The drama unfolding in Malawi vindicates late Alan Namoko!

The quiet revolution sweeping over Malawi was inconceivable earlier this year. And Fidel Castro definitely knew his stuff when he said that a revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

While I do not agree with his style, I cannot agree more with him on this one. What is transpiring in Malawi is indeed a bitter struggle between the future and the past and no-one has been spared in its wake.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Who knew for instance that Dr. George Chaponda has it in him to oppose or criticize anything? This is the man who made international news with the farting law.

He defended the non-existent farting law so passionately that Wikipedia has since crowned him a top authority on issues to do with farting anyhow in public.

Verbatim, Wikipedia says he told the private Capital Radio’s popular ‘Straight Talk’ programme: “Would you be happy to see people farting anyhow?”

John Tembo

This was Dr. George Chaponda, in defence of a law that he obviously had neither read; or if he had, had not understood it at all despite holding a Yale PhD.

He was so obsessed with defending and defending irrespective of whether the issue he was defending was sensible or not. Now look at him today.

According to Zodiak Online, on Tuesday went to town on President Joyce Banda’s speech, describing it as divisive and lacking distinctiveness and, for the first time since I have known him, he questioned something.

Miracles indeed happen!

“How can you talk of reconciliation and forgiveness when one is setting up commission of inquiries that may just turn into a ground for witch-hunting?” eloquently questioned Dr. George Chaponda, our own good old George of the farting law fame!

And reportedly he did not stop there; he had something up his sleeve too. He said there was need to come up with a truth and reconciliation commission and not commissions of inquiry. Who can fault the Yale graduate for not suggesting alternatives? No-one.

And that was not all either. He then reverted to his field of expertise – defending the indefensible – and defended the blatant tribalism and nepotism that was the trade mark of the former regime, saying “it is a common practice everywhere”. The one thing I can say about this defence, is that it is pitiable especially coming from a lawyer.

“What Bingu did was roping in professionals who were loyal to the party…and President Banda has done the same, we haven’t condemned her,” he said.

Which professionals was he referring to? Mwanamvekha and his MRA clowns? Sadly, he did not elaborate.

He nevertheless concluded his harangue by schooling parliament on the difference between planning a coup d’état and “merely seeking a constitutional interpretation.”

Enough of farty George, now let us move on. Before we burst with laughter and launch a loud fart in the process, which farty George will obviously find repulsive enough to legislate against!

The one thing that Dr George Chaponda should learn from Fidel Castro (again) is that in the mode Malawi is in, this revolution is a dictatorship of the exploited against the exploiters and he would do well to brace for the worst.

The abdication of the Leader of opposition

Now, if the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was wondering how to snatch the post of leader of opposition from Hon John Zenas Ungapake Tembo, they need not worry. JZU has voluntarily abdicated from this role.

The former leader of opposition Hon. John Tembo has said that looking at how the new Joyce Banda administration has performed so far, the opposition will now become ‘an advisory committee’ of sorts.

But since old habits die hard and although he has technically abdicated, he had to “oppose something”.

“What should I oppose?” JZU thought.

He looked back and found from our recent history a convenient scapegoat, the best one could have hoped for. What else could this be other than the villain of the day – the ghost of the deserted “Titanic” called the DPP regime?

He therefore vented his anger on the defunct DPP regime for the problems the country was facing before President Banda took over the presidency last month (which coincidentally are still intact save for promises).

What this condemnation was in aid of, nobody knows. The fact is nobody is denying the fact that the “Titanic” on its way down, messed up big time. Even DPP die-hards like Noel Masangwi and Wakuda Kamanga are on record admitting as much and they even went to the extent of bandying about apologies while they were at it.

Hon Tembo then proceeded to set the record straight once and for all.

“Eureka!” JZU shouted in triumph, “Contrary to what people have wrongly believed, the role of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) this time around will be to advise the government!”

“I was talking to Malawi Congress Party [MCP] members of parliament at our caucus on our role as opposition. Some people wrongly believe that our role is to oppose. But this government is already addressing the problems that the country has been sailing through. What will we be opposing? Our role as opposition will be to advise and encourage this government. There is nothing to oppose at the moment.”

One can only hope for mother Malawi’s sake that he will alert his parliamentarians when something worth opposing crops up; and I can dare to hazard a guess how this could happen.

Let us assume for example, that John Tembo Jr has for some reason been recalled from the Embassy in UK; or that Nancy Tembo’s tenure at the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has been prematurely cut short. What would happen?

This, I believe, would be a wake-up call to start opposing. Other than this, I do not see how under the present circumstances, JZU would oppose anything, hence the insinuation to abdicating his role.

Funny how a son’s and an in-law’s appointment can change a man’s perspective, isn’t it? This President Joyce Banda is definitely not an amateur it appears. (I am as am writing, working hard to suppress a strong urge to talk about the untimely demise of the Agenda for Change – our subject for another day.)

But just in case the voters were listening, the veteran politician had something for them. Agriculture being the mainstay of the central region, he ensured to make some noise in that regard.

