Image experts advise that when you face a crisis, you must get ahead of the problem as fast as you can. You must try to be a step in front of the media which has the power to help fix the problem or make it worse.
It is clear that advisers to President Peter Mutharika did not miss class the day the topic was discussed, judging from their response to calls for federalism or secession coming from North Malawi.
After a negative reaction to the composition of his new cabinet, which drew mainly from the southern region where the party won the most votes, the administration perhaps did not want another problem — once bitten, twice shy.
It is of course a president’s prerogative to pick a cabinet of his or her choice and the president must be ready to live with the consequences of his decisions. But while the administration was caught flat footed when criticisms of the cabinet composition came raining down, this time Symon Vuwa Kaunda was quickly dispatched to the North, long considered the hotbed of political activism in Malawi, to quiet down the growing discourse.
Ranking members of the Livingstonia Synod, which wields significant influence in the region, appeared with Kaunda and labeled “divisive” those who want Malawi to abandon the unitary system of government for either federalism or independence.
The Synod’s moderator suggested that as representatives of the people, the Church should have been consulted by those calling for change — they did not even raise it during campaigns — before starting their media campaign. Obviously, the position by the Synod makes no sense, and as an apologist for those seeking change, it is incumbent upon this author to challenge the misguided views expressed by the Livingstonia Synod.
The Synod deserves the same response as does Paramount Chief Kyungu of Karonga who ought to be above politics but chose instead to immerse himself in it. He picked one side over the other. As an individual, Chief Kyungu has every right to his personal political views but he should not take sides publicly. The apology of British Premier David Cameron to Queen Elizabeth after suggesting in public – he had a private conversation with the Queen — that she was relieved upon learning that Scotland voted against independence should tell Kyungu why such views are better kept private.
Back to Vuwa and men of the collar. By appearing with the top brass of Livingstonia Synod which expressed reservations about the idea of federalism or secession, Vuwa scored for his team. He convinced the clergy and chiefs against the idea and it is reasonable to expect that some people bought what he was selling.
Livingstonia Synod should have sat this one out. Now that is has taken sides, it is fair game. Apart from duly elected representatives of the people calling for the change, there are members of society of good standing who do not think this is a bad idea. Granted, the Synod should stop pretending as though they are supposed to be the only game in town and that those who hold a different view intruded on its holy turf!
In addition to that, the notion that the issue was not part of the campaign is of no consequence because opportunity does not operate on a schedule. An opportunity has presented itself yet again and it would be foolish to let it slip away.
When the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) felt the winner of the first democratic elections in 1994 started behaving as if nobody else mattered, Chakufwa Chihana threatened to make Malawi ungovernable. Chihana and Aford had won all seats in the North and President Bakili Muluzi understood what was at stake. The two struck a deal that saw them working together, easing tensions between the two sides.
It is remarkable that there are similarities between 1994 and 2014 election results. (Replace Muluzi’s United Democratic Front with DPP and Aford with the People’s Party. No change for MCP.) Twenty years ago, the MCP dominated the Center and the party did it again this year. PP which was nonexistent 20 years ago has a presence in the North; ditto DPP in the South.
Have we gone back to 1994? The long list of grievances presented by the North is yet to be addressed in any meaningful way. Each time concerns are raised, leaders make it look as if they are doing something but it is just window dressing.
One hot-button issue is that of quotas — merit is disregarded for a number of places at public colleges to guarantee each district a minimum — which affects students who pass very well but are denied entry. Students from the North are disproportionately affected by this.
It should be pointed out the selection of students using quotas was neither started by Mutharika nor his late brother Bingu who by the way embraced it. Bingu accused Northerners of cheating during exams; of occupying a lion’s share of senior positions in the public sector and of contributing little to the national economy.
The vitriol against Northerners started when the Malawi Congress Party was in power. At one time it orchestrated the removal and transfer of teachers working elsewhere back to the North. The teachers were accused of encouraging students to focus on activities outside school which the party said led to their poor performance in school.
Whether you are chief or a religious leader, you must be deranged to think that these things never happened and that somebody just made them up to score cheap political points against the current government. Think again. I told you that I was an apologist for the cause.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :