On Friday, the 9th of October, 2015 I decided to make a bold move. Bold because our political system quite often limits us from patronising gatherings whose convenors come into the open to bring new ideas that raise eyebrows.
For a start, Ntata has been in the news lately as a guy who thinks that our political framework needs some wholesale change if we have to forge ahead as a nation. In between, he has found himself tussling with my president. Of course his president too. As a senior cadet myself, just like many of my kind, patronising any of his ‘public lectures’ is capable of raising a few eyebrows.
But the beauty of our democracy is that the constitution allows us to associate freely with even those we think share dissenting views. As such, after a big battle within myself I decided that attending any of the lectures would not necessarily take away my political beliefs and my allegiance to DPP.
So, at 18.07 hours I found myself parking at the auspicious Ryalls hotel in Blantyre to listen to Ntata. I had my DPP scarf displayed at the dashboard but I run short of assessing how the gate keeper of Ryalls interpreted my gesture. Could I be one of the guys that would come to disrupt the lecture? Whatever he may have thought remains in the classified section of his thoughts.
Well, if I say I am well familiarised to this hotel, I am just being economical with the truth. As such, I humbly asked for directions from one of the guys who planted themselves in front of the reception. Are those guys called porters? Sometimes they overcrowd the reception area.
Anyway, the guy directed me to follow a gentleman who was rushing in front of me. He was also going to Kabula room, the venue for the meeting. I followed him. Last time I went farther than the reception, honestly, is when I joined some other guys to ‘coach’ our presidential running mate. If you are one of those guys that memorise the geography of hotels you are blessed. For it is not a guaranteed privilege!
Up there, I found two gentlemen talking. So I couldn’t have missed Ntata. He was clean shaven and accompanied by a man who I later discovered was Hebrews Misomali the day’s Master of Ceremonies. Looking at Ntata, I simply asked ‘where are you?’ To which he responded by giving directions to Kabula conference room.
When I got into the room, I ran my eyes around and recognised one Lyson Sibande. A long time friend with whom we advanced the DPP cause before. Apart from him, all faces were not familiar. I asked myself why no one from my party had come to witness or at least spy on the day’s deliberations. I dismissed the thought instantly. Why would any of them come when Ntata has been labelled as a rebel, the guy who is up fighting my president? It is easy to be mistaken for his follower and risk being found guilty by association!
When I convinced myself that I was not very much lost, I saw the MC took the floor at exactly 18.24hrs and took us through the day’s schedule. Let me show admiration. I do when I have to. Hebrews Misomali has a fine English accent. Later I discovered he has a fine Chewa accent too!
He introduced the men that mattered that night who were Allan, Lyson Sibande, Dawn
Gowa Nyasulu and the former information minister, Moses Kunkuyu. Kunkuyu was accorded a guest of honor status. I have known Sibande for some time, but being one of the speakers that particular night, he left me awe-stricken. In his 12 minute speech, he was more determined and appealing than anytime I have heard him speak.
His appeal to the youth and how he wants to ask young people to move from the politics of Facebook was moving. He told of how as a young man himself sees a dream that he had, easily being frustrated if the political framework remains as it has been. It could be that the guys involved him because of the power that his arguments and voice bring into their cause. All along, I avoided giving him eye contact. Just in case he remembered how previously we had advanced DPP agenda. Together!
He bowed to pave way to the America-accented Hebrews who, typical of activists, quoted the many activists that have done their job previously. But one thing I noted from him is that he is one of those that surely have mastered activism well. And he keeps their quotes at heart. From Mandela to Luther King Junior then through to Steve Biko and Patrice Lumumba, his quotes were appealing!
After which he paved way to the main man of the night. Ntata himself. I must admit here. He is down to earth. At least he tried to avail himself as such. He gives credit where he thinks it is due. He started slowly by paying due respect to the previous speakers. He told how he thought the others were better than him in making speeches.
Then he slowly picked up his pace. He left me a little disappointed. I thought here was a guy who would tear apart my president. But lo! His lecture looked at the whole political system from Kamuzu to the present. He emotionally told of how the road to his home village is still a headache despite 51 years of independence. He told about how he finds it difficult to access his home when his own relatives need health care.
To my amazement, he dwelled much on how cashgate had eaten into the taxpayer’s pocket. By denying us medicines in hospitals, by denying pupils descent environment to learn from. How petty corruption at road traffic directorate denies provision of cars into the heart of fighting crime!
He dwelled on how, for example, we allowed as Malawians to have 75% of our country’s income to be stolen by a few greedy and selfish individuals in 2013. He dwelled on how he thinks we can all, as a nation, benefit if we managed our political framework well.
Of course in between, as a man on a mission I saw him bang tables which he joked about as not a mimic of how my APM conducted himself when asked over a large entourage to UNGA. I guess he remembered that he was showing his emotions on camera.
But seriously, only once did I hear him mention the name Peter Mutharika. And that was when he narrated that even the current system doesn’t want to correct the shortfall of IFMIS despite the fact that Tanzania offered us tips on how we can correct it.
It was enough for me to conclude that Allan may have his personal issues with the current government but that his message is relevant. That the ills of bad governance and corruption are eating into our national purse. That his message cuts across the past and the present and attempts to shape the future.
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