MCP’s four cornerstones and contemporary Malawian politics: Are they Compatible?

With the ascendency of Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera to MCP’s leadership, more people are expressing optimism that MCP may bounce back to power come May 20, 2014.

If social media comments are anything to go by, then we would say that a vital number of people planned for voter apathy for not having a candidate to entrust their votes with but with the coming in of Chakwera on political scene, many people have shown interest to beat the early bird, queue and vote. This may translate that, these people were anticipating for a candidate of Chakwera’s calibre to vote for.

Anyway not all are on social media, so social media comments may by far not be conclusive enough. While Chakwera has hit the political road and seem to have overwhelming support, my question is, are MCP’s four cornerstones compatible with contemporary Malawian politics? Well, depending on your philosophy, the answers may vary.

While others would call my article shallow, worthy being read by pedestrian and insulting their intelligence, as a pedestrian myself who respects motorists even after they close themselves outside their car, their foot visiting the ground frequently by giving each other turns and we meet in corridors and streets, my analysis is that in contemporary Malawi these cornerstones are not valid enough to reflect and manifest full rebranding expected of MCP.

Chakwera leading the rebranded MCP
Chakwera leading the rebranded MCP

Allow me to use an example of a manufacturing company which realises its products are not buying the hearts of prospective customers and expresses need for rebranding to realise more sales. In rebranding, more or less things are expected to turn around for better results of which replacing the product manager alone would not be enough.

In fact, sometimes you do not need to change the manager to rebrand the product, but if need be, the choice is absent. Some things which may be expected to change in order to rebrand the product are ingredients (the most important ones), cover, sizing etc. sometimes, changing the mission, vision and objectives would bring the most expected results for these serve as a guide on what the company wants to achieve. You can see that, changing the leadership though important, if the new leadership pursues the same vision, mission and objectives, little or no change is expected. Note that doing the same thing the same way brings the same results.

Coming to the issue of leadership change in MCP, while many rejoice for Tembo’s forced retirement on this party’s leadership, more is yet to be done if this party is to gain trust from Malawians considering its tainted history. Though almost all parties in Malawi have offended citizens in one way or another, the MCP ones may be considered grave.

After gaining power from British rule in 1964, the father and founder of Malawi nation Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda nullified other political parties and gatherings which participated in the fight against British colony making MCP the only legal political party. In 1971, Kamuzu was declared “the life president” meaning no one would think of becoming Malawi president as far as Kamuzu was alive. When Kamuzu was made the life president, his four cornerstones; unity, loyalty, discipline and obedience were accentuated to override their pilot meanings.

By unity Kamuzu Banda meant that all Malawians be one people irrespective of their tribes, regions, education, social-economic status and the like. He meant that Malawi be absolute or undivided and have nothing wanting. Sounds good isn’t it? Kamuzu believed that concert would build and develop Malawi.

He expected people from all walks of life thus Chitipa to Nsanje, Nkhotakota to Mchinji, men and women be Malawians though it was (is) alleged that he side-lined the Tumbukas. Indeed, united we stand, divided we fall. This cornerstone would still be effectual and tactile even in contemporary Malawi. Unless citizens are united, there is no development. Exemplifying this virtue, none of Chakwera’s contestants has deserted him a result of convention outcome. Yes, in a divided state you expect nepotism, tribalism, corruption, segregation, castigation of other’s tribes and regions, poverty and worse more, civil war. We really need to embrace unity to fling the mentioned vices and others.

Discipline is one of the world-shattering virtues in life. Discipline is expected in sports, education, marriage, religion, government, workplace, party politics etc. Unless discipline is instituted, nothing can be achieved in any setting. I believe by discipline, Kamuzu meant a trait of being well behaved, hardworking and following the set rules (constitution) of the state. Unless otherwise perverted, this cornerstone is not a threat to democracy.

Having expressed satisfaction with unity and discipline, I feel loyalty and obedience though in the category of virtues, are not fully compatible with contemporary Malawian democratic politics. Loyalty is the act of binding oneself to someone or a course of action. It is also about the feeling of allegiance to someone exceeding your rank in society, group or team. Obedience on the other hand is the trait of being willing or expected to obey someone in order to please him. It is dutiful or submissive behaviour with respect to another person.

To those who have experienced MCP style of governance would agree with me that both loyalty and obedience meant more than what these terms would portray to contemporary Malawians. Aligning obedience to loyalty, people were forced to go to Kamuzu rallies, offering their cars to carry people to the rallies without pay, schools and shops forcefully closed during the rally, husbands arrested, detained and beaten up for declining their wives to buy a party clothe and dance for Kamuzu Banda (Mbumba za Kamuzu), not allowed to buy a car exceeding that of Kamuzu Banda, not criticising government in any way, quizzed as to how one bought a car, forcing people to buy an identity card (Makhadi) even for the unborn baby to a pregnant woman and many other heinous acts. The meaning of these two terms were misconstrued and abused, and as far as they remain in force, the memories of MCP ruthless leadership will keep on popping up. MCP forgot that leadership is a privilege and not a right.

The ascendency of Reverend Chakwera to top MCP leadership is not enough without revising its mission, vision and objectives to guide the leadership being compatible with postmodernity. My understanding and I stand to be corrected is that, these cornerstones are like the party’s mission, vision and objectives or say engine as by enforcing them MCP would achieve quality and delectable leadership of which to me the opposite was and may be true.

As highlighted earlier, MCP may retain Unity and Discipline but should consider retooling loyalty and obedience for postmodern/.com generation is critical and would not be expected to just obey and be loyal without analysing what is expected of them. In order for people to flake MCP’s meaning of these two terms as they meant then, MCP would embrace another cornerstone such as “Tolerance” instead.

Tolerance would mean that, MCP will not force people to obey what they think is undemocratic and not always expect their loyalty as if they don’t have other businesses. In some instances PP has expressed tolerance. For instance Henry Duncan Phoya apologised over gule wamkulu slur, Henry Chibwana scammed to pressure and resigned from his party position over offensive and undemocratic one party remarks and after being lambasted by Seodi White, President Joyce Banda kept mum for democracy’s sake. Loyalty and obedience would have no room for such.

DPP pursued development, security and justice though justice proved futile and collapsed to some extent considering the intolerance spirit which egressed during Bingu’s second term but these objectives, cornerstones or whatever you may call them still fit in contemporary Malawi. UDF is pursuing “agenda for change” which is yet to be paraphrased but makes sense in contemporary Malawi. I am saying Atupele’s agenda for change needs to be paraphrased because change does not change and his father pursued the same (zinthu zisintha basi) but apart from democracy and ratification of the bill of rights, people’s key expectations were betrayed. We need to know the quality and extent of the change expected. When I look at PP’s party sign, I would interpret it as symbolising to unlock development; however we need more than a symbol because up to now most Malawians are locked into poverty prison.

PP’s symbol seems to be comprehensive as pursuing it would mean eliminating insecurity, corruption, tribalism and regionalism, laziness, jealousy, and other vices in order to unlock development. So, the symbol is compatible with post-modernity if pursued with seriousness and objectivity.

I urge Dr. Chakwera’s leadership to consider revisiting these cornerstones for without which he would be pursuing unsuitable objectives, or if otherwise, these cornerstones will be meaningless. If these cornerstones are not revised and instead pursued and MCP happens to reclaim its glory come May 20, 2014, the old MCP may to some extent resurface. Mine is just an advice, you have a right to take heed of it or not depending on your vision for contemporary Malawi.

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