23 May 2018

Malawi VP Saulos Chilima's Brave New World

Photo: allafrica.com
Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima and President Peter Mutharika.

Increasingly, it is becoming clear that Vice-President Saulos Chilima does not have the luxury of infinite time.

The temperature is rising and he is going to have to show his hand, sooner rather than later.

He is going to demonstrate that he wants it all-more than anyone else-or, like United Democratic Front (UDF) youthful president Atupele Muluzi (now Minister of Health) before him, the wave of optimism will slowly die a frustrating death and he may end up with nothing and his supporters will be left not knowing which way to turn.

Some might argue that it makes no difference whether he speaks now, or later.

But this is a distinction with a huge difference.

There is now a very public movement within the governing Democratic Progress Party (DPP)- thanks to Calista Mutharika's assertion that President Peter Mutharika is too old to seek re-election in May next year and outside of the DPP rooting for him.

There is no reason to believe that the Vice-President himself does not want the top job in 2019.

So, what is he waiting for?

The ultimate prize will not be handed to him, one way or the other. He has to make a credible brave claim for it--or it will go to others, the likes of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera, who are not ambivalent about their intentions.

The saying goes that a man who hangs around a beautiful girl without declaring his intentions will end up fetching water for guests at her wedding.

While the nation expects the Vice-President to be brave in declaring his intentions, the mission to remake Malawi cannot be, and should not be, Chilima's alone.

Without doubt, the renaissance Malawians seek needs bold messengers to carry forward the flame of renewal, of hope, of a brandnew beginning for country and for self.

Which begs the question: Are former Cabinet minister Patricia Kaliati, DPP youth wing leader Louis Ngalande, national governing council (NGC) member Noel Masangwi and Mulanje South legislator Bon Kalindo in Chilima's corner because they truly believe in the value proposition of him as Malawi's next leader or is it only because they were left out of the DPP gravy train?

In politics, it is usually a convergence of interests that matter far more than a meeting of ideas and ideals.

But it is important that this converge of interests is not championed by the bitter, the unguided and the tainted.

There are reasons why a lion ostracised from its pride is never truly accepted among a herd of buffaloes.

For one, the buffaloes know that all they eat is grass, so what will the lion be eating.

Kaliati, Ngalande, Masangwi and company are all welcome in the ranks of the fighters, but they are poor ambassadors of Chilima's message of regeneration.

The church would make excellent ambassadors of this message. The established church has to start speaking, not in cryptic obscure parables, but in specifics. The church should play its role and guide the people to a leader who will do good by Malawi, for Malawi.

A country whose president is captured by thieves and tribalists puts all of us on a dangerous highway to hell.

The church knows this and there is no reason why it should not be calling this out.

The church should unapologetically point out who among these people is the best candidate for a better Malawi.

The student movement--for far too long a derided and peripheral voice reduced to fighting for soup and bones on campus--has to rise up and take its rightful place in setting the agenda and directing the critical national discourse.

In the absence of that, the Malawi that will be bequeathed them is one of tattered dreams. A serious student movement, not a bunch of senile drunks, should critically discern the values of those it coalesces around.

Anyone who seduces students by plying them with cheap alcohol and small pennies is complicit in the erosion of the agency of the student movement and should be rejected by both students and everyone else with utter contempt.

The student movement should be a vibrant marketplace of novel ideas for now and for the future, and not act as guns-for-hire that spew senseless vitriol in nonsensical epistles brought forth by effects of Chibuku, drunken bus rides, K20 000 and free T-shirts.

Captains of industry, too, must speak. Oftentimes, the industry is timid and plays safe.

Capital prefers stability to disruption, profit over protest. But even they must now know that Malawi will have to be reset before it begins to be functional again and conducive for small and large businesses to flourish.

For those who will volunteer to carry Chilima's message, the road ahead is going to be very bumpy and, quite possibly, treacherous.

What happened at Parliament during the President's State of the Nation Address is a frightening reminder of how dangerous the undisciplined DPP motley crew is.

They will resort to threats, to violence and intimidation with no fear of prosecution. To them, it's not about superior logic and superior ideas on what is best for Malawi.

To them, it is about raw power. Power to have and power to perpetuate corruption and mismanagement and tribalism and cronyism.

Malawi should be rescued from these ruffians.

The country was waiting to see the reaction of President Mutharika to the utter disrespect he suffered in Parliament at the hands of his own goons.

The result was sad to see. He did nothing. With overwhelming evidence of gross mischief right in front of him, he feigned it did not happen. Mutharika appears too tired to do anything for Malawi and too tired to do anything against those destroying Malawi.

History will record that the man who once banged on a table in anger and thundered: "this nonsense must stop" is the most nonsense-tolerating President Malawi has had.

How about that for irony?

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