Crowds of supporters of Malawi’s youthful presidential candidate Austin Atupele Muluzi gathered on Sunday at the famed Njamba Freedom Park in the commercial city of Blantyre when the United Democratic Front (UDF) leader held his first rally since he was elected at the convention on October 31.
The rally also comes on the heels of Atupele, son of former Malawi President Bakili Muluzi; quit the Joyce Banda administration, citing issues of principle.
Muluzi, who was Economic Planning and Development Minister in Banda’s ‘inclusive’ government, warned opponents not to underrate him based on age.
“I want to ask the people of Malawi not to look at my youthfulness but the message I carry and my abilities as party leader,” said the 34-year-old presidential hopeful.
“As you know, I traveled many miles and visited many places in preparation for seeking the nomination to lead our party and at the same time to give hope to many Malawians at a very difficult time in our recent history,” he told the mammoth crowd.
“I never wavered, I never retreated. My journey has been challenging but extremely enriching,” he said.
“I have walked paths that have enabled me to understand what any leader should strive to understand; that is: The needs and aspirations of his or her fellow citizens, Malawians,” said Muluzi.
Muluzi said he was on a “rescue operation” to remove Malawi from the difficult situation and change the way politics is practiced.
“My job as Atupele is to open a new door in order to bring about transformational change in Malawi,” he said.
The UDF presidential candidate who faced public tongue-lashing from senior officials of the governing People’s Party last weekend, said: “My vision is people centered and I will be focused on issues.”
“My job will be to inform the people of Malawi, the vision and policies of the new UDF. What plans we have for Malawi.”
Agenda for change
Atupele said he will push “an agenda for change” campaign for his presidential bid.
He said he wants to change Malawi politics and ensure national unity.
“We should also not be divided along regional lines. Whether you come from Nsanje or Chitipa. We are all Malawians. We must never allow anyone to divide us because of politics,” he said.
He also advocated for giving room to “new talent”, however he pointed out that “what we need is a whole new way of thinking and a different mindset altogether.”
Atupele said as Malawi is set to mark 50 years since it attained independence, it is “an opportunity for self reflection.”
“We have to assess ourselves as a country and to consider whether as a country we have achieved what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers had fought for at independence. I was not there at that time but I doubt that this is the Malawi they had wanted.
“At independence in 1964, our people were poor, had no decent homes, no running water. At independence most of our people were footing and did not have a job. Where are we today after almost 50 years? Our people remain poor. Have poor housing, no running water, no jobs and most of our people are still footing as we did almost 50 years ago.”
He said during the same time the world has seen countries that were as poor as or poorer than Malawi transform their societies, citing China and Korea as examples.
“My generation cannot understand why we are still poor today. It is this generation which is asking questions.”
Muluzi said “Malawi is at a critical stage of an economic take off in the next few years but we need to get it right. We need to change our mindset. We need a new thinking and new ideas.”
He said the older generation is the custodians of history and that the younger generation understands the future.
“If we harness the two, together we can transform Malawi.”
Atupele said he will hold “the Policy Convention” next year to develop a set of policies to develop Malawi.
He then outlined 12 main points his party will focus on during the Policy Convention and implement once in power come 2014, and it included the issues of job creation, food security, health, education, science and technology, energy, water and environment.
“We need to boost our export base, formulate proper foreign policy, good policies on ethnicity, national security. There is a need to give more powers to the people and not the president. I have hopes that UDF will leave a good legacy. But as a party we need to consolidate and strengthen our structures.”
“The time has come to bring together a new generation of thinking, old and new to build a new Malawi,” declared Muluzi.
Atupele was one of the key political figures roped into Banda’s government when she took over following the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Muluzi’s father quit active politics in 2009.
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