Director of Elections in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Ben Malunga Phiri, has been having a series of public meetings in Zomba in a bid to mobilize people to go and register to vote in next year’s tripartite elections. Zomba is among the districts where registration is currently taking place under the Malawi Electoral Commission’s (MEC) phase 5 of registration.
In his overzealous quest to impress at mobilizing support for President Peter Mutharika as a DPP presidential candidate in next year’s tripartite elections, Ben Phiri used a Chichewa metaphor in one of his speeches delivered to call on people from the southern region to support Peter Mutharika as a fellow southerner. He said: “Malisecheumabisa ako. Kwathu kuno kum’mwela wathu ndi Peter Mutharika, maliseche athu ndi amenewo” (everyone hides his or her own private part, our private part as people of the southern region is Peter Mutharika).
As much as he may have had good intention in the use of the metaphor, it appears that is not how the public has decoded the message. The seemingly well coined phrase turned out to be a terrible goof for Ben Phiri; his likening of Peter Mutharika to private parts has not been taken kindly by the public.
Many detractors of the DPP have taken advantage of the goof to demean President Peter Mutharika on the social media and to mock him as a ‘maliseche’.
The ‘maliseche’ speech is now the main talking point in this country; it has gone viral such that the video clip has become one of the most shared on social media in the past two days. The fiasco is also reported to have attracted the wrath of President Mutharika.
According to sources in the DPP, Mutharika is shocked and furious with Ben Phiri’s misplaced use of the ‘maliseche’ analogy, particularly for likening him to human private parts.
After getting reports of how the story is circulating in Malawi, Mutharika called Ben Phiri directly from New York, USA, where he attended the 73rd Session of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), to find out what was happening. He found Ben Phiri’s explanation unsatisfactory and chewed him out. He told him to halt his public rallies because he is sending wrong messages to the people due to his lack of communication skills.
Ben Phiri calls himself ‘Field Marshal’ and of late he has been behaving like a person who is possessed with something. It seems he is on a mission to prove to President Mutharika that he is a ground worker and astute for the ruling party, and one who should be relied upon by the DPP. Unfortunately, he is beginning to make colossal mistakes due to his overzealousness, something which is damaging the image of the party.
It is obvious that Ben Phiri, for some reason best known to him, thinks he is entitled to the DPP presidency and that he should be the one to take over from Mutharika when he (Mutharika) eventually steps down.
Ben Phiri must be cautioned to tame his ambition, and not to be overambitious beyond the realm of his capabilities. He must start from grassroots and gradually build his profile as a politician and not to rush for the presidency without any political roots.
There are other able politicians in DPP who have political roots because they have served as MPs or held high cabinet positions. Indeed, there are DPP leaders who are more experienced having served as MPs and ministers during the administration of the late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika than Ben Phiri whose only highest position was being personal assistant (PA) to President Mutharika.
The latest ‘maliseche’ goof may just have nailed the last nail on the coffin of Ben Phiri’s already dwindling political profile, and it will certainly be an uphill task for him to recover and mount a real comeback. After all, there appears to be very little political arsenal in his pack.