He pledged to support the government in the agricultural sector, and reiterated the obvious fact that this sector is key to Malawi’s industrial growth and with potential for exports and proposed that the sector needs investment in research and technology and promotion of mechanisation of agriculture.

Not one to leave anything to chance, he also threw in improvement in the health, education and transport and communication sectors.

But it appears that he still had a feeling that he had not done enough, especially in his duly appointed role of opposing.  With his conscience hounding him for not opposing enough for a leader of opposition, he reverted to his punch bag – again the now water-logged “Titanic” formerly referred to as the DPP government.

“Mr. Speaker Sir, over the past few years, we witnessed a nation maturing itself into a mess by the deliberate policies and ambitions of those that were entrusted with authority to govern us all. I am extremely happy to state that impunity has its end. The end of an era of oppression, suppression and depression has beckoned the dawn of new hope and a new Malawi where every person can have his or her dignity back,” Tembo said, without missing a beat.

To rub everything in, he reminded all and sundry of the “blame game” that the DPP government often resorted to.

“The government at that time gave the nation a number of theories to explain the nightmares Malawians were experiencing. These explanations ranged from economic sabotage by the opposition, the civil society and some ill-willed Malawians to ‘Satan had sat on us.

“While the people of this nation were sleeping at filling stations in anticipation for a litre of fuel, running from one hospital to another in search of a tablet of aspirin, queuing for a packet of sugar, and the list can go on, the privileged few were jumping from one plane to another and from one conference to another proclaiming that the Malawi economy is right in track.”

Tembo then pronounced judgement on a DPP government that is no longer in existence; saying it had failed Malawians.

“Mr. speaker sir, it was disheartening, if I may use that word, is that when the whole nation was expecting the government to give us some word of hope by outlining the measures that were being put in place regarding the fiscal and monetary policies aimed at addressing these challenges, our government was busy castigating the church, the civil society, the opposition and some of our development partners, while continuing declaring the works of their hands at the expense of daily livelihood of the sons and daughters of this nation.”

Cunning as ever, he was aware that some could see through his miserable act. And given his age, he is aware that a revolution is not necessarily a bed of roses. (There goes Fidel Castro again)  As an afterthought, he expressed the hope that the joy that people now have will not be short-lived.

“As a nation, we are coming out of a socio-economic mess, the expectations and the aspirations of the people of Malawi are that we should not take them back to where we have been. This new government is a beacon of hope for Malawi. We believe a new dawn has come for all Malawians.”

The Catch-22 for scribes and analysts:

Caught in the cross-fires of this role reversal are most of my former brothers and sisters-in-arms: the critics. Critical writers in Malawi are now in trouble. They are a confused lot because their beloved newsmaker is no longer on the scene. So what can one write about?

Mind you, the appetite of editors for articles to fill the columns has not decreased even with the departure of the generous news maker. Editors still expect all scribes to deliver.

The result is that, reading Malawian publications or blogs today is akin to reading the parliamentary hansard of the former DPP-led parliament or perusing minutes of the then hand-clapping DPP cabinet. Both of which were found wanting and have since been condemned for over-praising mediocrity and an individual to the extent of making him believe that he was one of the three Wise Men from the East or even King Solomon re-incarnated.

From the look of things, a good bunch of analysts are at risk of becoming extinct. Some have unwittingly mutated into historians. Bingu this, and Bingu that. Come-on my friends, let us concentrate on the living and there are plenty of them around us blundering day in, day out!

And the same goes for publications. From being wealthy sources of contrary opinion and confidential information, they are slowly but surely evolving into chronicles and diaries of the new president and the new government. They are too obsessed with wanting to make a good impression on the new regime.

What are we angling for? Hasn’t Steve Nhlane’s appointment closed the vacancy at the State House?

At the opposite end of the spectrum, there is a ray of hope. We are now witnessing a new breed of critics we never knew could voice contrary views against a government – at least until early April 2012.

This lot is now entertaining the general public by churning out philosophical articles that if given to the previous government, could have alleviated matters somewhat. But well, it is never too late isn’t it?

With time they will forget the sour grapes and probably replace the lot that are acquiring hand-clapping skills, and life will go on.

Conclusion: Kuno ndi kunja

The recent monumental developments in Malawi have practically turned the landscape upside down leaving almost every-one disoriented. For the same reason, Malawi is now at a crossroads and witnessing radical paradigm shifts in key interest groups.

It is not only farty George, old JZU or reputed critics who are struggling to adjust to the new order of things in the absence of a convenient punch bag.

The normally vocal Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Kamuzu Chibambo’s opposition group that boasted of 15 briefcase parties at its peak, the Church and the mighty Public Affairs (PAC) have yet to find the mouth with which to issue stinging ultimatums on beliefs that they hold dear, let alone convene national indabas to discuss matters of national import.

It goes without saying that no one in Malawi will decrease their chances of succumbing to blood pressure by marching any time soon. Dr Ken Lipenga – a ranking survivor – is also banking on this – hence his staying put after surviving a half-hearted outcry.

How long will this illusion last? Nobody knows but one thing is for sure, revolution mode or not, the late Allan Namoko was right when he sang “kuno ndi kunja kumayanja lichero!

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