New York gets busy in September. Streets are often closed because of presidential motorcades and people would crowd the streets to see presidents passing by amidst tight security. Of all the presidents, four people stood out in as far as pulling the masses on to the streets is concerned. They would be the American President,Gadaffi, Ahmednajad andHugo Chavez. They would also attract the most demonstrations outside the UN apart from China.
Of all the four presidents, Only Hugo Chavez would go to the General Assembly on foot without the motorcade pomp and visibly armed security .Meanwhile, thousands of people would rally behind him jeering ,singing and chanting Hugo! Hugo! Hugo! He would then walk down to where demonstrators on various ills around the world ranging from Tibet, Iran, and Zimbabwe to climate change to mention but a few, congregate.
All over a sudden, silence will engulf the demonstrators, and then a wave and a kiss from Hugo to the protestors would be received by a wild response of Hugo!Hugo!Hugo. This is how I remember Hugu Chavez, the first time I saw him whilst forming part of Malawi’s delegation to the United Nations.
In my memoirs of public life a book I am working on, this encounter comes after an Incident I witnessed at the UN General Assembly when King Mswati’s praise singer was told to shut up by the UN security whilst showering praises to the king apparently a tradition in the Nguni culture that alerts onlookers and bystanders of the presence of the King and his royal regiment. The man stood in total awe and shock by the level of disrespect shown to the King by this UN security man. It was hilariously funny but thats a story for another day.Todays story is a bout Hugo Chavez.
As I go through the headlines now flooding most cable networks today, I think of him as a man who was loved by the poor and the marginalized. I think of him as man who was toppled by the army and brought back to power by the masses within two days. I also think of the many faces he wore: A revolutionary pantheon who thought the best way to save planet earth from plunging is to spread his 21st centaury socialism Am not surprised that Countries such as Argentina, Cuba, Iran and many other south American nations flying their flags at half-mast whilst Cuba is grieving and grappling with life without Hugo.
The job of a president though enviable is the most funniest. They are never alone. The ever presence of security means they don’t have private life. Everything gets done for them including opening doors, and pulling out chairs. Before they know it, they get cut off from the people who voted them into office and the real world while sucking themselves into the government machinery where they push varying interests for other people yet in this very point, it seems to me, that Hugo Chavez was different. He never forgot his people, he lived with them, ate their food and fought their battles .
This is where leaders must be; on the side of the people. As an idealist, he stepped on so many people’s toes and made errors of judgment but one thing clear, tears are now flooding in most people’s faces and the noise of grief is getting louder around the world. In his book “the New Machiavelli “Jonathan Powel says “ politics is above all about idealism, values and ideas” Hugo Chavez’s chaperoned his ideas and values around poor people. Understandably, Venezuela, Latin America and the socialist community at large is in deep mourning on the passing of a valiant man. RIP Hugo Chavez
*The author Bright Malopa is former director general of Malawi Broadcasting Corp.