Malawi Congress Party and the Chakwera factor: Tenthani’s Muckracking

“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” – Edmund Burke

Am I the only one who feels underwhelmed by the coming on the scene of the Reverend Lazarus Chakwera as one of the wannabes for the top post in the oldest party in the land?

No doubt the MCP needs a breath of fresh air, a re-birth of sorts. If truth be told, John Tembo has outlived his welcome. The old man should have retired ‘yesterday’. Why he cannot do it without some plodding defies logic. Look, at 82 at the time of the elections the guy will certainly be too old and, no matter how healthy he keeps himself, his body will be tired and frail.

He evidently loses his memory, a sign of settling dementia associated with old age. It is not his fault; he is in the twilight of his life. He needs to retire to his farm in Dedza to count his blessings and wait for birthday greetings from his grand-children every September 14.

Rev Dr Chakwera: For MCP presidency
Rev Dr Chakwera: For MCP presidency

So it is certainly nothing else but tyranny and pure selfishness that makes Tembo keep on hanging on. As I have quoted Burke of old above, for such tyranny not to be entertained “people of good conscience” must stand up to be counted.

But is Rev. Chakwera one such man, the harbinger of that re-birth of the MCP?

I have my serious doubts, if you ask for my honest opinion.

Look, I have always said times without number that it amazes me how politicians do not learn from their own mistakes or those of their counterparts.

Re-wind to the heady days of 2003 and 2004 when one Bakili Muluzi desperately tried to elongate his stay in State House. He tried an “open term” presidency. When that narrowly floundered he attempted a “third term” for himself. That too fell by the wayside.

Angry and frustrated by his colleagues in the UDF, whom he silently accused of frustrating his plans, Muluzi went into the nihilistic delusion mode – if I cannot have it, no one else will. He therefore brought in a rank outsider, one Bingu wa Mutharika.

We all know the Trojan Horse the imported candidate became to the once-upon-a-mighty party; Bingu carved his own DPP out of the UDF and left it bleeding until it haemorrhaged itself to near death.

Now Muluzi is ruing the day he met Bingu. The latter pulverised the UDF to smithereens. The party that won not one, not two, but three consecutive elections could not master even 20 parliamentary seats in 2009. Can you believe that?

All that thanks to an unthankful guest Muluzi thought would be grateful for having the trappings of power thrust upon him on a silver platter.

Now fast-forward to 2014. We all know there is need to change the head driver in the oldest party in the land. But the MCP will cry blue murder like Muluzi did if it brings in a rank outsider.

Why not look from within the rank and file of the party? Look, it is not like the MCP is deficient of potential candidates. If the party wants to settle for the old guard who drunk from the well of wisdom of its founding father, Hastings Kamuzu Banda – like JZU – it is spoilt for choice. There is the former Speaker of Parliament and Finance Minister Louis Chimango, veterans like Jodder Kanjere and such like.

But if the oldest party in the land wants to embrace the facebook and twitter generation it has new adherents such as Chris Daza, Chris Chaima Banda and Edwin Banda, even Jolly Kalelo, to choose from.

With all this treasure trove of talent I am not sure why the MCP wants to tempt fate by experimenting with a candidate whose only remote experience as a member of the MCP was when all of us – including unborn babies – were forced to be card-carrying members of the party.

If truth be told, if Chakwera wants to lead the MCP some day let him start at branch and then constituency level. Let him fight for a parliamentary seat on the ticket of the MCP. He cannot just shoot from nowhere and be in the hot seat.

Understandably, the news that Rev. Chakwera is throwing his hat in the ring for the MCP driver’s seat has been greeted with euphoria because of Tembo’s near-dynastical grip on the party. Rev. Chakwera is a well-read and well-respected man of the collar whose leadership talents have been used variously by government on important national assignments.

But it does not always follow that success at the pulpit would translate into success on the murky political front. Political parties should be the nursery for nurturing political leaders. One should be concerned if one tries to cut political teeth at a helm of a political party or indeed on national politics as president.

Political parties should be a training ground for the production of national leaders. Rev. Chakwera can therefore not just spring from nowhere and claim to represent the ideals and aspirations of the MCP.

That is a fallacy and recipe for chaos, ask Muluzi.

Because Bingu was not exactly UDF at the core he only used the party as the key into State House, courtesy of Muluzi. Once inside there Bingu did not care what happened to the party that put him in power, not even the bloke who handpicked him. That is why he did not have any qualms to ditch the party that sweated blood to put him in power to found his own DPP.

The MCP risks the same fate if it embraces the cleric who was not there when the father of the MCP was being harassed in courts, old and frail, to answer murder charges stemming from back in 1983. How can the Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera begin to understand what it means to have the new lords in the land wrestle Press Corporation, the very life-line of the mighty old party, out of the old man’s grip?

He just does not understand what being in the MCP of old and the modern MCP is like.

Granted, the MCP still believes in the ‘four-corner stones’. Not many veterans – who have been with the party through thick and thin – may grumble loudly if Tembo endorses Chakwera. But, believe you me, many will be boiling inside.

I welcome Rev. Chakwera’s interest in the MCP. But let him go back to basics. He should not start from the top. Let him start from the bottom. Let him climb his way through the rungs to reach the pinnacle.

I know Rev. Chakwera is a man of good conscience; he does not want to remain silent when things are going south. But he should not be allowed to use short-cuts to get to power lest we witness the ‘Trojan Horse’ scenario that nearly killed the UDF manifest itself in the MCP.

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