By Wise One from the East
Serving as a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) parliamentarian is easy. It is so easy that any idiot can do it. One does not have do anything at all except to tell the world, whenever possible, what a wise and visionary leader Malawi is blessed to have. In fact, if one goes the extra mile, landing a cabinet post is a foregone conclusion.
The secret to being a successful MP in the DPP-perspective is really a piece of cake. Put your conscience in or outside parliament to the back-seat; be vocal in attacking the opposition and perceived enemies of the party – real or imaginary, it does not matter; and perhaps, throw in a donation – in cash or in kind – say a house to serve as a local party office – and one hits the jackpot, literally.
One begins to lead a fairy-tale life right here on earth. Hollywood style parties at the State House, brown envelopes slipped into one’s hands as tokens of appreciation for loyalty – all these doles come your way. Of course, you have to invest your resources and time selling the Mutharika Brand too – as insurance for the day the baton will change hands.
The snag is that periodically – in fact every five years – one needs to have his or her mandate renewed by constituents; and this is where things may just get a little bit tricky. For instance, the constituents may have, since they last went to the polls, decided that the Big Kahuna is neither as wise nor as visionary as they thought.
Or worse, they might have elected you not to represent the familial interests of the Mutharika Duo but to address the challenges that the constituents face in their day to day lives. When things turn out this way – the going gets messy. And this is where we are right now.
Let us now put all this in proper and full context. We begin with Blantyre. In Blantyre, if the numbers of the July 20 Mass Demonstrators are anything to go by, such demonstrators being people – who:
1. did not have to be ferried from anywhere by anyone to participate in the march;
2. took to the streets in total disregard of the bloody threat of DPP panga-brandishing youths; and;
3. I can hazard a guess that, at least on May 19, 2009, these very same demonstrators, thought Bingu was the biblical Moses incarnate;
are not amused with the DPP Government.
Blantyre has 13 constituencies of which 12 are represented by DPP parliamentarians and 1 by an independent MP. Do the twelve DPP MPs have any chance of returning to the House of Parliament in 2014?
The thing about Blantyre is that voter opinion is very volatile. Blantyre, as was observed by Mzati Nkolokosa sometime back, offers a practical lesson for members of Parliament. Out of 13 MPs between 1999 and 2004, only one man returned to Parliament in 2004. That man is none other than Henry Duncan Phoya (HDP), MP for Blantyre Rural East.
The rest of his colleagues from that time — Fidson Chisesele, Peter Chupa, Nicholas Kachingwe, Masten Kanje, Samuel Kaphuka, Henderson Mabeti, Elwin Maluwa, Paul Maulidi, Lee Mlanga, Isaac Ndoka, Yakub Osman and Jan Sonkie are history. They either failed or were very honest with themselves and did not even bother to contest.
Looking at Henry Poya’s recent exploits and manouvres, one begins to understand why and how he was the only Blantyre parliamentarian to retain a seat in 2004. Other than HDP, Blantyre West’s – Wells Gama and Blantyre-City South East’s – Jones Mtelemuka seem to be the only ones who really know their Blantyre and have done their home-work well as evidenced by their position vis-à-vis the party line during and after the infamous Injunctions Bill. They are listening and obeying popular sentiments and proactively applying their conscience.
Of course, for the other Blantyre DPP MPs, 2014 is still a while away and there is ample time to make amends. If more DPP MPs pick a leaf from Henry Poya, they could just win back public trust. Otherwise, their days as parliamentarians are numbered.
We now coming to the old capital city – Zomba. All the nine parliamentarians for Zomba, which coincidentally is the home of DPP’s worst nightmare and nemesis – Mrs Joyce Banda – are DPP. Again their future as parliamentarians is in supposition. In addition to all the woes dodging the DPP leadership, in Zomba, the ‘JB factor’ is even more pronounced.
How the ‘JB Factor’ will affect them in 2014 is difficult to tell at this point. But nevertheless, if I were one of them, I would not be too comfortable. Thing is, if Bingu and Peter as a result of the ‘JB Factor’, are spending sleepless nights, why and how would I, a mere MP, sleep comfortably? Zomba DPP MPs, it goes without saying, are an endangered species.
In the Northern Region, where as of today the DPP has 97% of the seats; the sojourn of DPP MPs in the august house is also drawing to an end. DPP MPs in the north are facing extinction. And there is no doubt about this. Never mind what Chief M’mbelwa says about the government of the day and all that bull – everybody knows that in the north, as a rule, underperformance is totally unacceptable. And against this context, what has the DPP delivered in return for the north’s loyalty on May 19, 2009?
Nothing! Nothing other than the same old song of granaries filled with maize that Kamuzu used to sing about. And where did ‘nkhokwe zodzaza’ take Kamuzu and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), when push came to shove in the early nineties? Kamuzu and the MCP did not fall out of favour with the north because the people were starving, no, not at all.
The people in the north had maize, rice and cassava all year round during the MCP era. But they nevertheless voted for multi-party during the referendum and for AFORD during the 1994 general elections. Can the DPP afford to continue taking them for granted? Especially after re-tabling the detested quota agenda? Yes, at its own peril.
Let us now cross over to the Central Region. In 2009, much to John Tembo’s chagrin, the DPP scooped 32% of the parliamentary seats in the hitherto MCP stronghold. Even after the elections, the DPP managed to sway MCP MPs like the late Ishmael Chafukira and Abele Kayembe. At that time, it needs to be said, the DPP was riding a popular wave: tobacco prices were bad yes, but not too bad; and in the rural areas fertilizer coupons, were finding their way even to the not-so-needy tobacco growers.
Tobacco is now a curse. And the number of coupons available this year has been reduced as a result of the gaping hole created in the national budget by donor apathy. How many coupons will leak beyond the intended fewer beneficiaries, no-one can tell for sure. And how the reduced coupons will be equitably distributed so as not to back-fire will, again, be the subject of many scholarly articles and many chiefs imprisonment.
Worse still; the central region was recently in broad day light, robbed of a University that, as we speak, is under construction somewhere near Ndata Farm. This spells one thing: disaster lies ahead for central region based DPP MPs. Nothing short of a miracle will help them in 2014.
And what about at presidential level where Bingu scooped 937,163 votes against JZU’s 780,522? If for the reasons outlined above, JZU or whosoever rides ‘tambala wakuda’ reclaims the near million votes, this will create for the blue candidate a million vote deficit.
The problem with campaigning with things like ‘Kamuzu’s chiliza or a statue’ is that you can construct them only once. At that point (pa nthawi ya chilizayo) people are excited and grateful. But after a while, they revert to their normal selves and begin to expect development in other spheres of their lives. And because this is not happening, is why Civil Society Organizations are on the street. Nothing, except empty speeches and lectures, is being delivered.
The Southern Region of Malawi is the country’s most populous region. When it fronts only one major presidential candidate, that person only requires either the northern vote or about 50% of the Central vote to get to Sanjika. Assuming Joyce Banda, Atupele Muluzi or whosoever the UDF settles on and Peter Mutharika – all contest for CEO Malawi, won’t they split the southern vote? And won’t this play in favour of the Central Region candidate in the event that voting has reverted to regional lines?
The DPP might have in 2009 defied the regional factor. But the problem is that it has failed to hold on to that success. It has abused that asset and its higher ranking members and parliamentarians seem to think they are more Malawian than everyone. Instead of consolidating and building the nation, Bingu lost an opportunity when he opted to embrace the Muhlakho Heritage which, sadly, has become a symbol of nepotism – a practice which the DPP has institutionalised at a scale and level never seen before in Malawi.
The DPP’s candidates in both the presidential and parliamentary races will pay the price for the DPP’s loss of touch with reality in 2014. But all is not yet lost. The CSOs have the blue print: the Petition of July 20 is the magic wand. If the DPP needs more, there is the Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter (which represented national sentiment very well and they have not acted upon); and other concerns raised by the CCAP Nkhoma and Livingstonia Synods (which represented central and northern thinking – which they have ignored).
Last but not least, if the DPP can find a cure for executive arrogance, nepotism, increasing corruption, donor apathy and stop being satisfied with mediocrity, they will not need to fear mass demonstrations or risk being torpedoed before their time is over.
The opposition, as I advised Atupele Muluzi recently in “Of Malawi’s deja vu and Atupele Muluzi’s catch -22” , only needs to unite and apply Sun Tzu’s philosophy and they will have hit the home run. The opportunity to secure themselves against defeat lies in their own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the DPP is everyday being provided by the DPP itself. The DPP Government, led by the Mutharikas with Callista recently joining the fray, is generously providing the opportunities.
Question is: is the opposition capable of taking advantage of this? To think along the lines of the fourth year Mzuzu University writer, Henry Mvula Esq. and CSI Lilongwe – retired Civil Servant; are the youth positioning themselves strategically to claim their rightful place as leaders of today?
Whatever the case, fact is come 2014; there will be a mass exodus from the honours of parliament for many currently serving DPP MPs. What a shame and what a waste!
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