One critical outcome of the post elections period has been that Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika has consistently been compared with his brother late Bingu wa Mutharika. The people inside the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) are seething with anger as the President keeps telling them to keep calm. Everyone agrees, if it were the late Bingu, demonstrations should have ended the same first week.
However, a closer examination, no President has ever tolerated criticism as President Peter Mutharika. He is a sharp contrast to all his four predecessors in almost everything. After he leaves office- surely, Malawians will see he did much more than his predecessors. He is a true democrat. That’s his legacy.
One thing on his legacy, you cannot take away his democratic credentials. The man allows free expression like no other, no political rival arrested, and he has reigned in the Malawi Police never to shoot at the demonstrators. This has even puzzled his worst detractors, they can’t call him a dictator, they can’t find a word to insult him.
It’s difficult to criticise President Mutharika. He has travelled less than any known President since 1964, he has largely maintained a lean Cabinet and the rule of law, as a legal scholar seems to be his cornerstone of decision. He waits for facts and evidence, he follows the law, something the four past Presidents will be shocked to see it is possible to allow Malawians do what they want and still be a President.
As many lack things to criticise him, some have turned to the First Lady Gertrude, another quite character whose voice is rarely in the media and some extend attacks to their son. This is the challenge many have, these people have played and lived their lives as normal as they can be. I believe any sensible politician would be happy to leave them alone.
There is a rumour that in 1998, prior to 1999 elections, Gwanda Chakuamba received a manila envelope containing some photos of the then First Lady. The one who sent them believed they would help Chakuamba campaign against his bitter rival Bakili Muluzi. When Gwanda Chakuamba received the envelope, he called Sanjika and gave the former President the envelope without releasing to the public. To Gwanda, despite their bitter rivalry, families were never part of political battles.
But my President legacy is always undermined by some of the things he needs to reach out quickly, demonstrate statesmanship and ensure that everyone feels they are included. Such opportunities when they come, they are not utilised.
Imagine the call by PAC and former president Muluzi to mediate, whatever the case, Professor Mutharika should have asked the two (PAC and Muluzi) to come with HDRC even if it meant a neutral venue like Muluzis residence or at a hotel. He should come face to face with the Mtambo and company whose agenda now is beyond Jane Ansah as the court is hearing the elections case.
HRDC and Mutharika can agree, that Ansah will go. HDRC needs to compromise for public good and the same applies to President Mutharika. All they need is a roadmap of the issues and how Ansah can go, whether before or after the elections case. That is a negotiating point. Each side needs to give concession if they truly believe they love Malawi. Otherwise it is just unnecessarily political battle whose solution lies in court, nowhere else.
The second element of statesmanship is inclusion. I was keen on-Board Members of Government parastatals. I wish the President looked beyond partisan politics. Of course, let me make clear that there is nothing wrong appointing loyalists anywhere to serve your interests. Donald Trump the President of the USA appoints his family members and loyalists to all sorts of positions including the Supreme Court. That’s politics. The same with Boris Johnson, he has brought into his Cabinet and key positions his loyalists.
The politics of loyalty is across political establishments, nothing unusual to have DPP cadets or loyalists appointed. That’s a reward for their campaign. But the issue of inclusion is about the Presidents legacy and statesmanship.
President Mutharika can learn from Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. Sometimes right gestures can bring peace, consolidate our democracy and teach our people the meaning of political tolerance. Imagine if Atupele Muluzi Chaired National Economic Council or its equivalent, his five-year experience as Cabinet Minister would be invaluable. Imagine if the UDF Secretary General Kandi Padambo in ESCOM or ENGENCO board, an institution he served for long. He can provide some strategic direction.
I am trying to think what would have been the reaction if people like Mrs Monica Chakwera were in Accountants Board, Dr. Chidanti Malunga in Admarc Board, Enock Chihana in Northern Region Water Board, Njobuyalema in Central Region Water Board, Kusamba Dzondzi in MITC board or Gambling board. I am trying to imagine if Shanil Dzimbiri was appointed sort of Childrens and women ambassador. I am imagining Alekeni Menyani chairing the National Youth Council. I am imagining Frank Mwenefumbo at Tobacco Control Commission fighting tobacco companies. The opportunities to change Malawi are endless, if all of us work as Malawians for Malawi.
President Mutharika would have defined his legacy and elevated his name among the most tolerant Presidents to something Malawians have never known. We need to go beyond usual politics. We need to look for avenues that we can tap all skills, ideas in all parties to build Malawi.
Nelson Mandela worked with his former jailer President De Clerk and Inkatha freedom Party’s Mongosuthu Buthelezi despite that they never agreed on anything, they campaigned separately but worked for South Africa.
Barack Obama worked with his party rival Hillary Clinton. Boris Johnson forgave Micheal Gove and uses him to make his bidding for Brexit. There are no permanent enemies. There are respected people in the DPP like former Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda. The DPP lost speakership for fielding someone wrong. Rodwell Munyenyembe returned to position of Speaker twice, in 1994 and in 2004.
The President need to go beyond the DPP. Reward DPP loyalists yes, but arise Sir to include all Malawians, especially those that seem to be rivals. Show them that the levels of tolerance you have shown during demonstrations is for the good of Malawi. That good extends using all available skills to develop the country, contribute to change and bring meaningful transformation to everyone.
At the end of his term (I don’t believe there will be a re-run with the Court evidence so far), we can write about a great statesman from Chimaliro in Thyolo who transformed Malawi’s mind, attitudes and patriotism which we all lack at the moment, which has seen us cheer destruction of own facilities. We need a statesman; we need a Mandela who looks at every Malawian as useful to his development agenda!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :