“I am publishing this memoir after more than twenty years of my incarceration, not because I want to take my revenge on Banda and his inner circle for permanently shattering my academic career. I left vengeance to the Lord, who knows my opponents better than I do. Nor do I want to be a spoiler when most Malawians are intent on forgetting the past in order to move on…… I merely want to remind my compatriots that we should not allow ourselves to revert to the brutal days of Banda and his Kadzamira-Tembo cabal, when we lived in fear of everything and everybody including our own president, and when the only life that mattered was that of the president, his relatives and the coven around him; and more importantly, when the lives of the rest of us were considered worthless to them.” —Jack Mapanje, in And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night.
I have a strong premonition that the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) will not make it in the forthcoming May 20 tripartite election – a very strong premonition.
When the MCP held its national indaba last year, and elected an esteemed church reverend in the name of Dr. Lazarus Chakwera as its president and torchbearer in the forthcoming elections, I – like many in the country – celebrated the imagined novelty that would supposedly flow onto the Malawi political arena.
Before the MCP indaba, I happened to have been a child of a different political kindred altogether; but, the unexpected rise of Chakwera and fall of John Tembo in the new MCP had me think otherwise. Like many, my soul danced frenziedly to the euphoria that MCP had brought about. Unrealistic ecstasy, I must say.
Finally Malawi was going to see genuine dawn, like most of my fellow countrymen, I thought!
…but it has recently dawned on me that MCP – if I’m to personify it – is a spent force, and an expired member of this millennium…. It has no chance in a democratic Malawi anymore in as far as politics is concerned.
Malawians celebrated JZU’s fall, not Chakwera’s rise
Before the MCP convention, the buzz in local media as well as, of course, in a few international news outlets was whether or not Tembo – populary known as JZU in the political realms – was going to compete for the party’s top seat yet again.
To be gospel truthful, many Malawians do not like the over 80 years old veteran politician for reasons “enough to fill stacks and stacks of paper,” according to one academic who was exiled way back during the MCP regime, when JZU mattered than all.
So, upon hearing that JZU was not going to contest at the party’s convention, Malawians – not just diehard MCP conduits – celebrated. They celebrated the stepping down of a man they had not wanted after all. A man who had always been a hard nut to crack each time the suggestion that he should pave way for young blood arose.
It was, in fact, a surprise in spite of his frailty that JZU was really stepping down. It was strange.
And that was what Malawians, including me, celebrated – the triumphant fall, if I may use an expression closer to a biblical, of John Zenus Ungapake Tembo.
The euphoria, which has smouldered now, that was mistakenly said to about Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, was actually all about JZU’s stepping down.
No winning strategy for MCP
It is funny that much as MCP under Chakwera touts itself as a “new” and “transformational” party, it has showed no novelty so far. JZU, who announced his retirement from frontline politics, is still on board the so-called “new” MCP – making noise supposed to add chances for Chakwera to get the Malawi Inc. CEO post. And; of course, one Mama Cecilia Kadzamira – one of the most unpopular Malawian female politicians of all time for her role in a number of disgusting detentions without trial during the Banda totalitarian regime.
The two names are not ones the “new” MCP must be associating itself with if it really wants to appeal to most voters, including me. Having JZU and Kadzamira gracing Chakwera campaign trails is no winning strategy for MCP. In fact, it is a losing strategy!
Aside that, MCP has all lost it out on wooing voters to itself. The Tambala Night dinners which the party has been holding across the country cannot just work in Malawi. It is, in fact, laughable. One does not expect most Malawians, who survive on less than a dollar a day, to buy the notion of fundraising towards the party through such strategies.
What, after all, will they offer if they fail to buy some cheap maize flour, small fish and salt for their day-to-day survival? Can a poor Malawian pay about US$35 dollars for some so-called Tambala Night where people simply drink and urinate?
So, to be frank, MCP has no winning strategy, and it will in fact not win. Some quarters have been recently arguing that since Chakwera is from the Central Region and his running mate Richard Msowoya is from the Northern Region, then he will beat his three main contenders who presumably will share votes in the Southern Region.
But MCP must know that it is no longer as popular in the Central Region, and that the politics of voting someone based on where they come from is fast losing ground. And for choosing Msowoya as running mate, thinking he will bring with him a sack of considerable votes from the North, is another big joke.
Msowoya might be an experienced politician. He might be good at articulating policy issues and what have you. But he is not a heavy weight. He is not popular even in his constituency. To date some voters do not know him even in his own district, his own region.
MCP and its pathetic dark past
In And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night: A chronicle of a poet’s imprisonment under life president Banda of Malawi, Jack Mapanje brings to the fore the evil that was punctuated by MCP’s 30 year old rule.
Mapanje, who was detained without trial for three years, seven months, sixteen days and more than twelve hours for his dissenting views and radical poetry, narrates aptly well the circumstances prior, during and after his disgusting detention.
Very striking about the book is the fact that Mapanje, brings to the fore how it was all happening then, and mentions names of principal personalities who orchestrated most evils during the Banda era. JZU – the one who suddenly stepped down to pave way for Chakwera, the one who is currently working behind the scenes alongside Chakwera, the one who is said to have masterminded the assassinations of scores and scores of Malawians – is one of such named diabolic men.
MCP, therefore, can under no circumstances claim to be new today. MCP is evil, and most of her sins cannot be forgotten and forgiven by most Malawians. When one Bright Mhango – a Malawian journalist and blogger (www.mutafire.blogspot.com) – wrote in one of his entries that it is “satanic to celebrate [MCP and] Kamuzu,” I thought he was merely an extremist good at exaggerating MCP’s past. I was wrong. After reading a number of books on Dictator Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, I can no longer say kind things about the party and its leadership.
MCP is a regionalist party which does not want people from other regions to hit it big except the Central Region – where it claims to have strong roots. Historically, it is on record that to have some of the most brilliant people the country has ever had like Henry Masauko Chipembere (from Mangochi) sent to forced exile as well having the likes of Mupa Shumba, Felix Mnthali, Peter Mwanza et cetera (all from the North) arrested and detained without trial.
Malawians are not ready for another pathetic-dark future with MCP at its steering wheel. Not after a mere twenty years. Not anytime soon. Unless if Malawians really forget easily.
Verdict, my verdict
I still do not know which party will win – but MCP must count itself out of the race. As far as the May 20 tripartite elections are concerned, the party is merely a drop in the ocean. It cannot move mountains. It is not true that Malawians have easily forgotten their dark past under MCP!
As Mapanje puts it in his And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night: “I merely want to remind my compatriots that we should not allow ourselves to revert to the brutal days of Banda and his Kadzamira-Tembo cabal, when we lived in fear of everything and everybody including our own president, and when the only life that mattered was that of the president, his relatives and the coven around him; and more importantly, when the lives of the rest of us were considered worthless to them.”
And the Kadzamira-Tembo cabal is not all gone. It is present, working underground – looking forward to striking us once again.
Simply put, MCP is and must not be popular. Of course it will continue being popular on social media, and other such fora, but never on the ground – at least in this day and age.
*Pius Nyondo is a Malawian writer, poet, Nyasa Times journalist and social commentator of national and international repute writing in his personal capacity.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :