonder, when Muluzi won (beating Gwanda Chakuamba who stood for the MCP, Alliance for Democracy, AFORD, alliance), opposition party followers run amok.
They raised so many unanswered questions, and could not forget to link it to Msosa's sacking.
Bingu wa Mutharika has done it again, this time: by dissolving the Electoral Commission headed by Msosa (whom he reappointed prior to the 2009 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections), Mutharika has raised even more questions from opposition parties.
The (opposition) parties, remembering the lessons of four years ago, have raised suspicions that, during the almost-four months government agents have been running affairs at the Electoral body, computer data has been manipulated in readiness for a Peter Mutharika presidency in 2014.
The parties, according to MCP Spokesperson Nancy Tembo, feel that the goverment agents "have installed vote-rigging software in EC computers so that they may be able to manipulate figures by remote control and give Prof. Peter Mutharika power at the touch of a button".
Tembo's sentiments have been echoed by AFORD AND UDF.
All this only buttresses the point that Malawi is now fertile ground, on which ground a son (President) will be born in 2014.
Malawi is in labour; a long, painful labour. The gestation period takes three years-plus to materialise.
Because Malawi criminalises abortion, it is well-assumed that the 'baby' will be there for all to see. No disappearance, whatever.
Some say towns (read,ruling parties) have better facilities for baby (political candidate)delivery. They say rural dwellers (opposition parties) are left with dilapidated facilities to live with, live in, and cope up with.
Our hope is that, because we have expartriate (independent electoral bodies) doctors all over (towns and rural areas), babies of both town (ruling party) and rural (opposition party candidates)dwellers will come safely here!