Doldrums of ‘democracy boulevard’: Malawi’s meandering road to selfdom

Democracy boulevard…the journey is still continuing! 20th July 2011 is a sad day in the history of our nation. It is a day that no Malawian has ever imagined would happen in this era, having unchained ourselves from the pangs of the one party dictatorial killer regime of the late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

Of course many of us are  too young to know or remember  how notorious Kamuzu and his one party state was, but if history and its relics is anything to go by, these were hard times for Malawians. Many families lost loved ones through mysterious ways, some disappearing without a trace. A prominent Mangochi family lost a member through flimsy arguments with the Kamuzu party machinery. To date no one knows how he died and where he was buried. His now very aged mother must be mourning a son she never had an opportunity to bury, thus bring closure to this sad event.

In the same Mangochi district, the late Dr Meki Ntewa’s mother was physically beaten by Kamuzu’s party machinery so badly that she became paralysed and could not walk- all this on account of her son’s anti-Kamuzu political activities in the USA where he was studying.DEMO-CARTOON

These are but a minute examples of unreported atrocities of Kamuzu’s 30 year terror to our nation, examples that do not make it on the well known chronicles such as the Mwanza 4. When Malawians voted for multiparty democracy in 1993/94, the nation thought and hoped that these terror events would be confined to the annals of history and we will never have to relieve them again!

Indeed if wishes were horses and turnips were watches, beggars would ride and all Malawians would wear one. As a less than 50 year old nation, our thoughts are not infallible, our desires never sacred, our hopes not enshrined, despite our right to life, liberty and freedom being inalienable.

Less than 20 years later, a dark and vicious cloud would fall again on the nation’s horizon. The regime of late President Professor Bingu wa Mutharika would remind us that our democratic systems are not only inefficient but glaringly inadequate. This was a stark reminder that for almost 20 years, we have been building castles on sand, constantly attempting to make concrete from a mixture of limestone and clay.

Over a period of 8 years, Bingu would usurp powers beyond his constitutional limits and it was either you were with him, or against him. Or better still, it was either his way, or the high way. During his last few years, President Mutharika and his party machinery had managed to reduce our  democratic institutions and governance systems to nothing but relics of morden day utopia.

The opposition in our esteemed House of Parliament was virtually  nonexistent. The civil society was constantly hounded and he would arrest and jail its leaders willy nilly, with his thugs burning their property. He would insult Malawians, calling us “chickens”, commanding us to “stop crying like chickens” as we wallowed in the sorrow caused by his poor economic, political and governance mechanisms.

He would lecture the nation at every opportunity he had on what a great leader he was and how lucky as a nation we were to have him. His arrogance and dictatorial fiefdom would culminate in the massacre of 20 innocent Malawians on that fateful 20th July 2011 as millions of Malawians took part in protests throughout the country, organised by the Civil Society. President Mutharika and his cohorts would immediately dismiss these brave sons and daughters of Malawi as a bunch of bandits and thieves.

A few months later, another Malawian student would mysteriously be murdered on one of the University of Malawi’s constituent colleges. Bingu and his government would institute in what appeared to many of us as a kangaroo commission of inquiries in both cases. In the University  student murder, the police, which had now turned into a party cadet force, would concoct evidence to claim that it was suicide that killed the youngman. This was a tragedy, a travesty to justice.

Twenty years on, Malawians are like sheep in the doldrums standing on a chaotic democratic boulevard, a bouleavard that meanders, instead of straightening, through barbed wire and razor sharp knives. Dunduzu Chisiza Jnr’s masterpiece of a play, “Democracy Boulevard” best describes the present conundrum the nation faces, 20 years after it hit the country’s theatres.

Yes twenty years later, we have failed to harness the very essence of a government system that entails formal equality of rights and privileges for those who choose leaders to represent and guide them en route to the promised land. In Malawi, the governed continue to be at the mercy of those who govern them, despite the fact that it is the former who puts the latter in those privileged positions. This is through no fault of our own.

As a nation, we lack a set of values that can best describe our governance structure, values that can permeate through the divisions of party affiliations to focus on a single nationhood. This vacuum of values has resulted in our leaders lacking the moral conviction to improve the our lot as there is no accountability. That’s why President Mutharika could have 20 people butchered by his police and have the audacity to call them bandits and thieves the following day. He could insult us, call us chicken and ungrateful lot, yet continue to enjoy the priviledges that come with the responsibility of being our chosen leader.

Of course we are not here to dance on a deadman’s chest, nor are we here to celebrate his departure from the political scene. Perhaps it would have done the nation much justice had he lived to atone for his misgivings during his presidency under our ramshackle democratic boulevard. But nature is so fickle that Malawians will never have answers from the man himself. If anything, it is left to those who wined and dined with him throughout his presidency to feel the guilt. But alas, this is wishful thinking again, since the  majority of these people have now camouflaged into the current ruling party, canvassing the land for another mandate to rule beyond 2014.

Those who are still carrying President Mutharika’s ship are busy selling themselves as champions of democracy, trying hard to make us forget the atrocities so that we can give them another mandate in 2014. As one former President Bakili Muluzi once said, and echoed by Lucious Banda in one of his songs, the problem with Malawians is that we forget very quickly.

Rest in Peace to all those who lost their lives in 2011….Democracy Boulevard,….as the journey continues!

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