Mungomo: Malawi scrumbling for self destruct button or suffering Lesch-nyhan syndrome?

“Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for things in one’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.” Amilcar Cabral

The past few months have been buzzing with the stories of how the north Malawi would like to go it alone. This story, albeit a rehash of the old by former Aford leader Chakufwa Chihana seems to have now taken on a resonant code in the central region as well. At the moment, it is an idea which has very serious undertones. Ideas in themselves are not harmful however forceful they may be articulated.

Brian Mungomo Snr

Brian Mungomo Snr

As Amilcar Cabral said, ideas are simply in people’s heads which need not cause any fight. But people will fight to win material benefits and to live better. No one can, and indeed should be caught upinthe 1994 euphoria when Aford was the party of note in the north; and having seen the regional polarization which the polls had brought forth, while Tom Chakufwa Chihana postured and capitalised. In those days, Chakufwa spoke without fear that he walked about with a box of matches in his pocket and would set the whole nation ablaze if he so chose. It was an ominous threat coming on the heels of perceived political marginalization of the north by MCP. This of course was euphemistically said to imply that he could have garnered the necessary political following to render the Bakili Muluzi government impotent. I do not think Chihana, a democrat at heart would have championed lawlessness. Lawlessness was the preserve of UDF and its thugs.

Politics feeds on egos. Rewind a little to early 1994, and one saw the egos of two guys in the name of Gwanda Chakuamba and Chakufwa playing out against them. In February 1994, the two parties, MCP and Aford had been on the verge of forging an electoral pact. A pact which would have seen Dr. Kamuzu Banda as the presidential candidate and Chakufwa Chihana as his running mate. It was an almost done deal had it not been for the ego of Mbuya, who also saw himself as a viable candidate for the first ever Vice President position. The Shire Valley heavyweight of the day dug his heels in and the rest is history.

Then came the circus in MCP after death of Dr. H K Banda in 1997. For those who may not know, it was actually J Z U Tembo who enthusiastically raised and waved his hand at Kwacha Conference Centre to nominate Chakuamba as Kamuzu’s deputy. But political history had it etched in in stone that there was no love lost between the two since the incarceration of the Shire Valley son. But politics being what it is, we all marvelled at the disguises each adorned in full view of an otherwise perplexed membership.

Let’s pause there for a little. Malawi Congress Party had brought itself where it was. It had been suffering from Lesch–Nyhan syndrome also known as choreoathetosis self-mutilation syndrome .Lesch-Nyahan syndrom is characterized by neurological and behavioural abnormalities with its most potent characteristic of self-mutilation. Malawi Congress Party simply had itself to blame for its own disembowelment. Malawi Congress Party, the liberation party had lost touch with the people! It had become the monster of its own creation!

One vividly remembers the mysterious fliers people found at bus stages in the mornings leading up to the referendum which had been left by pro-democracy advocates at night fearful of the Youth Leaguers or MYP. These pamphlets were photocopied in offices and widely circulated nationwide. Most of them full of bile and hatred for the leadership of the day who had become obsessed with power. MCP was criticized for nepotism and political patronage. It had forgotten, so it would seem, that it had one party throughout the country, meaning that we all belonged to one big family. And yet, people argued, that the benefits only went to the Ngonis of Ntcheu – Dedza axis and Chewas.

Although the political discourse was spirited and sometimes ugly, the fight was not for ideas, as Amilcar Cabral had warned. People felt sufficiently marginalized and sought to find some redress. And Kamuzu in the end died a lonely man and a shell of his former self.

Now fast-forward to Bingu wa Mutharika (the mini Ngwazi according to some, and the real Ngwazi to the DPP zealots). He very quickly cut himself a cult image and brought in the hand-clappers and the cheerleaders in various guises. Most notable and perhaps most hated being the tribal Lomwe grouping that basically usurped all political authority of any political pretenders. There was only one leader, Bingu and one beneficiary tribe – his Lomwe diehards as his chosen financial conduits of economic and political power.

