It is a documented fact that some of the world’s great men and liberation heroes spent some time in jail at various times during their fight for freedom. I have in mind names of such luminaries like Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Kamuzu Banda, Robert Mugabe and others of their time.
Some, like Mandela, spent a better part of their lives (27 years) incarcerated for fighting for a good cause. These people are obviously heroes who command a lot of respect in their countries, and whose heroics have come to be recognized and celebrated by a majority of their people.
Perhaps this fact might have been the irresistible motivation that has forced our own President Peter Mutharika (of the poorest country in the world) and his DPP cohorts to attempt thrusting upon their president the legacy of a ‘liberation hero who endured a mosquito-infested police cell for a few days and nights to fight for our freedom’.
The President was in town leading a charade of DPP cadets that went about painting police cells and visited prisons, apparently commemorating the second anniversary of his arrest together with the ‘midnight six’ folks. The President spent some time painting graffiti on the walls of his police cell at Lingadzi Police Unit in the Capital City, and delivering a political speech that immediately whirled into thin air.
The day was capped off with a political rally where DPP officials took turns to castigate and demonize the former government for the role they might have played in the arrests and persecution of Mutharika and his DPP fellas. The President distributed a couple of medals to some DPP cadets for their ‘gallant fight for freedom’ and sticking with him throughout his dog moment.
Last year, President Mutharika burst on the political scene preaching a message of reconciliation and hope, and promising to bring a new brand of politics that is more inclusive and less vindictive. But the way the ‘new brand of politics’ is taking the shape of old politics is so unprecedented and pretty scary.
One wonders what President Mutharika was really trying to achieve with this obvious misguided and ill-timed commemoration. In fact, another relevant question is who might have advised our dear President to go ahead and sink so low?
Or, rather, what happened to his army of advisors not to ‘tell their emperor that he does not have clothes and that he is naked’? Does this charade even remotely dovetail with his message of reconciliation?
Someone tell Mutharika that positioning his arrest as a heroic escapade and political persecution is not a smart fishing expedition. Mutharika and his midnight six crew attempted to block a constitutional order by lying to the whole nation that his late brother, (President) Bingu wa Mutharika was still alive and that they were flying him to hospital in South Africa for treatment.
All this time Peter Mutharika knew his own brother was very dead and that they were only flying a cadaver to South Africa for reasons best known to him. Can someone please help in plucking out any heroics worth celebrating? We may debate on whether this was treason or not, but it was a pure matter of wrongdoing and very criminal in nature. To attempt to create a national legacy out of this unfortunate event is pure madness.
Instead of focusing on national issues that would move this country forward, Mutharika and his DPP government are once again dwelling on trivia; this time, dangerous trivia, which may only promote tension and hate politics in this country.
When Chris Hani, a black ANC freedom fighter, was shot and killed in South Africa, Nelson Mandela averted a potentially violent political backlash that would have iced his negotiations with the white apartheid government, and made Syria or Boko Haram look like a prayer breakfast. Mandela emphasized on the heroics of a white woman who witnessed the murder and reported the matter to police, leading to the arrest of the shooter – a white immigrant.
He emphasized to his countrymen that this was not an apartheid-related murder but the work of some lunatic from a foreign country. This was one of the many episodes that the fallen icon proved he was a unifying figure and liberation hero. Yet, he never bragged about it.
Nelson Mandela once said: “Some people are born great, some achieve greatness whilst others have greatness thrust upon them. I think I belong to the latter category.” Such was the humility of the man that, despite all his greatness, he still did not believe he was a hero.
In fact, he thought other liberation heroes such as Steve Biko, Giovanni Mbeki and Oliver Tambo deserved more the tag of hero than he did.
Not that we want our Peter Mutharika to suddenly turn into some Nelson Mandela. That cannot happen anywhere under the sun, but at least he must try to grab some excerpts from Mandela’s giant book of virtues. Unfortunately, our President has always been a victim of bad advice. Remember, he was heard in a leaked recording asking and consuming advice from Charles Mchacha (of all the people)on what to tell journalists on some succession issues. He said a lot of belittling things about his fellow DPP leaders.
Heroism is earned through heroic acts. You don’t buy or manufacture heroism neither is it earned through criminal acts like what Peter Mutharika is currently trying to hoodwink Malawians into believing. Malawians may soon realize that they have been hit by a presidential masquerade, who may aswell just be a smooth criminal.
- Hastings Kandoje is a political, social and economic commentator. He writes for Nyasa Times in his personal capacity