It is barely just about four or so years ago when the abbreviation MDF startled me for a while. I have always connected this with the Malawi Defence Force or what some people erroneously refer to as the ‘army’ and some avid Tumbuka tongue as ‘wanyithu wa Arume’.
That was not to be. And when on this very web-news a headline screamed ‘MDF challenges Bingu…’ I could not believe it. That day the first link I clicked on was that news item, only to fall back and discover this was a different thing altogether.
That MDF stood for ‘Malawi Diaspora Forum’. A group of strong minded Malawians based mainly in the United Kingdom but with a watchful and worried eye on mother Malawi and citizens back home. They could not stand back and watch as the late ex-leader president Bingu wa Mutharika juggled Malawians like a game of bawo.
Tossing the tertiary education system into a complete ‘halt’ and touted one Peter Mukhito was the best Inspector General of Police Malawi will ever have. Bingu also declared his knuckled side-kick
Mukhito could not apologize for all the madness and struggles that followed his unfortunate step to play Sherlock Holmes in the lecture rooms and corridors of higher education.
Bingu was busy, again, trying to show the whole world Malawi was another ‘donor nation’ come to dislodge China and India and the UK and US and the Nordic nations when it comes to providing relief aid. Yes, as numerous Malawians starved and could not afford basic daily needs, one Bingu was busy trucking our hard-worked for maize seed to comrade Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe and well, for a good(er) cause, to Haiti rice grain was also sent.
Probably both ‘Samaritan’ acts in bags printed ‘With Love from Bingu and the People of Malawi’.
And mostly it is the killing of 19 innocent Malawians that brought about the MDF concept. There were so many incidents that can be cited that this brand of MDF was forced to rise and add its voice to the cry of Malawians. As local civil society organizations were labelled ‘verbal western-bred rebels’ and threatened with being ‘smoked out’, the brothers and sisters in UK decided enough was enough.
They grouped up and started to speak, albeit from a distance, against the numerous inhumane and other non-palatable acts at the hands of Bingu and his gang of side kickers.
There was Nicholas Dausi with his language diarrhoea. Then there was one namesake, Patricia Kaliati with her scathing anecdotes even her own husband could not stomach, and there came also, in a somewhat muffled but cheeky voice, Dr. Jean Kalilani (who reminds me of MCPs Mayi Mangankhosi who threatened to urinate in the mouths of the Catholic Bishops for their pro-democracy letter against Kamuzu) and others to boot. They all talked of Malawians as if they were their chickens in their backdoor hen-pens.
That is what created the new brand of MDF – a group that used, like the late Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda so we have to be made understood, words and words and words alone. No weapons used during the infamous ‘uprising’ against the Bingu rule that saw people killed like ants.
I recall that firebrand young man, Ben Chiza Mkandawire going top out to talk sense into he late Bingu’s brains. There was, of course again, journalist and activist Thom Chiumia, George Mlanga, Peter Makossah, Lauren Mponele, Chalo Mvula, Pastor Patrick Mtimbusha, Edgar Chibaka and many other firebrands that decided to throw all caution to the wind and challenge what was Bingu’s fast
growing autocratic tendencies.
The man brought misery on Malawi, cracking the camel’s back when he sent packing one British diplomat, a Deyt Cochraine, for a so-called leaked cable from his office in Lilongwe to London where a good chunk of Malawi’s donor aid originated from.
Bingu thought he was above everything. After challenging the British secretary to foreign issues, donors started to slowly close the lid on their aid-bucket, and Bingu through Malawi Revenue Authority did two silly things.
They hiked a taxes and introduced silly other measures that et no definition of ‘austerity’ other than ‘oppressive’ on the people. They also cooked up a lie and doctored figures to look as if Malawi was raising quiet a bagful from taxes enough to sustain that animal called Zero Deficit Budget (ZDB). Hey, the MDF original stayed quiet and mum at barracks, but the MDF rights centered in UK upped its voice.
MDF also became stronger with voice and calls for Mutharika to resign. During a meeting in Manchester City, the group called on Bingu to resign within 91 days after the 20 July mass demonstrations. They said if he failed to leave office, Bingu would face forced removal.
Activist Ben Chiza Mkandawile, meanwhile joined the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) movement and government system. That is his personal clever moves. But for the rest of the MDF members, especially the leadership, it may be a bit difficult to play BCM’s game. It is rumoured about some of them that have silently joined the gravy train and are operatives in their little doves in the diaspora, as it were, but it is also rumored that some may never have the chance to return home to Malawi less they meet the wrath that they provoked during those tough old days of the Bingu era.
It is also well documented how the DPP almost ‘usurped’ power from then incumbent vice president after Bingu died. That case, discontinued or not, will have a mark on the Malawian history
timeline. And these are the strong reasons why any other non-crafty MDF member should tread carefully.
That group caused the then DPP untold misery, by:
1. Asking Bingu to resign
2. Lobbying the British government to just a month into its inception to impose targeted sanctions on individuals and suspend direct aid. One of those individuals can well be said to be APM himself, who at that time had had a very sleazy stint at various ministries and watched through the mess at the Chancellor College where students and lecturers were up against the chancellor and the University Council of a threat on academic freedom
3. Lobbied against Bingu getting the Food Prize award from the US based Hunger Project.
The list of thorny little spanners that MDF threw into the then DPP works are numerous, again. And none is any closer to be fancied by DPP part Two.
Argument is, Peter Mutharika is not Bingu. And of course, the MDF has undergone a natural hibernation mode. But whatever any of those MDF members decide to do, like not make their peace with the ruling party before coming back home, may be something that only others will live to tell a story about.
Dausi is still out there, and this time bigger than life in the secret service as the BIG BOSS. You cannot tell what a former deadly Malawi Young Pioneers best spy would do in a democratic dispensation. The DPP wing in Leicester was not just there for plain good old politics.
He still has his bags of the lethal dealings up his collars.
Whatever the case, the MDF “…noted with harrow the appalling difficulties of the people of Malawi all due to direct deteriorating socio-political and economic…”
By the way, Robert Chasowa that university student activist who was sent to an early grave by regime agents, will always be a reminder that the ‘murderers are in power’ and watch your step!Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :