Brian Mungomo: Unity in our time, a challenge to Mutharika

Politics and religion seem to be so interwoven it is sometimes difficult to define which determines the other. I do not buy into the theory of separating the church and politics for one reason and one reason only. It is just as fallacious as it is that the people one will find in one church are driven by the same belief system as those you find in another; just as much as the same applies to political parties it would seem.

History tells us that for some mysterious reason, the gods were interested in passing on their intelligence to humans, so the Bible says for His glory and indeed our common good. It is said that the gods took the creatures they bred into the heavens to protect them from the corruption and preserve them from evil. They, I should think, wanted to ensure that their community developed constructively. They wiped out the freaks through floods and fires and saw to it that the remainder received the basic requirement for a society capable of development. In the Bible ones sees the right breed in the likes of Enock, Ezikiel, and indeed our own Jesus, being whisked up into the heavens to the protective arms of the father.

Brian Mungomo Snr

Brian Mungomo Snr

This admittedly is possible to say in an era where one can articulate such a hypothesis without the fear of burning at the stake in the name of some kind of religion. A hypothesis need not be right. But the defenders of the religious order may hasten to condemn such an assertion to be heretical. But just like an approaching storm in the horizon, most religions shall soon find out that they buried their heads in the sand in the hope it would change direction. Once it arrives, it shall strip bare the falsehood which has for many centuries enabled many religions to live unassailed in the shelter of their taboos. One even wonders whether most of them really serve the needs of God’s flock as was intended by the church fathers.

I am more convinced than ever that the dogmas which have laid parameters of thought for mankind, which clearly seem to be falling apart as time goes by, will one day be a cause of serious gnawing of teeth as spoken about in the holy books of the various religions. Indeed what would be the true purpose of life at all if it is not the unwavering pursuit for truth. But truth gets so compromised when taboos are set and “truth” predefined! I read somewhere that some poor fellow languished in an asylum bin for years for daring the taboo setters that the world was round.

Indeed the Bible was used as a basis for his incarceration, arguing vociferously as they did that people would otherwise have fallen off the edge were it to be so. I would even imagine that one would have bought a one way ticket to the stake had they dared speculate that a man would have walked the moon at the time! And yet these are all facts which are now taught to kindergarten kids. So basic they are that it boggles the mind as to how much else the world has been taught to take as “truth” which shall soon fall apart.

I will not be surprised that theological clouds, so to speak, shall undoubtedly evaporate, as they have continued to do over the past two thousand years with unapologetic zeal, scattering them like patches of mist, as we truly shall come to embrace the fact that there may not be different gods after all despite the ferocity with which we have hitherto waged wars on His account against our own brothers and sisters, in the myriads of religious beliefs that have so consumed us. I was once a Catholic believer taught that no other church was a correct path to God but came to change my mind for a reason I many even not be able to articulate with clarity today. Suffice to say my journey of searching has taken me to many paths and flirted with many belief systems along the way. To this day, I continue to search and I am slowly coming to the realisation that we have one God after all. Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and all the other isms, there is one supreme Creator God, whatever we may call him in our different languages!

In the same way, would it be pocking the lion’s nose to suggest that even politically, we have one destiny? Is it not for humanity’s common good that we articulate the varied political convictions while perched on the various pedestals in the belief of what is good and appropriate for man? Need our tribes be that important so much so that only those who speak like us are good enough? I dare to suggest that the invisible thread that binds us together is far much stronger than the cords we weave around our bigoted social egos.

I must admit that I have always swam against the tide, which in many instances has been costly, as it indeed should be. In 1993 when I joined Malawi Congress Party, I aligned myself to Gwanda Chakuamba. Conventional wisdom at the time would have rather urged I joined Bakili Muluzi, a man who at least spoke the same language and followed the same religion as my grandfather did, (being a grandson of a Moslem cleric, Sheik Wadi-Mimu of Msamba in Thondwe who spoke Yao despite being a Lomwe ). I was however very quickly portrayed as a John Tembo plant in Chakuamba’s camp for lesser political reasons which need not find space on this article. I chose to go with what I believed was right though! Lately, one would very well have thought that Abiti Ntila’s camp would have made a more natural choice for me, still for reasons which need not be articulated here. But I did not! And Abiti Ntila was a great shame.

On hind sight, I could have done things differently indeed had I simply been motivated by the trappings of power and its derivatives. After all, Muluzi was not such a bad man. He may not have had the right attributes required for a leader necessary to steer a country towards physical development that the Malawi so obviously needed, but he was as an astute politician and a very tolerant man. If Julius Malema could go to maMbeki and apologise for the things he had said about her son Thabo, who am I not to say pepani ambuje, angululuchile!

I can say that the late Bingu Mutharika comes a close second of my presidents of choice though. Of course my first being one Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, very unapologetically so! This may come as a huge surprise to many. I will understand the criticism I may be courting for my saying Bingu did well. I am aware that it may not go down very well with some. But I am entitled to my share of mistakes! And yes, I was never in Malawi to experience first-hand what his infamous excesses may have been. But all things considered, I was astounded by the development which I saw when stepped into the country this year after a very long time.

In the eight years he had been in power, the man achieved a considerable amount. No wonder he had grown perhaps a deserved arrogant streak about him with his ntchito za manja anga zindichitire umboni. He did particularly well considering the previous 10 years of comedy. But a leader must also inspire. He may have failed to rally the country into a unified force of development. Yes, his cohorts also had a hand to play. The formation of that much hated and divisive tribal grouping that sought to usurp the political power of an elected party should take some blame for the flack he was to endure towards the untimely end of his otherwise successful tenure. Humility often lacks in those who consider themselves gifted. Kamuzu was hardly a good example in humility and Mutharika seemed to follow the same pattern.

When I look back, I am remember of a letter which Chakuamba wrote while he was still in jail at Zomba maximum prison for his trumped up case which earned him 22 years in jail which I was privy to. In that letter, which I am sure the likes of Peter Fatchi, Harry Tompson and Hetherwick Ntaba should still have copies, he said that the south would forever govern, if only they could unite as one force. In his loathing for the MCP of the time, which he ironically rejoined, he swore to pound it to powder on his release because some people in it had turned the once glorious liberation party into a killing machine which was only serving a select few from the central region. And as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Thanks to late McWilliam Lunguzi’s genius who had predicted that Malawi Congress Party would lose the elections of 1994 and that Mr. Tembo and Mama Kadzamira would be arrested which would have left the party without a “seasoned” leader. Lunguzi, as it happens was spot on!

As a southerner, Gwanda could see himself in higher places. But the Catholic Bishops had had enough of the MCP irrespective of who led it. They had their eyes on someone else. Had it not been for the disastrous allocation of positions in AFORD by late Chakufwa Chihana, who saw fewer good people in either the south or the center apart from tabene-tabene pera, he would have been the first president in the democratic dispensation. In his famous gaff: Ise tabanthu bakumpoto, ndise thekha tasuzgizika chomene muncharo chino. It had alluded him that he was vying for national and not a regional office! But his overt tribalistic preferences cost him the job, and the Bishops settled for Ambuje Che Elesoni.

The Malawi Congress Party I worked with form 1993 to 2000 had garnered the north, the south and center. Athough Chakuamba had predicted the invincibility of the south in a democracy, he had failed to factor in the ego of politicians. MCP had splintered into three notable parties. It was now MCP, UDF and AFORD. This was to be followed by another ego split into UDF, DPP, and NDA. Then we have seen a further split, UDF, DPP and PP. And the journey continues. Are we really defined by any ideologies worth noting? I dare to suggest we do not. But there is an invisible thread that joins us all in this. I would like to believe it is the welfare of all Malawians.

I pray that H E Arthur Peter Mutharika ( minus other titles), rises beyond the rhetoric to deliver the much needed national unity and development, and prove to the nation that as an intellectual, he is capable of that feat. Malawi is awash with potential in its people and resources. Otherwise, we have the churches to learn from. Unnecessary wars shall be fought simply to massage bloated political egos. As for MCP, I hope they have learnt their lesson that reducing the once formidable entity into a regional party will consign them to the opposition in perpetuity. But this is just my opinion!

*Brian Mungomo Sr. writes for Nyasa Times from South Africa

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