Aside from his brother, the current president who had the audacity of flying around in the presidential helicopter and resided in one of the State Houses, virtually all political authority rested at State House. Period! It had simply eluded both the president and his “handlers” (if there could have been any such), that Kamuzu had unceremoniously been removed from power by a guy who had otherwise retreated into political obscurity due to the petty jealousies that bedeviled the MCP in the name of Eleson Muluzi. Bingu and his Lomwe cohorts conducted themselves with so much impunity that Kamuzu’s legacy begun to look altogether rosy! The excesses of Kamuzu paled compared to the overt tribalism that ate at the soul of DPP and the country.

If truth be told, it was not for the lack of contending ideas that Bingu Mutharika proceeded with impunity. Not at all, he was simply hell bent on self-mutilation. In the end, he too died a shell of his former self, ribs crushed as his diehards tried to bring him back to life as they saw their largesse slipping away!


This now brings me to the idea of Federalism that the north has resuscitated. It is important to recognize that it is not just a debate on ideas! Nobody eats a good idea after all. It is the benefits of political authority that come into perspective here.

The north, just like the centre who now seem to be late converts, are simply saying that they would rather have power equitably devolved into the regions as well so that the overt favoritism can be stemmed in time to avert a physical confrontation that often comes with such disregard for fairness.

Let us look at it. People get pissed off with the looting of public resources otherwise meant for hospitals and roads for personal reasons. One’s daughter dies at a local hospital because there was no medicine! A child does not get proper education because some idiot has diverted money for text books to his farm. A farmer does not get his crop to the market because the road has not been bladed in years and is therefore inaccessible to vehicular traffic because a party has diverted resources to ensure it continues to lap it in!. In the end, one feels personally aggrieved for being short changed by political patronage and maladministration.

Then we get to a scenario where we have a presidency with 32% national appeal. The other 68% rests elsewhere! If one would argue that the brainy ones, or politically astute are those in the 32%, I would offer myself as target of vilification and say, no thank you. I do therefore understand the reasons for a call of self-determination or devolution of powers to regions so that they can champion their own causes, although I would disagree with its form.

I agree that there is a great need for our political system to be revisited in the face of the open abuse by those who think “winner take all” even if the win is such a misery 32%! There are lessons all over the world which can be drawn from. Lessons of the results of arrogance, and lessons from peaceful coexistence, which the federalism proponents might be wishing to bring to the table!

Let us look at South Africa for instance. Xenophobia notwithstanding, they attempted to devolve power to provinces (regions) on the basis of proportional representation. Had we adopted this system, Aford would have led the regional administration of the north after the 1994 elections when late Chakufwa Chihana’s party swept the entire north save for one constituency in Mzimba which was held by MCP. They would have had their own regional parliament and their own regional budget.

Yes, certain functions like national security and international relations would be held by national government. These are all issues which would be discussed were we able to consider how important it is to share the national cake. The MCP on its part would have led each and every regional administration since the dawn of multiparty. This would have led the electorate to compare the administrative strengths of each party by how it delivered on its promises at regional levels. A way of testing whether they could cut it at national level. But political arrogance seems to be the lesch-nyhan syndrome of all politicians; the propensity to self-mutilate! As a people, we also seem to have been forced into this self-mutilation syndrome because there seems to be no hope in sight.

Besides, anything else but what we have now would seem to be the chorus of the song! But we can find a way out of this quagmire without suffering the effects of self-destruction which Malawi would have to endure if we got to the stage where we thought that we would rather we all suffered! People do not eat ideas, they need real material benefits- at the very personal level or we shall one day suffer very serious consequences!

I hope that Peter is a listening rather than a talking president!

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


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26 thoughts on “Mungomo: Malawi scrumbling for self destruct button or suffering Lesch-nyhan syndrome?”

  1. Balamanthu says:

    Is there any reasons why Nkhata bay secondary school is full of students from Llohmwe belt and half of Nkhotakota with students from Mulanje?

