Malawi ex-president Muluzi farewell speech at UDF convention

  • Former president  Dr Bakili Muluzi’s speech read by lawyer Kalekeni Kaphale at UDF convention on Tuesday October 31, 2012 in Blantyre

 

Since I retired as National Chairperson of the United Democratic Front Party in 2010, some two years ago, I have not had an opportunity to be with you and to officially bid farewell to you.

I would have loved to be with you today as you hold the party’s National Conference for 2012.  However, because of circumstances beyond my control I will not be with you physically, but I am with you in spirit and wish you well in the deliberations.

It is because of this that I have delegated Mr. Kalekeni Kaphale to represent me and deliver my farewell speech on my behalf.

I have personally known Mr. Kaphale for a long time. He is a passionate defender of human rights and constitutionalism and also a promoter of rule of law and good governance.

These democratic values are always at my heart and that is why I have great respect for Mr.Kaphale. Not only that his family has always supported democracy as a system of governance from the time of the struggle against one party rule.

Muluzi: Bids farewell as UDF national chairman

My choice of him to represent me here is based on these reasons.

Ladies and Gentlemen, today is a very important day in the history of the United Democratic Front (UDF) as a party.  Exactly 20 years ago we started this party as an underground movement, then as a pressure group, and finally registering it as a political party in 1993 after the referendum. This convention should therefore be celebrating 20 years of the existing of the UDF.

Present here today are delegates from Chitipa to Nsanje, Nkhota kota to Mchnji, which is clear evidence that the UDF is alive and strong and that we are continuing the agenda we set 20 years ago. UDF siyizatha ngati makatani! Ayi! And nobody should wish this party away. You just cant.

As we celebrate two decades of our existence let us also take a moment to remember those that made great sacrifices and took the risk to form the UDF, and all those who contributed to its operations in the formative stages. In a special way, join me to pay tribute to the great sons and daughters of Malawi who fought hard for political change in the early 1990s but are no longer with us today. These would include: the late Shaibu Itimu, Wenham Nakanga, Collins Chizumila, Dumbo Lemani, James Makhumula, Davis Kapito, Beatrice Njala, Professor Lufeyo Chilivumbo, Mai Makonyola, Mai NyaHara., Maurice Kachimbwinda, Edward Bwanali and many others. Also deserving tribute are the Catholic Bishops who authored the Pastoral Letter of 1992, the workers at David Whitehead and Sons, the City of Blantyre, and ESCOM, would downed their tools in support for change. The Chancellor College students, who mounted the open demonstrations calling for political change, and all the unsung heroes on the streets and in the villages who shouted the popular slogan: “We Want Change!”

At that time, the UDF was not alone in this call. Let’s pay tribute to our colleagues in the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) with whom we fought for change. Let us remember the likes of Chakufwa Chihana, Chipimpha Mughogho, Mrs Malango Banda, Mapopa Chipeta, Matembo Nzunda, Denis Nkhwazi, and others. Their courage and sacrifices were not in vain.

Madam Chair of the Convention, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, the change agenda of the early 1990s was an inclusive one. Those of us in the leadership positions at the time got our inspiration from the popular forces because the change we were calling for was for the Malawi nation as a whole. It was not for a particular class and social creed, ethnic group, gender, or race. It was for Malawi and Malawians.

Some of you will recall that it the official launch of the UDF at Nyamba Park in Blantyre I declared that “kaya wina afune kaya asafune, zinthu zisintha” (whether one liked it or not, Malawi had to change). Thing would stop us from that. To day, I stand here before you to declare that, as a party, we shall not be derailed from our mission. We shall forge ahead with the same mission, zeal and energy.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, this conference provides us with a good opportunity to renew ourselves, and to discuss and chart the way for our party. It is an opportunity for the delegates, who are the representatives of the party members, the owners of the party, to breathe a new life into their party.

As a founding leader of the party, I was at the helm of its success in three consecutive elections.  When we were in government, we initiated reforms at various levels. We pioneered the establishment of governance institutions founded on our belief that we cannot talk of democracy and development without good governance and the rule of law.

We should therefore be proud that together we laid the strong foundations for democracy in this country. We initiated integrated rural development programmes and made poverty reduction the anchor of our development policies and programmes. That is why, with the help of our development partners, we initiated people-centred programmes through the Malawi Social Action Fund (MASAF) to spur rural infrastructure.  Through it we managed to initiate various rural infrastructure projects cutting across various sectors: education, water, health, social support, national security and agriculture.

We made primary school education free for all. We guided free elections and accomplished the establishment of a plural parliament. Competitive politics is now fully established in Malawi. Malawians are now enjoying their rights, granted some technical difficulties in some areas. We initiated the expansion of public health programmes in order to increase accessibility of heath services and facilities. We started the Starter Pack programme to improve food security in the rural areas. This has now graduated into the Subsidized Input Programme.

We can therefore safely claim that these programmes have done a lot to change the lives of our people, especially in the rural areas.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, 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.

