By March 2012 Atupele Muluzi had amassed a decent following and was on course to win over even more doubting Thomases.
Despite inheriting a dubious legacy, by (a) repeating the claim that he was his own man, (b) including his father’s reign in his condemnation of Malawi’s historical ills and (c) mincing no words in his rebuke of the ‘Moses gone bad’ now eternalised with a statue that resembles the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) running mate more than the late, Atupele was beginning to be taken seriously.
Scanning the political landscape and bad governance then, were a presidential election held, Atupele had as good a chance of winning as the veteran JZU Tembo and the then fiery Joyce Banda.
Blues’ Orators, on this column, facts come first and here we go down memory lane.
“Ladies and Gentlemen: freedom, democracy, tolerance, fairness, social justice and good governance are more than a set of ideals randomly picked from books. They are my core beliefs and values. ….. Now, the tenets that I have highlighted above are indeed an end in themselves. But most importantly, they are also a means to transforming our society so that it can deliver on: wealth creation, service delivery and social justice and fairness.
I will focus on two tenets that are key to the transformation in our society: a) our economy and b) our social /political institutions.”
This was the Atupele of 2011.
Armed with the Agenda4Change, like a man possessed, Atupele traversed Malawi and caused so much hypertension in the now mis-sculptured Bingu that he felt something had to be done to contain him.
In March 2012, following two days of unrest in Lilongwe, Atupele was arrested and charged with inciting violence when after Police tear–gassed his rally, the crowd ran riot and torched a police station.
Speaking in an interview from Cape Town, South Africa, Muluzi Sr weighed in:
“We are on a very dangerous path. Police should not be allowed to become partisan or be used as agents of DPP against perceived opponents, this is not what people like I and Chakufwa Chihana fought for,” said Muluzi Sr arguing that Atupele’s extended detention was against the constitutionally allowed 48 hours.
“I am demanding that Atupele should be released forthwith…. He has become a political prisoner now …. That is unfortunate in a democracy,” said Muluzi Sr who cut short his medicals to personally attend to Atupele’s arrest.
Atupele became ill in detention and was admitted at Mwaiwathu Private Hospital.
April 2012 was catastrophic and following that calamity, president Joyce Banda took over. She co-opted Atupele Muluzi as the Minister for Economic Planning and Development in her Cabinet.
Atupele apparently joined the Cabinet after succumbing to an overwhelming “moral responsibility to assist the government… restore lost credibility and confidence.”
This was tricky because once Atupele accepted the ministerial position, his Agenda4Change began to irreparably falter.
What happened next came as no surprise.
The overwhelming “moral responsibility” that led him to accept a ministerial post in JB’s Cabinet was tested and found wanting when some Peoples’ Party (PP) zealots called him names at a rally.
“I was thus appalled and mortified by the public comments recently uttered against me by some members of the government in a manner that lacked the courtesy, mutual respect and dignity expected between colleagues.”
“I therefore as a matter of principle, do not believe that I can continue to serve as a Member of the Cabinet with the honour and dignity that is requisite for the performance of such duties and responsibilities incumbent with such a position.”
In short, the “moral responsibility” notwithstanding, he quit.
Meanwhile, the Agenda for Change had lost totally traction. The young man who could have won elections in March 2012 only managed a distant fourth in May 2014.
Less than 50 days to the polls, doubts are lingering on whether Atupele’s May 2021 2019 presidential candidacy is for real.
The thing is, while he is contesting on UDF ticket, he insists on continuing to serve as Health Minister in the DPP-led government which is fielding its own candidate in President Peter Mutharika.
“I am contesting as the UDF torch-bearer in the forthcoming elections. A lot has been said about my candidature, but I am insisting that I am contesting come what may,” Muluzi is reported to have said just last week.
Watching and listening to him during debates, he is behaving and sounding more like a DPP stooge than an opposition candidate.
At the first presidential debate for instance, his twin goals seem to have been debunkingSaulos Chilima and disparaging Lazarus Chakwera’s performance as Leader of Opposition when Chakwera’s parliamentary booboos are a direct result of UDF’s voting with DPP.
With respect to Chilima, Atupele’s stance is fuelled by sheer jealousy because Atupele knowsthat had he not vacated his role as the Youth’s Presidential Candidate, Chilima’s crowds would have been his.
The Youths he ditched in pursuit of a Cabinet position are having the last laugh and have simply substituted him with Chilima as the youthful leader they once believed they had in Atupele.
“As in nature,” observed Mark McKinnon, “politics abhors a vacuum.”
This is very true of Atupele who by shirking his role as an opposition politician, created the vacancy Chilima has filled.
But then again we all know why Atupele cannot risk infuriating DPP: if he dared, that unresolved case would flare up again.
When all has been said and done, Atupele’s fall seems to be poetic justice in that one born with a silver spoon obtained dubiously is finding that very spoon weighing him down like a dead weight which is a pity because without that dead weight, Atupele wouldn’t have to bootlick.
Blues’ Orators, did I hear you talk about sins of the father being visited on the son?
- This was first published in The Sunday Times . Posted with author’s permission.