Friday, October 16, 2015

Legislators’ Political Balancing Act

It promises to be a tasking five years in Parliament.
The legislators gave us a taste of what to expect in the just ended Parliamentary sitting,  as shown by Malawi’s new breed of legislators,  the likes of Juliana Lunguzi and David Bisnowaty, who tailored their measured speeches in such a way that their constituents may have shared their mental struggles and missteps along their way to a well-mapped out political path.
For example, Bisnowaty, the Lilongwe City Central Constituency Member of Parliament said there was need to conduct a thorough forensic audit at the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education Training Authority (Teveta) before the government could oil the financial wheels of the institution. That was in response to Finance, Economic Planning and Development Minister, Goodall Gondwe’s proposal that the government be allowed to secure a loan amounting to K18.9 billion from the International Development Association of the World Bank.
Gondwe said the aim of the loan was to increase access to higher education through a Skills Development Project targeting Teveta, Mzuzu University, University of Malawi’s Chancellor College and The Polytechnic, and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar).
But, looking at Cashgate, the observation was reasonable. And Bisnowaty’s observation that Teveta cannot be funded through a loan because of the commercial nature of its activities is a spot-on observation.
Teveta collects millions from willing and unwilling companies and should not milk us dry!
Lunguzi, on the other hand, wondered how Malawi has remained underdeveloped 50 years after independence, lamenting that the only shining thing about Malawi was its stamp of poverty. It is a chilling, yet spot-on observation, yet again.
And there is legislator-cum-musician Lucius Banda! He seems to have come back to the august House with new ideas, telling the media the other day that he would not fly higher than the artificial wings of Parliament could permit him, and, this time around, asking members of the public to censure him should he go astray.
That is the way to go.  May be the Balaka musician is set to have his day in the political fields. He should have learned, during those would-have-been years he was no longer MP, that, even in our absence, the world still turns and that, when we have come back to ourselves, we discover that we have developed a greater depth of understanding and a sparkle of understanding that enriches the life of others.
Banda has turned to that old place, Parliament, with a sense of fragile newness. But he does not look at the Parliament building through the lenses of old eyes (after all, the legislators have moved from the old Parliament building that was the New State House and moved to the Chinese-built Parliament); he sees his new world freshly. It is an experience that has the potential to sooth his battered Parliamentary past and makes him an asset in the august House. 

Taming excitement
While the signs, from these early days, are that the legislators have started, somewhat, impressively, they must bear in mind that  being a representative of people with varying degrees of political, cultural, religious and sports affiliations is akin to a soliloquy- one man (use is generic, meaning, man and woman) on a bare stage watched by thousands of over-demanding constituents.
They (the constituents) will merely watch, and not participate, as the lone Parliamentarian stands in the big spotlight that is Parliament and the public broadcaster [MBC television] to tell us why he is there, who he is and what he wants and how he will get it and what it means that he wants it and what it will mean when he does or does not get it.
This is no mean task. It is part personal grandstanding, part theatre, part reality, but largely a political postulation exercise: a lie here, a truth there. Just like that.
But it will be a big mistake if our current crop of legislators falls into the trap of political postulation because, as experience has shown, Malawians are not as shallow-minded as previously thought. That is why they (Malawians) have voted the likes of United Democratic Front (UDF)’s Lilian Patel in (Parliament) again.
As one of the stand-out legislators during the hay days of the UDF, nobody thought her constituents would show her the back-door of Parliament through the ballot. But it happened, to the chagrin of the UDF.
And, again, against all expectations, her constituents have given her yet another chance. The hope, therefore, is that she has learned from experience, and new comers in Parliament can draw lessons from her experience and become representatives of their constituents, and not representatives of themselves.
Of course, it is not wrong to represent oneself; one just needs to strike the proper balance between representing oneself and representing the wishes of those one represents.

However, the issue of whether the new legislators will be able to strike the necessary balance has, meanwhile, been left in the hands of the Court of Time, and, due to case backlog in the Court of Time at the moment, the ruling and judgement are expected five-year time!  

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