As I stand here today, I cannot fail to reflect and ask myself: did we accomplish our change agenda? Is the agenda for change a dead one? Should we fold our hands, pat ourselves on our backs and congratulate ourselves that we achieved it all? My quick answer to these reflections is that “yes” we made some remarkable changes, and “yes” we achieved quite a lot. But, I strongly believe that we could have done even more and we need to do more as a nation.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, I believe that our gains political gains, and the socio-economic changes that we achieved in the 1990s and early 2000s have not been consolidated. To consolidate these, Malawi needs more change now than ever before!

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?

Madam Chair, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, these challenges clearly show that our change process has been incomplete.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, as I stand here, I cannot also stop projecting into the future. The next general elections in our country will be in 2014. That will be the time we will be celebrating 50 years of independence. I ask myself: what is it that we will showcase as a nation? Will we have enough reason and justification to celebrate 50 years of independence? Even more seriously, I ask myself: will Malawians be in a joyous and celebrative mood in that year given the social, political and economic crisis we have experienced especially in the last three years? Supposing this crisis continues for the next few months or a year, will our 50thindependence anniversary be a happy moment as a nation? Will we rise to the occasion and proudly proclaim that our independence from colonial rule was worth it?

My fear is that, given the current context, and what we have gone through over the last three years, we may very easily become a disinterested and gloomy-faced nation. This, we have to avoid at all cost.

Our focus should therefore be at both the present and the future.  How does this great party that presided over the initiation of societal change, get back to the driving seat where it can steer the consolidation of the change it started? This is the important question that you delegates, the owners of the party, must answer because the destiny of this party lies in your hands.

The National Conference is the legitimate forum where the party should discuss and review its policies.  The important question should be what kind of organization is the UDF today and in which direction should it go? To what extent has the party moved with the times?  What kind of leadership have we attracted into our ranks? What quality of leadership is in our branches, right up to the National Executive Committee? Is this the leadership that can get the party back to the driving seat and, even more importantly, continue with the agenda of consolidating societal transformation?

I understand that today there will be elections for positions in the National Executive Committee.  I know that some of you delegates are preoccupied with issues related to the elections.  I want to take this opportunity to advise you that you should not dilute the importance of this National Conference by reducing it to a party positions sharing event.

In any democracy, party elections are extremely important. It is where you set the agenda for the national elections. It is in these elections where you draw your team and the line up for the competitive national elections. The strength of the team you compose in these elections will make the difference between failure and success at the national elections and even beyond.

I would therefore like to urge you, the delegates, to take these elections very seriously. You should make sure that the team that you compose here carries the day at the national elections in May 2012. For this reason, you need to make sure that through these elections the party wears 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the party should use this opportunity to rebrand itself and make it more appealing to Malawians.  The United Democratic Front 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.  I would like also to urge the delegates, in a very special way, to ensure that women and the youth are given the opportunity to be in the National Executive Committee so that they participate in decision making processes at the highest level possible.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, we cannot talk of multiparty democracy in our country if we have weak political parties that only exist through the register at the office of the Registrar of Political parties.

As a 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.  Failure to do so would be a huge contradiction with our own values and what we have stood for all along. In fact, it would contradict the change agenda on which the party was founded.

Surely, the UDF cannot afford to be its old-self.  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.  Malawi, as a country, is endowed with talent but at times we are not willing to give this talent a chance. We have to change, and that change should begin today and here at this National Conference.

The language all over the world is that this is the www.com generation.  Its either we accept this reality and progress as a party or we remain the same and sink. Let us not deny the fact that the facebook generation is here and the future belongs to it. 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.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me also emphasize that in democracy there are no shortcuts and the moment we embrace short cuts as the rule of the game, we are doomed.  We must as a matter of principle allow members of this party to elect leaders of their choice from the top to the lowest structure of the party.  Elections are about one winning and others losing.  May I appeal to those who will not make it this time, to work with those who will win? I am saying those who will not make it this time because there is always another opportunity next time.

Let me also advise that if there are differences of opinion the best way to deal with them is through dialogue.  We have found ourselves in some conflicts in the past because we do not prioritize dialogue as a way of sorting out our internal differences. There are legitimate forums within the party where as members we can express our views on various issues. Instead, we have prioritized the media over these.  My view is that the media is not where you deal with your internal wrangles. The media is where you articulate your good policies and common positions the party intends to pursue.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I officially bid farewell to you members I urge you to be more united than ever before.  Let us use the UDF Party as a window to promote love among ourselves.  If there are problems please avoid using the media as a platform to churn out your frustrations.  Let us at all cost avoid making this party a laughing stock.

Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to thank the UDF leadership and the main organizing committee for allowing me to make this farewell speech today at the National Conference.  Let me also thank each one of you for the support that you gave me and the party since its formation and when it was an underground movement.  You made a lot of sacrifices and that was not in vain.  Today we are celebrating eighteen years of democracy because of your support.  This is no mean achievement in a continent where civil wars are common feature.

Madam Chair, Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, before I finish, let me take this opportunity to express my 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 my family to mourn my 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.

Finally, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to say that I will only have an enjoyable retirement if the fruits of our struggle for multiparty democracy are enjoyable by all of us.  We need strong political parties and I wish to ask you delegates to make the UDF party more united and strong.  Members must have respect for one another and leaders must be accommodative to criticism as long as it is done within the structures of the party. We all have a duty to our party and to Malawi as a nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish you a very successful National Conference and may God bless you all and bless our country.

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