  2. Balamanthu says:

    John makes an important point.Regardless of the amount of resources, once the formula for division of resources amongst the regions is done, development should be in the fate of the affected regions without being prone to the whims of the llomwe belt.For example, why is Mulli just destroying the wood in chikangawa for his own personal benefit without sharing with the country?In a federal government, the guys responsible for the region would have the powers to stop him.Similarly, the funds that the country gets from tobacco would go to develop the central region and so would be the proceeds of tea.The only caveat is that regions need to have good developmental plans, remove Indians and chinese in the quest for development and work hard in improving the livelihoods of their people.

    The llomwe government we currently have is pathetic,clueless and lacks direction and will not meet the developmental challenges malawi faces.

  3. Shocker says:

    My question to you Malindimba and Nyani is that what should then be done to solve the problems the proponents of federalism want to solve with federal system of government? something has to be done before we reach the stage where Brian has referred to as ‘we would rather we all suffered.

  4. Gary Chiutsi says:

    Fools such as Brian Mungomo, Allan Ntata flee the country and pretend to be intelligent while writing from outside. Fools run away. The brave ones withstand the heat and fight from within. Brian, like Ntata is a political harlot and opportunist. Come to Malawi my son.

  5. Malindima says:

    RSA is not a Federal Government. It is the winner takes all too! Look in the Provinces; ANC swept all provinces except for the Western Cape. Now are all provinces sharing the National Cake equitably in RSA? The answer is no! The Limpopo Province, Eastern Cape are so poor in this expensive model of government.
    Malawi can just and will not copy and paste other models of government without proper feasibility study given its Financial resources.With Federal governments as we know them or take RSA model and apply it in Malawi, it would mean having three parliaments plus the national parliament. We will have a Regional Premier with his/ her 20 Ministers; we will have 20 national Ministers; we will still maintain the same number of MPs; we will construct Regional administrative offices and provide all other resources meet this type of government. The national Budget to fund this type of government will be four times what it is today. There is also no guarantee that Regional parties based on tribes will emerge winners. If this was the case then what would stop Afoard winning in the whole North as was the case in 1994? What if DPP would Win in all Regions like in the RSA model, would this change anything?
    Aluta continua!

    1. Nyani wa ku Mwananyani says:

      Malindima (@21): Your argument is legitimate; and your comments concise and well summarized.
      To re-enforce a point: when people say Malawi is too small for a federal system model, as often quoted by proponents, people are NOT referring to size of the country. But to the size of the economy; GDP etc. It’s the economy……!!!!!!!!
      Another ill-conceived model of federalism often quoted by proponents is Australia’s and Canada’s. It’s like comparing sharks with usipa (herrings). Malawi’s annual budgets are smaller than those of many large Canadian universities, for crying out loud. So, we appropriately ask where is the money for the federal system going to come from? Some people say: Kayerekela and the like. We say: dream on!
      Perhaps your observations of the South Africa situation is most appropriate. And if people dig deeper, they should start having doubts about viability of federal system in Malawi. Moreover, the ingrained corruption, and concepts of “nafe tidye nawo” or “it’s our turn at the trough” will still persist. Federalism will set this country even farther back. Except may be for the very few political elites. Or those who think they are the elites!

  6. Penyex says:

    C’mon Brian tell it that you are hear in the homeland working for Standard Bank City Centre in Lilongwe…anyway good n well-balanced article

  7. mwikho moto says:

    Are you implying that there is equitable distribution of power and benefits in S, Africa and everyone is happy because of the political system?

  8. Richardspiesberg says:


  9. Richardspiesberg says:


  10. concerned _15 says:

    What about in Nigeria? We need to solve problems than be creating more problems.

  11. maliphuka says:

    This lohmwe government has taken it all not to the south of Malawi but to the lohmwe community. The president z not for Mw but lohmwe. Students r going to university not becoz r intelligent but coz they come from lohmwe belt. Imagine now selection will be based on the district with more population more students into the university and malwians becoz r fond of opposing anything said by someone from north will support this shame on u foolish malawi. What has someone who doesnt go to school a cattle header contribute someone’s selection into the university?

