The man who, together with Unandi Banda and Shyley Kondowe, took advantage of South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Chinyanja broadcasts into Malawi and other parts of Southern Africa to change Malawi, is back. Yes Kamlepo Kalua is back. And it would appear that he is back stinging and uncompromisingly so.
Who is Kamlepo Kalua since Malawi’s multiparty generation may not be familiar with him? Nobody knew who Kamlepo was until around 1992 and 1994 when we, genuine citizens of the federal republic of Malawi, fighters for freedom of expression, fighters against table-banging totalitarianism, catalysts of the return of genuine political exiles to their motherland and changers of the constitution of Malawi, decided enough was enough. Kamuzu—a more benevolent and development-conscious dictator than the efulefu and raw-stuff that we had after him—and his bunch of hand clapping terrorists, had to go.
While some of us stayed put in this our fatherland, and agitated for change without fear of repercussion right here, Kamlepo Kalua and his comrades in arms were on Channel Africa, as the Chinyanja Service of the SABC was then called, taunting the once mighty Kamuzu Banda, the once-feared MYP and other notorious institutions almost every evening.
When the referendum was won, the Malawi Democratic Party (MDP), which Kalua headed, participated in the multiparty election of 1994 as presidential candidate. He came fourth after Elson Bakili Muluzi, Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Thom Chakufwa Chihana. In 1999, Kalua ran again and came third after Muluzi, Gwanda Chakuwamba. He defeated, as it were, Daniel Nkhumbwe and Bingu wa Mutharika. He did not stand in subsequent elections.
However, during the 1994-2004 period when Malawi’s democracy was maturing, Kalua played a critical role of holding the president accountable to Malawians. He would march, sometimes alone and dressed in military fatigues, to the gates of Sanjika Palace to present a petition. A new gate had to constructed, some 50 metres before the main gate, to ensure that each time Kalua wanted to march he should be stopped quickly there. Blantyreans call this the Kamlepo gate.
“Why did he go quiet after 2004 if he really spoke for many?” Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66 and leader of our expedition wondered.
“I guess he realised that one cannot continue fighting for others while one is suffering,” Mzee Native Authority Mandela said.
“Some say he was bribed into silence,” Abiti went on.
“It is possible but the question is why is he back now? Does it mean the masters of bribery are gone?” I asked.
“Is there a government in Africa that does not bribe or kill its opponents to achieve a semblance of total support?” Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD) asked.
“My guess is that he was strategising on how to become a member of Parliament from where he would resume his fight against national lies!” I said.
“By the way, what did he say that makes you think he is back to his crusading credentials?” Abiti asked.
“Only this week, he stood up in Parliament and told the government to stop lambasting the parliamentary leadership for procuring for itself expensive motor vehicles in this time of economic hardships. He told Parliament he had chassis and engine numbers for all the motor vehicles, of similar quality to what the speaker and others are using, that government bought for itself, principal secretaries, and others and that he was ready to parade them before Parliament,” Mzee Mandela said.
“Nice. He should have also presented chassis and engine numbers for the KIA Sorentos MBC and other parastatal organisations bought for its managers. He should have also questioned where the Hummer motor vehicles Malawi’s most extravagant president, Bingu wa Mutharika, bought for himself went. He should have also asked where the vehicles Joyce Banda was using went,” Abiti said.
“Next time he should also ask where the 177 farm tractors and144 maize shellersBinguwaMutharika bought for Malawians in 2011 went,” I said.
“Thank God, your KamlepoKalua is back. Send him all the details about missing motor vehicles,” Sheikh Jean-Philippe said.
- The article appeared in the Weekend Nation newspaper