Atupele vows no retreat on change agenda

Atupele being interviewed by Straigh Talk host Brian Banda

Malawi’s opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) deputy parliamentary leader, Atupele Muluzi, has vowed that he will not retreat from his campaign to advance an ‘agenda for change’ in the country despite facing intimidation, harassment and arrest.

Atupele, who is the son of former President Bakili Muluzi and reportedly aims to contest the presidency himself in 2014, said the arrest he faced last week will not scare him.

“I am ready to go,” said the Machinga North East MP during Straight Talk interview on Capital FM.

Atupele said the UDF has organised a series of “whistle-stop” tours throughout the country to sell his agenda for change ahead of the 2014 polls.

“I am more determined than ever. We will continue to mobilise the people and give hope,” he said.

“I am not a person who is easily intimidated,” added the young politician.

Atupele said he is grateful to his supporters, Malawians, organisations and activists who gave him “moral support” during the period he was incarcerated following violent scenes in Lilongwe where his supporters clashed with police.

“I would like to thank all people who supported me,” said Atupele highlighting the churches, Muslim Association of Malawi, Lord David Steel of Britain, the international community, human rights defenders and his UDF party.

Ready for obstacles

Atupele said he knows there will be obstacles along the way to achieve his agenda for change.

“I have always known that there will be obstacles because change does not come easily,” he said.

“One of the attributes of leadership is to be prepared for eventualities. I remain prepared.”

Asked to comment on the incident where police fired tear gas as he was about to speak in Lilongwe, sparking a violent reaction in which a police station was burnt down, Atupele said it was “extremely unfortunate.”

“I do not condone violence and I condemned it . I also asked restraint from police,” he said.

He considered inappropriate to publicly comment substantively  as it would be sub- judice of the case which comes up in court on April 19 but stressed that he will do whatever it takes to clear his name.

“I am confident the truth is going to come out.”

He nonetheless explained that UDF meetings are arranged by the secretary general and the secretariat.

The lawmaker  was asked to comment if he faced police brutality during his arrest.

“We have many very good police officers, men and women. I would like to commend them for the excellent job they are doing,” he said.

But he said there are “some bad apples “who are “overzealous.”

The lawmaker appealed to Cops to “remain professional” and they should strike to maintain “neutrality.”

Remains his own man

Atupele played down assertions that he could not fight his political battles because his father, the former president, was a major force behind him.

“I believe that the attribute of leadership are physical and mental courage, clarity of vision and moral courage. I believe I have all three. I have been through a lot of challenges in my political career,” he pointed out.

He said on several occasions security forces have searched his house and that when he was chairman of parliamentary legal affairs committee, he received threats on his life at the time they were formulating impeachment procedures.

The MP also noted the recent ambush of his motorcade while on whistle-stop tour in Thyolo.

“I have been through a lot in terms of harassment.”

On why he did not stop his father from coming to Malawi from South Africa to visit him when he was arrested to fight his own battles, Atupele responded:  “I did not speak to my father throughout my ordeal. I had no access to the phones.

“These are my own political battles but they (relatives)  came to give me a moral courage.”

He emphatically added: “There is nothing that is going to change the fact that Dr Bakili Muluzi is my father. Whether anybody likes it or not, that is a fact that cannot be changed. He is my father. But I have always said you judge me as Atupele Muluzi.”

Commenting on his ailment after the arrest, Atupele said he has a medical history of hypertension but pointed out that “I am extremely healthy. I do exercise regularly.”

He referred to a 23-year-old England footballer Fabrice Muamba who collapsed on the pitch on 17 March and was rushed to the intensive care unit of the heart attack centre at the London Heart Hospital, where he has remained since.

“You can control certain things,” he said.

Truth of DOB

Atupele was also asked to clarify his date of birth after various rumours that he maybe underage when the country goes to polls to elect the next president in 2014.

He said he would be 34 years on August 6 this year and turns 35 next year, the entry age to run for presidency.

“I was born on the 6th of August 1978,” said the politician who was born at Kamuzu Central Hospital.

He described speculations on his birth date as “propaganda.”

“I hear a lot of allegations and suggestions.”

New direction

He said Agenda for Change is “is not about Atupele Muluzi and it will not be about Atupele. It’s about our generation.”

“There is a plan and clear vision on what we are going to achieve to go forward. The essence of the change agenda is that we need to change the way we create wealth and delivery services,” he explained.

“We need to start moving in a new direction,” he added.

Atupele highlighted job creation and empowering people to have better life.

“New approach on how to govern, we need to decentralise power – share power with our communities.

“We need to bring a new model altogether. To give a platform to new ideas.”

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