Sunday, April 10, 2016

When a Principled Man Falls, His Stock Only Rises: The Case of Allan Chiyembekeza

It was clear, from the moment he was appointed Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister, that Dr Allan Chiyembekeza would live under the shadow of anxiety.
Chiyembekeza is,to begin with, a professional who sticks to professionalism, and seems unwilling to sacrifice his principles on the altar of political maneuvering.
This was clear at the height of the Mulanje-Thyolo land wrangles.
A Civil Society Organisation in Mulanje was leading a crusade against tea estate owners, with the aim of grabbing back land from the tea estate owners if they did not pay back-dated 'taxes'.
Led by People's Land Organisation and Mulanje Central Member of Parliament, Bon Kalindo, the crusaders gave President Peter Mutharika 90 days to act on their demands, or face the embarrassment of seeing tea estate land being divided among the locals.
Well, the President did not bulge and it seemed that it is the people who were behind the crusade that were taking two steps backwards.
Other members of Parliament in Thyolo, led by Charles Mchacha, launched an offensive, castigating Kalindo and People's Land Organisation in a press statement signed by all Thyolo members of Parliament except Chiyembekeza.
It must be borne in mind that Kalindo is a ruling Democratic Progressive Party Member of Parliament. He was, therefore, seen to be acting against party principles.
I once attended a meeting addressed by Mchacha in Wilson Village in Thyolo, and one of the topis was the debate on land. Well, Mchacha made it clear that he was not part of the scheme and that Kalindo-- who he accused of sending him threatening messages-- would not make it in the 2019 parliamentary elections.
Well, 2019 is very far away but the Democratic Progressive Party is said to be grooming someone to replace Kalindo in Mulanje Central.
What we learned from the land debate, though, is the fact that Chiyembekeza-- who has just been relieved as Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Minister-- is not a man who sails by the wind. He refused to be dragged into the land debate, choosing, instead, to concentrate on less divisive issues.
Again, Chiyembekeza showed that he could be in the canoe but sail in a different direction when he addressed the issue of irrigation and its relevance to Malawi. He said, among other things, that there was need to take irrigation to another level as there was little to show for previous efforts due to mis-application of irrigation technologies.
Unfortunately, as happens sometimes, the media quoted him out of context by reporting that he had poured cold water on irrigation policies.
By the way, there are differences between 'quoting out of context' and 'misquoting'. When you quote out of context, it means you have taken out words that suit you, leaving behind words that form the gist of a sentence or paragraph to suit your interests. So, a source ends up saying what they did not say. The undiplomatic way of putting it is 'twisting words'.
When you 'misquote', on the other hand, it means attributing words one did not say to that individual. It may be that someone said the said words but, then, to attribute to the wrong person.
In Chiyembekeza's case, reporters removed some words and connected words that would originally have been words apart.
Again, it was like Chiyembekeza did not want to sail with the winds while taking his ride in the blue [Democratic Progressive Party canoe]. He was with them but [as Jesus Christ put it the other way round] not of them-- a costly thing for all intents and purposes.
To begin with, irrigation has been one of the scorecards for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. Indeed, former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, introduced the Greenbelt Initiative in a bid to revive agriculture in the country.
He must have taken the cue from initiatives such as the Kasinthula Irrigation Scheme, which has shown that, tooled property, irrigation can be the saviour that has never visited Malawi.
So, to talk ill of irrigation is akin to scratching the President's back with a knife.
And, on the premise, Chiyembekeza had to go.
But, then, his stock can only rise after the fall. After all, he never contaminated his, otherwise, good record with the dirty waters of politics.
And, surely, away from the hassles of being Minister-- which go with the business of being misquoted and quoted out of context-- he could be plotting his next move.
He would not want to fall as Minister and, then, fall as Member of Parliament.

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