Monday, October 24, 2016

Gwanda Chakuamba: So Near, Yet So Far Away

At 81, the heart of the once mighty Gwanda Chakuamba,  a veteran politician from the Lower Shire, has been stilled at last.
In that instance Monday morning, an instant at Blantyre Adventist Hospital when Gwanda's body could not pull any more-- a morning when his will could not out-muscle his heart-- Malawi lost a giant of gigantic proportions.
Never, in recent memory; never in recent history; never, in the foreseeable future shall a Gwanda stand still.
He braced prison life during the one party regime. At one point, he was one of those pushing others that way, the jail way-- when, for example, he served as one of the leaders for the defunct Malawi Young Pioneers.
And, then, others turned the knife on him-- facilitating his path to jail.
And, at 81, he forgets all that.
Because a dark cloud has stood in the way of the light of happiness, if not the light-of-Gwanda's presence.
Now, Gwanda will be remembered as a fearless leader. A leader who took the Malawi Congress Party on his shoulders and represented it as presidential candidate. When, that is, all was well with John Zenus Ungapake Tembo.
He also stood as Mgwirizano Coalition presidential candidate when a presidential candidate with clout was needed in 2004 to  beat United Democratic Front's hand-picked Bingu wa Mutharika.
People, voters that is, were hopeful that here was someone-- a Gwanda Chakuamba-- who could upset the political order and push the United Democratic Front, whose president Bakili Muluzi had reached the junction of his constitutional road as Republican president.
On that hope, the hope for change from yellow to something non-yellow, voters went to vote enmasse in the 2004 presidential elections.
When Bingu wa Mutharika still carried the day, those days when Justice James Kalaile was Malawi Electoral Commission president, voters went on riot, burning tyres in such Blantyre townships as Zingwangwa, Bangwe, Ndirande.
A United Democratic Front office in Ndirande (Goliyo) was torched down. The ruins of that deplorable action can be seen today, stripped of the yellow ( United Democratic Front's party colour) colour that adorned it.
A United Democratic Front office in Chitawira was torched down.
Malawi was in a violent crisis.
In the heat of that moment-- the heat, in this case, representing the love for Gwanda Chakuamba -- a 13-year-old Epiphania Bonjesi--  an innocent, soft-spoken Catholic girl who loved her rosary and faith-- was gunned down by one towering figure called a Malawi Police Service officer.
People know where Bonjesi is buried.  But none can identify that police officer. He, surely it must have been a he, was shielded by the system that claims to defend justice when it promotes injustice.
Gwanda then did a number of things in between. He formed his Republican Party.
He joined the Democratic Progressive Party of Bingu wa Mutharika, in which he served as Agriculture Minister-- becoming famous for demanding a BMW  (his favourite car) when hunger was biting the stomach linings of millions in Malawi.
Along the way, he joined the People's Party of Joyce Banda in the run up to the 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Just recently, he became more blue than the Democratic Progressive Party.
And, on Monday, he became history, the main ingredient of Malawi's post-1994 political history.
To say the truth, justice delt Gwanda a great injustice and, from today onwards, he shall be remembered as someone who came so close to the presidency and, yet, remained so far away-- coming close to power only when he was hoping.
Now he hopes no more for earthly positions. As a self-proclaimed pastor, he hopes for better history.
As he lives no more, in body, but remains forever present in our memories.
Oh, Gwanda, oh! 

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