  12. johnM says:

    You are barking at the wrong tree Mr. Mungomo. Peter is not listening at all. The one you should be appealing to is Mr. Ben Phiri, the man behind the throne. Peter is just a puppet who follows what he is told by Ben Phiri.

    Back in the days when Mr. Muntharika was a professor, he wrote a paper in which he championed federalism for Malawi as a way of equitably distributing Malawi’s development as the current system has failed. When the federalism issue began to gain ground, Muntharika disowned his own paper. How could someone disown his own paper? The answer is obviously, Ben Phiri.

    Now a lot of Southerners are against federalism. For some reason, they believe that they are the beneficiaries of the current system but if truth be told they are not. There are large swathes of the southern region that are just as undeveloped as are parts of the North and Central. Chikwawa, Machinga, Phalombe, Neno. It is not the South that benefits from this dysfunctional system, the beneficiaries are few. The Muntharikas, the Mullis, and their fellow cronies. Federalism would benefit Southerners as much as Northerners and Central.

    Chikwawa is a good example of how poor the current system is. Despite the district being the largest producer of sugar and electricity, it is as poor as it is. Imagine how the district would be if some the resources taken out of Chikwawa was allowed to remain in Chikwawa?

  13. Kadakwiza says:

    Federal system of government can’t work in Malawi because the country is poor. But for the north in particular I think secession is the only way to go. Northerners must fight for an independent state.

  14. peter muthanyula says:

    Excellent writing! Enjoyed every bit of it. You are a gifted writer Brian

  15. Bwampini wa APM says:







  16. xRSA says:

    Well written article but because it is being written from a Xenophon land, my interest in it has vanished.

  17. Greencardless Malawian says:

    Pitala is a talking and spending president of the Thyolo people.

  18. tikhala says:

    Brian you write to fulfil ur ego and show people that you know. You sound like Nick Dausi! A very boring article to read

  19. Iweyo subwerako kodi?Ukufuna ubwere as a cargo without value atakukankhira pansi pa kabaza eti?

  20. chatonda says:

    This guy went to school unlike his young brother Albert who enjoys huge benefits at MBC with his MSCE. Good article Brian and please keep it up.

  21. CHIYAKA says:

    Is Brian Mungomo still around? I remember him sharing the same platform at Mzuzu’s Freedom Park in 1999 with the likes of Gwanda Chakuamba, the late Tom Chihana, Ntaba, Green Mwamondwe, Kampunga, Sam Kandodo etc. What a rally it was.

  22. amadeus says:

    This is a clear misrepresentation of facts and issues. The ideas of federalism may have originated from the mind of an individual whose birth place is the northern region of Malawi. Indeed these ideas may be supported by some individuals who come from the central region. What baffles me is the hasty conclusion that federalism is a northern or central region idea. You can only make such a conclusion if you can produce evidence which suggests people from these regions collectively support these ideas. This thinking is seriously flawed! For instance, when Gwanda Chakuamba was arrested for inciting violence against Lomwes, this was never considered to mean that all Sena people were harbouring such retrogressive and sinister thoughts! Ideas should not be linked to regions, at best consider them to emanate from Malawians, regardless of where they come from!

  23. john says:

    Nice piece Brian but to say Bingu was for Lomwes is not correct as we had the Kandodos, Goodall, Vuwas, Kanyumba and your own Albert Mungomo who has been given a senior post at MBC but was Press Officer

  24. honourable says:

    Zolemba iwe ndi za DPP palibe cha nzeru

  25. Viva says:

    I am struggling to find the connection between self mutilation of political parties with devolution of power. The issues you raise are important but seem to be mutually exclusive. It is a fact that parties in Malawi have a tendency to self mutilate. They become myopic as soon as they are voted to power, lack vision and are only interested in milking the economy to their own benefit. Cabinets are full of individuals who cannot articulate issues, reading sppeches and statements that they themselves do not understand. Those that show a bit of understanding of issues are quickly criticised as having interest to take over from the President. They then recoil and join the rest in mediocrity choir, singing choruses that make one believe Malawi is 50 years behind.

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