To neutral observers, former president Joyce Banda and her People’s Party’s lot has been a hard one since that expected moment of Tripartite Elections when Malawians unexpectedly showed them the traditional burning log and shoved them out of the way.
Many have cited Cashgate, the infamous distribution of public resources without the consent of taxpayers, as the principal architect behind voters’ decision to give Banda and her PP the matching orders.
It must have been the manner the issue was handled, and the contradicting statements emanating from Banda after the shooting of former national budget director Paul Mpwiyo, that might have convinced Malawians that the nation did not have enough stocks of patience and hope to cling to the ruling party’s boat. It was like, through Cashgate, the PP administration had torn the traditional last fig from its branch and the last coconut from its bole.
For starters, Banda said at a public rally addressed in Blantyre [Lunzu Township] that she had a clue as to who had shot at Mpwiyo, only to backtrack later, saying she was equally in the dark. By claiming that she knew who had shot Mpwiyo, Banda cast herself as the all-knowing president who was on top of things, and the pronouncement was politically correct.
However, when she changed tune, the impression she gave was that she was, like the rest of us, equally in the dark. In that very moment, she must have given Malawians the impression that she was as clueless as them, they had no leader [torch-bearer]. Therefore, Malawians waited for the May 2014 Tripartite Elections with abated breath so that they could elect a leader who could hold the torch for them, and show them the path in the often dark sphere of public life.
And, again, Banda and PP’s causes have not been helped by the conspicuous absence of the former president from the political scene. Her physical absence since the tragedy that was last year’s elections could be equated to her Lunzu statement that she had a clue about who might have shot at Mpwiyo, and for what purposes: Both cases profess the absence of her physical torch to guide her party towards the path of revitalisation!
There have been suggestions that her conspicuous absence when some of the suspects in Cashgate trials have fingered her name is spoiling her, otherwise, good image, and that it would be good for her to fly back home and clear her name. One eminent law professor, Danwood Chirwa, has even suggested that the state could summon her back home if it feels that it has a good case against her.
But PP’s publicity and administrative secretary, Ken Msonda, is on record to have said that the former president seems to have overstayed her welcome outside the country because she wants to pave way for the incumbent president, Peter Mutharika, to have a smooth run in politics. In other words, she does not want her ‘magnetic’ presence to distract Mutharika from his goal of steering the national ship towards the port of sustainable development.
Whatever the case, both Banda and the PP know that the status quo may not be the best situation going. For instance, it is clear that her followers as well as those of the party are starving. Once they lose hope that she will ever fly back home, it will be another typical case of tearing the traditional last fig from its branch and the last coconut from its bole. Nobody recovers fully from the starvation-of-trust that follows.
This brings us to the squabbles [read, so-called squabbles] that have rocked the PP in its Northern Province. To an untrained eye, these are signs of a party struggling to stay afoot in the murky waters of politics.
But I see mature politics at play. Come to think of it, the water boiling in the PP is not without precedent, as other political parties have done it before. In fact, it is common parlance in the mature democracies that each political grouping should have its ‘moment of madness’. This moment [of madness] takes the centre-stage when political parties, as well as public leaders, want to destruct citizens from something that is more costly than the consequences of the actions employed in the course of the moment of madness.
For example, the current Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration was at it a few months ago. One of Mutharika’s aides, Ben Phiri, announced that he had tendered his resignation to the President ostensibly because some people were accusing him of becoming filthily rich. According to Phiri, his resignation was meant to pave the way for investigators to probe him because, as far as he was concerned, his plate was as clean as the pants of a Tonga!
As expected, the issue stirred debate. However, observers said the DPP administration had planted the noose on the neck of Phiri in order to distract Malawians from the issue of another Cashgate that unraveled under the first DPP administration’s feet.
The same could be said of the PP today. While it could be true that suspecting that the PP may deliberately be fuelling the debacle in the Northern Province could be forcing an intellectual cloak on an otherwise clueless party, we cannot conclusively say that events that marred last week’s party meeting convened by secretary general, Ibrahim Matola, unraveled on their own.
Matola failed to address the gathering because of a fracas that saw the party’s publicity and administrative secretary, Msonda, being roughed up. Matola’s delegation included deputy secretary general Ireen Chikuni, Msonda and national organising secretary Salim Bagus. Infuriated, Matola expelled PP Northern Province chairperson, Reverend Christopher Mzomera Ngwira and chairlady Cliffer Kondowe.
Before the dust settled, in came party leader, Banda, who reversed Matola’s decision and announced that the two had been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing [which was slated for yesterday]. So, finally, Banda’s torch has lit brighter than Matola’s, and it seems as if she is the leader Malawians wanted before Mpwiyo’s shooting.
As the fire rages on in the PP, people have forgotten about Banda’s physical absence in Malawi, PP’s precarious position as a party without a visible driver has somewhat been forgotten, and life goes on!
That’s the good thing about political moments of madness: They can go a short way in diverting people’s attention from ‘real’ things. Again, that’s why each and every party should have people who are willing to throw dust in the air and confuse opponents.