Of Gwanda, Tembo and the misnomer of ‘Leader of Opposition’

Steven Chikanzi Gwandanguluwe Chakuamba Phiri is an unhappy man. The opposition is dying and he is concerned. We all should share this concern, especially when the so-called Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Honourable John Zenus  Ungapake Tembo, says there is nothing to oppose in this new dispensation. It does not help, of course, that the latter is Gwanda’s nemesis. The two have been in a mortal combat for political supremacy over decades, and the battle has always swung like a see-saw, now-Gwanda-is-leader-now-Tembo-now-Gwanda-now-Tembo, like that.

‘Where do you see the opposition say there is nothing to criticize the government for?’ quipped Gwanda as reported by Nyasa Times. ‘Should we really be supporting the government on every decision every day?’

Gwanda’s questions have merit. A  lot of merit. Her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda, President of the Republic of Malawi, would be the first to admit she, like any human being, is prone to err. She needs constructive opposition to steady the sinking ship that our nation had become due to the Bingu wa Mutharika misrule.

Chakuamba: Retire from political retirement

In fact, in this our country, things begin to go wrong when sentiments like Mr Tembo’s are accepted as dogma in the corridors of power. Suddenly a president begins to believe in being infallible, that whatever said or done is sacrosanct. But then Mr Tembo has enough reason to swoon: his son has been singled out for appointment as deputy High Commissioner to the UK. So, at any rate, Mr Tembo has that huge legendary scone in his mouth, and is incapable of providing constructive opposing views.

Yet Gwanda Chakuamba is not a character that one can take seriously these days. Before you accuse me of uttering the logical fallacy of argumentum ad hominem, let us examine his record. Like JZU he is of the old school, the type that believed their president for thirty years could commit no wrong, could not fall ill, and that whatever he uttered was law.

Gwanda could not have said these words, true as they are, with the spirit with which such wise words need to be said. He merely wants to gain political mileage to challenge Mrs Banda in 2014. He has thus far retired from retirement twice, and seems to have absolutely no idea that his name recognition has fully depreciated to near-zero in the hearts and minds of the electorate.

He would have tough time to sell it to any reasonable man, seeing he kowtowed to Bingu wa Mutharika, bought himself a state-of-the-art BMW X5 for no reason other than the fact that BMW has always been his favourite car. And then there was that imbroglio with Grace Mhango, his erstwhile secretary, who kicked a heap of mud that landed onto his face, complete with allegations of sexual abuse and other homoerotic hanky-panky.

I am not shooting the messenger, but Chakuamba is not saying these nice words with the sincerity of a messenger. He is trying to weave a story that might be a selling point of himself to the electorate.  It’s a tough task, because JB has hit the ground running, making all the necessary changes that are needed to move this country forward. So far she is doing fine. Presidential jet? Out! Sixty Mercedes Benz? Out! Bad laws? Out! Aid taps? Running. And this is before 100 days in office! It would be hard in two years for any challenger to spin a yarn strong enough to sow seeds of doubts in the electorate,unless she commits a monumental blunder of the Mutharika-First-Lady-salary magnitude.

Which reminds me: what is ‘opposition’ in the context of parliament? Is it merely to oppose everything for the sake of opposition? Methinks ‘Leader of Opposition’ is a misnomer and must be amended forthwith. Let’s call him ‘Minority Leader’ as is the case in the United States and some other countries around the world. The nomenclature makes some people think that when government says it is the sun shining in the sky at three p.m. today the Leader of Opposition should stand up and say no it’s the moon!

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