Off the wall of Dickson Kashoti: Birthday of democracy in Malawi but dictatorship still looms

Today, 23 years ago, Malawians, including myself braved the chilly weather to go out in massive numbers to vote in a referendum on whether Malawi should remain one party state or revert to multiparty democracy.

People queuing to vote in Malawi's first referendum, Blantyre voting office, Malawi, 1993
People queuing to vote in Malawi’s first referendum, Blantyre voting office, Malawi, 1993

This was a turning point for Malawi’s politics, economy and socio life. Many Malawians of voting age turned out and most of them wanted change.

As a journalist working for the only newspaper then, the Daily Times, I knew the fury of the people against Kamuzu Banda and his close allies who monopolised the politics, the economy and virtually all aspects of Malawi life while the majority of the people lived in abject poverty. I knew change was coming because even journalists at Blantyre Newspapers Limited, as it was known then, were hated for working for Kamuzu’s huge commercial empire whose chairman was Kamuzu’s own right hand man, John Tembo.

Come next day, June 15, Charles Kamphulusa, the Blantyre District MCP chairman, now deceased, found a slain black cock (tambala wakuda) on his house door step in Chilomoni, Blantyre, a clear statement to him that the one party era was gone and the new era of prosperity was coming.

Looking back, I think Malawians’ wishes and aspirations after that June 14, 1993 referendum vote have not been met. We are yet to have the freedom of speech. When the opposition criticise the government, they are called all sorts of names for taking their rightful positions and roles as legitimate opposition.

The President does not want any criticism as if he wants to run the country in one party state style, describing journalists as misguided and declaring he had stopped reading local newspapers because it is trash.

The government refusal to be accountable and transparent to the Malawians as evidenced by its refusal to handover the running of governance institutions like Anti Corruption Bureau  to parliament, President Peter Mutharika’s refusal to trim his powers on flimsy excuses that he is protecting the office for future presidents, the ruling party continued stance to use tax payers run MBC and its professional and highly trained journalists as cheer leaders for the Democratic Progressive Party.

Malawians accused Kamuzu and a few of his allies of dominating the government but that is exactly what is happening now.

Ministers are sending their wives, children, inlaws  to embassies as diplomats ; kodi dziko lonseli anzeru ndinu nokha? This politics of cronyism and nepotism was supposed to end today 23 years ago.

Then the opposition are still behaving like kindergarten children. The Malawi Congress Party and Peoples Party legislators are behaving as headless chickens. They are demanding K80000 daily allowance when they know very well that a primary school teacher or a medical assistant in government does not get nearer to that money as a monthly salary. Who do they think they are?

Even the current K50000 daily allowance is too high which must be cut in these tough economic times. In addition, they get K1.5 million a month in basic salary and K400 per kilometre of their cars for tnt. It is unfair to demand large share of the national cake when the majority cannot afford a meal.

The opposition MPs should stop behaving as lunatics.

Dr Lazarus Chakwera should come out clear and condemn this in his capacity as Leader of Opposition otherwise we would think this is engineered by him and his credentials as a credible leader would be compromised.

A government in waiting does not behave stupidly like that. No wonder there is nothing to celebrate on this day, no wonder it is not a holiday and few people hardly know the significance of the day. Malawi will never move an inch with this horrible mindset!

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Cash Gate
6 years ago

zaka 31 zikwana tili mu democracy koma kumbali ya chitukuko sizinayende, chabwino chomwe chabwera ndi ufulu wamalankhulidwe basi. Democracy yabweletsa umphwawi pa anthu.

6 years ago

Please forgive me if I refrain from contributing to the discourse of negativity. We have an obvious problem and an obvious solution. Under the present dispensation, constituencies send MPs to Parliament to represent the interests of their parties, not the interests of the constituents who elected them. Some people liken these parties to power cartels that collude to maintain their collective advantage. Others compare them to organized crime syndicates that control so much of the national wealth and power that they have managed to buy or intimidate the organizations tasked with monitoring and controlling them and keeping them honest. Because… Read more »

Winston Msowoya
Winston Msowoya
6 years ago

After the wanton MCP regime was vanquished in 1994 by the forces of the so-called democratic reformers,it seems today,we are back to square one.When I was in exile,I used to hear stories praising Banda’s good leadership that had transformed the nation into the developmental phase of come and see.I was an excited individual to hear such good news,but when I went home in mid 90s after 30 years in exile, it looked different from what I used to hear.Life in rural areas was treacherously unbearable,poverty was at its worse,Rumphi was in the same shape or form as I left it… Read more »

6 years ago

Dick, you have hit the nail on the head. Do you know that people who are destroying democracy did not fight for freedom. They were busy enjoying themselves. Look at Peter Mutharika, Goodal Gondwe, Goerge Chaponda. They were in USA drinking tea with Americans. Henry Musa was in Zambia. Bingu wa Mutharika was in USA. The chief spy actually voted for tambala wakuda. These people are destroying democracy. President Mutharika is even worse because he is an accidental leader. He was handpicked by his brother. We need to fight these dictators. You can see that DPP is now using its… Read more »

The Analyst
The Analyst
6 years ago

O………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….O Its very saddening to see how freedom of speech is systematically being choked in this country. . . . look at Jessie Kabwira. This lady was one of the most fierce and fearless critics of govt’s underperformance. . . . . . . . but what did they do to her? she was being watched! Then shaken with arrests and resultant inconveniences (on her VISA applications and stuff). Now her voice is gone. Likewise, Henry Kachaje. . . . Almost each and every week, we could read something from Kachaje. And we enjoyed criticising him here (I must admit).… Read more »

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