Thursday, June 16, 2011

Faced with Majority Odds, Malawi's Opposition Sees only the Door Out of Parliament

Never once, during the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) minority-rule, first-term of office, did ruling Members of Parliament (MPs) walk out of the National Assembly, and (walk out) on the National Assembly.
They knew the door, having passed through its supporting posts to get into- in those days, before Parliament shifted places, New State House and, then- The New Parliament Building.
The 'waist', or linking factor, of all these supposed building of honours is the term 'Lilongwe'- all these August Houses were, and are, located in Malawi's capital city, the foreign-sounding Lilongwe.

John Zenus Ungapake Tembo: Gave Mutharika no breathing space between 2004 and 2009

Light continued to pass through the gaps in the doors leading to the New State House Parliamentary Chambers- which now 'fully' houses State President Bingu wa Mutharika- the same kind of light that beats security at the Chinese-built New Parliament Building, to force its way into the August House and penetrate into the faded jackets of male MPs, as well as National Wear for the women legislators- during Mutharika's first five-year term.
The then Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, Hon. John Zenus Ungapake Tembo (if I don't mention 'Honourable' for a man who has been my MP in Dedza South since the time I was born, who will?) saw the light; so did Leader of Government Business in Parliament, who is now Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Henry Chimunthu (if I don't respect my Speaker, who will?), and United Democratic Front's Leader in Parliament, Ibrahim Matola.
But they never went after the light; they, kind of, simply remained glued to their comfortable chairs- thinking about tea break, sitting allowances, impeachment, pay increment, fuel allowance, Constituency Development Fund, Agalu Inu, Subereka, Umkakoka galu nthawi yaKongeresi (Malawi Congress Party- MCP) iwe, Chitsulo chanjanji, Mr. Speaker Sir, Vigil, the vehicle has capsized, budget or impeachment, Mr. Speaker Sir Madam, and others.
And the days passed; Mutharika's term errupsed.

President Bingu wa Mutharika: Has now turned his accummulated anger into negative energy, crumping down on human rights, press freedom, intellectual discourse
Gone with the wind.
Some say Mutharika's first term of office died so quickly, like a promising son who dies in the fifth year of life;others are grateful that the pain that was 2004-2009 came and went- giving Mutharika ample time, during which time he banked on people's sympathy to 'whip' the opposition overwhelmingly in the May 2009 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections.
Not only did Mutharika emerge as the unassailable victor; he broke the chains of history by becoming the first Malawian leader to beat the opposition so thoroughly it is no strange he is ruthless today- turning his true-self towards efforts that are but anathema to democracy.
Today, Bingu is not Mutharika he is 'Mr. Fighter'. On one hand, he has wedged a war against academic freedom and intellectual discourse; press freedom, through the infamous ammendment to Section 46 of the Penal Code, as he seeks to tighten the screws on transparency and free flow of information; a crump-down on the opposition, as seen through the Registrar of Political Parties' action in rebuffing, among others, registration of Maravi People's Party, independent candidate James Nyondo's party, and, now, the People's Party of Vice President Joyce Banda.
Mutharika is not satisfied with these 'handcuffs' on democracy's little hands, he wants to 'arrest' the legs that talk on behalf of the mouth (public demonstrations) by suggesting, and maintaining his stand as if it were a public policy or Constitutional provision, that demonstrators pay collateral before any such action.
Mapuya Murupwana, as Mutharika is fondly called by the Mulhako wa Alhomwe cultural grouping, argues that the K2 million he is suggesting will go towards repairing the damage likely to be caused by such 'peaceful' demonstrations.
He seems to assure Malawians that, in the case of death, the money will go towards restoring life; if one loses a leg, he knows where to find one; if cars get damaged, the deposited funds are a sure Insurance Cover- no need to look up to Prime Insurance, Nico Insurance, Real Insurance, among others.
That is the negative side of that undemocratic suggestion: it renders insurers useless in an economy said to be liberalised.
But that is the present-day Mutharika, anyway; a Mutharika who saw the light passing through the Honourable doors, too, but never chickened out.
At one point, the John Tembo-led, opposition-dominated Parliament, booed the 'Excellent'President hourse during his delivery of The State of the Nation Address. The year 2007 went down with that sad record- opposition MPs booing a sitting State President, and getting away with it.
Mutharika spoke; the opposition booed.
Just like that.
In the midst of all those booes, Mutharika stopped in mid-speech, waiting for the opposition to boo, shout, exclaim, and wriggle their undisciplined mouths until they got tired. That way, he hoped, he would finish his speech uninterrupted.
He had a speech to finish.
But, to Mutharika's supprise, the opposition MPs present in the House all fell into a hush of sorts one could hear the Speaker inhale in and out.
Mutharika thought it over, that the noise was over.
The moment he opened his mouth- the mouth that now calls "some Europeans" "stupid", for listening to a 'stupid opposition"- the noise started; slowly at first, and, then, into a loud boo.
He kept quiet again, and looked upwards, as if to cry, as if to plead, as if in prayer, as if to run. He might have done one of the listed actions, but one thing he never did: see the light, and follow it out of the door.
He was there.
He endured.
He even surpressed his imminent anger, adopting the figure of a sacrificial lamb- an innocent citizen destined convicted for that gruesome punishment: hanging.
Many believe that it was in such moments that Mutharika won people's hearts.
This was a time when Civil Society Organisations could take time off and organise vigils in behalf of Mutharika. Today, these organisations have become Mutharika's enemies.
He has openly pointed his thick finger at such human rights activists as Undule Mwakasungula, and called them enemies in public. Fortunately, these activits have not chickened out.
Unfortunately, these very same huma rights activits are not here for the national cause; they have, sort of, made it into a career that feeds their bloated mouths, and over-sizes their extended pockets.
That is why some of these human rights activits cannot quit; they are in it for the money.
Nobody benefits, not even the poor and marginalised. Their wives do.
Some of these human rights activits don't even take care of their relatives: they are too pre-occupied with the task fo taking care of society's most vulnerable members.
There is no way out, it seems, between Mutharika and human rights activists.
The the activists organised vigils and Mutharika benefited. Now, they are enemies of sorts; not enemies in a just course, but because they are pulling the same banknote in opposite directions!
All these things could, however, not be seen in the period that was 2004-2009. Only one thing was visible and clear- the light passing through the doors of honour, and parliament, and the New State House.
But none of these followed the light, for that would be chickening out.
And cowardice.
Everyone carried on their tasks to the bitter, sure end.
Well, the opposition seems to have recovered its eye sight.
The ageing Tembo's, toungue-wagging Uladi Mussas, over-ambitious Atupele Muluzi's saw the light.
And followed it out of Parliament in what today, Thursday, has come to be called an 'Opposition Walk Out'.
Out of what? Parliament.
Destination: Not the Constituency, as most MPs stay in town, but following the light.
The light that was there between 2004 and 2009, ,and never got followed by mature, couragious men who opted to face the carvivore than erase history with a pencil years after.
This light.

The then, and present, Opposition Leader in Parliament John Zenus Ungapake Tembo and former Head of State and United Democratic Front Chairperson, Bakili Muluzi: Oh, everything seemed good then!

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