Malawi’s ex-president Bakili Muluzi, who ruled from 1994 to 2004, on Tuesday formally announced his retirement from active politics, stepping down as chairman of his former governing United Democratic Front (UDF) party.
The former president, who is recuperating in South Africa after undergoing a surgery, addressed a UDF National Conference in Blantyre through a message which was read on his behalf by one of the country’s top lawyers Kalekeni Kaphale.
Muluzi, who defeated late dictator Kamuzu Banda in the country’s first democratic elections in 1994, said he choose Kaphale to deliver a farewell speech becauae he “ is a passionate defender of human rights and constitutionalism and also a promoter of rule of law and good governance.”
In his speech, Muluzi said he regretted not having done more to improve the lives of his citizens when he was head of state but pointed out that his government “performed extremely well” in some areas.
“When we took over government in 1994, the poverty levels in this country were very high. Admittedly, they are still a challenge today. However, we must admit and acknowledge that during our time there were some areas where we performed extremely well and others where we failed to meet the expectations of Malawians,” he said.
Muluzi said the political gains and the socio-economic changes that the country achieved in the 1990s and early 2000s have not been consolidated.
“To consolidate these, Malawi needs more change now than ever before!” he said.
Forward with change agenda
Muluzi, who is a life patron of UDF together with Patrick Mbewe, told delegates that the party is “alive and strong and that we are continuing the agenda we set 20 years ago,” adding “UDF siyizatha ngati makatani! Ayi! (UDF will not be torn apart like tattered curtains) And nobody should wish this party away. You just can’t.”
He said UDF will contune with “change agenda”.
“As a party, how do we abandon our change agenda when the cost of living is increasingly becoming more unbearable for most Malawians. How do we abandon the reform agenda when the basic needs such as water and electricity are still a luxury?
“How do we stop calling for transformative change when our industries are not performing well? How do we stop the change agenda when the products of our policy on free primary school cannot access higher education?
“How do we fold our hands and claim that we have achieved it all when our fuel supplies are way below our required needs to drive our economy. How do we claim that we have accomplished our agenda when the majority of our youth are not gainfully employed and cannot make a decent living out of any economic activity?”
Rebrand with new generation
Muluzi urged UDF through the convention elections to wear a national face “by ensuring that people from various parts of our country, people of all age categories, gender, professional backgrounds, and other social categories, are elected into the National Executive Committee.”
He said UDF should rebrand itself and make it more appealing to Malawians.
The former president said UDF should provide a unique and special vehicle that should serve many purposes.
“It should be a defender, protector, and fighter for the underdogs; a refuge for the powerless; and a parliament for the disenfranchised,” he said.
Muluzi also said asa party that championed the introduction of multipartyism and pluralism, the UDF should take the leadership and be exemplary in opening up to new membership and new ideas in order to find new ways of dealing with new challenges.
“It is important to make sure that the party utilizes the experience from the old members but at the same time creating a conducive environment for new members to come in and help the party at various levels of its structures.,” he said, adding “Malawi, as a country, is endowed with talent but at times we are not willing to give this talent a chance.”
Muluzi said UDF should embrace the ‘Facebook generation”.
“This generation holds the key to the survival of this party and, for that matter, any other social and political institution in this country at the moment. Let us therefore take this generation very seriously or we risk extinction like dinosaurs. If we do not open up to this generation and to women, then our party could as well be an item for preservation in the museums and the archives,” he said.
He pointed out that in democracy there are no shortcuts and urged party members to allow members to elect leaders of their choice from the top to the lowest structure of the party.
He also advised that if there are differences of opinion the best way to deal with them is through dialogue within the legitimate forums within the party .
Muluzi, who recently lost his mother, took an opportunity to express his gratitude to the party officials and members, representatives of other parties, government officials, religious leaders, and all those who took their time off their busy schedules to come and join the Muluzi family to mourn his mother.
“The generosity and good will you demonstrated cannot go without my expression of gratitude. In the true Malawian spirit you comforted us and provided the warmth when we needed most during the bereavement that we had. My family and I very sincerely thank you all,” he said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :