From noisy to mute: The new MCP narrative?

Before and immediately after May 20, the supposedly re-branded Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was full of Wise Men and Women from the East, who never wasted time in throwing their ‘wise counsel’, to anyone who cared.

Until recently, party President and retired Assemblies of God cleric, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, Spokesperson and former academician, Jessie Kabwila, Vice President,Richard Msowoya, who was also running mate to Chakwera in the last election and now Speaker of the National Assembly, Secretary General, Gustav Kaliwo and a background contingent of old guards in the name of MakalaNgozo, Joseph Njobvuyalema, DzooleMwale, among others had formed an axis of the know-it-all and critical politicos.

They would have something to say on almost every issue to do with politics and governance including chewing out anyone with a contrary opinion to their jealously guarded views. Jessie Kabwila was given the task of fronting the party’s ‘stubborn’ position on politics and related issues.

Kabwila: MCP spokeswoman
Kabwila: MCP spokeswoman

Kabwila, the once-upon-a-time self-styled academic freedom hawk and a serial critic of Peter Mutharika government did it with oversized passion and legendary gusto (she is famous for vowing never to recognize the Peter Mutharika government because ‘it is riding on the wave of a stolen election’).

The sudden silence by Kabwila is therefore pretty deafening. Why all of a sudden missus? The last time I checked, the party’s duo of Kabwila and Njobvuyalema had just held a press conference, which was obviously meant to say something about Mutharika’s cabinet appointments and other emerging issues.

What came out of that press meeting, however, was very disappointing and did not amount to any clear message from a serious political grouping. Instead of making a real statement of intent in as far as offering checks and balances to government is concerned, what came out was a barely audible mumble that sounded like an intention by the party to form a coalition government with the very ‘illegitimate’ administration they have been demonizing and refusing to recognize.

Were it not for the fact that many people, including MCP’s staunchest supporters expressed disbelief and aghast at the direction the party was taking, the coalition agenda would have been pushed very far by now. The MCP actually succeeded in sounding very irrelevant to the current political context. Instead of remaining faithful to the agenda of good governance and political pluralism that Chakwera and company had been championing and vowed to sustain till the end, Kabwila and company were clearly pushing for a selfish agenda for personal gain. President Peter Mutharika has made some gaffes recently including the assembling an oversized panel of his loyalists disguised as ‘advisors’.

Malawians expected Kabwila and company to be on top of their game and throw their critical voice against government’s abuse of resources. Was the size of entourage that has accompanied Peter Mutharika to the African America summit in the USA okay? Which one was worth criticizing between the presidential wedding and the issue of presidential advisors?

But like an electric bulb that has been switched off, the MCP has suddenly gone limp. All the critical and animated voices that we were so much used to prior to May 20, 2014 elections, and immediately thereafter, have either gone to ground or lost somewhere in between.

Is it perhaps that the Peter Mutharika government has suddenly just become legitimate, or a cat has eaten out the collective tongue of Kabwila and Co? The party’s Secretary General is perhaps the remnant critical voice whereas the others have fallen by the wayside.

Is it by mere coincidence that he is the only one within the top hierarchy of the party who is somehow not dipping into the government’s pot of gold? It actually underlines the difficulty of criticizing on a mouthful. Some have tried before but few have prevailed.

In fact, the MCP spokesperson was quoted in the recent press as advising government to increase beneficiaries of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISIP). That is notwithstanding the fact that her party president, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera is a documented critic of FISP. He says FISP is as a huge drain on government resources, and vowed to abolish the programme had MCP been voted into government. By some stroke of mystery, the MCP and their poster vocalists have gone like mute. The once mighty party has gone to sleep?

*Hastings Kandoje is a Nyasa Times columnist who writes in his own right

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