By Eugenio Njoloma*
Welcome to 2020. Hopefully the year 2019 contained abundant riches that fulfilled the resolutions set in its first month. As is often the case, it is very easy to proclaim them. Yet not many show keenness to live them. Nevertheless, many, are, surely, contented with significant progress made in their lives.
I am, however, very cautious to celebrate with those that tend to paint rosy lives on Facebook walls and WhatsApp statuses. While a picture does not lie, the growing photoshop-like life lived by many underlines my skepticism of their real self.
It is, however, kudos to those that have been able to fulfil their resolutions by, for example, managing to purchase an affordable and easy-to-manage motor vehicle like a Sienta, a Passo, a vits, or a Mira without having to suffer a migraine from the bondage of a bank loan.
But again, those that have managed to lay a foundation of a house or actually build one with their hard-earned money deserve a pat on the back. Likewise, those that started some life time business ventures also need to be commended. Above all, those that have managed to stick to one sexual partner whilst continuing professing unconditional love and faithfulness to them in this era of strangely deadly diseases and heart attacks from psychological upsets make the cut in the region of decent partnerships.
In this article, however, my intention is not to make a review of people’s socioeconomic achievements in the past year. Another opportunity, possibly in the next edition of this very informative magazine, can be used to look at that angle.
Rather, I intend to dig into matters that currently affect the country the most. These matters are well embossed by the prevailing electoral anxiety in most Malawians. This anxiety does not just revolve around the outcome of the election but importantly concerns the life after the judgement to be made by the five constitutional court judges within the prescribed period of forty-five days.
I am thinking about three issues that require addressing. To begin with, how will the sympathizers and supporters of the petitioners and defendants consume the outcome if it skips their expectations? And again, should the judgement favour the petitioners and a fresh election is ordered, who, among the three candidates (Peter Mutharika, Saulos Chilima, and Lazarus Chakwera) can realistically take Malawi out of the prevailing socioeconomic mess? Finally, should the court find no substance in the petitions, what does President Mutharika and his DPP have to do to inspire meaningful socioeconomic progress of the country?
How prepared are the supporters and sympathisers to handle ‘disappointing news?’ In an article “Preparing the people for elections case outcome” published this past December in this very same magazine, I sounded a warning that court issues do not exist in the luxury of prediction. As two competing electoral case camps have emerged, with the camp for the petitioners being extraordinarily vocal on social media, they seem to forget that surprises never come by design.
According to an unsanctioned opinion poll, there appears to be concerted optimism in one court outcome namely the overturning of the election result. Many are already talking about the next presidential election, thereby cementing an unproved argument that the May 21 election had, indeed, been contaminated with serious irregularities.
So when, for example Daud Suleman or Mirriam Gwalidi, had at some point, mesmerized the court with eloquence and logic in their submissions of evidence; and conversely, when Sam Alfandika of the Malawi Electoral Commission, appeared to tumble, fumble, and stutter in his court appearances epitomized by a heavy precipitation of body sweat at some point in time, the tayiphula sentiments by the petitioners’ camp reverberated heavily across the country.
However, it may be way too early to rejoice. In fact, the leader of the five judges, Healy Potani, openly stated that the verdict will only be informed by the submitted evidence and not any other considerations including public opinion.
At least for the well-known notorious DPP cadets, their 17 December 2019 pledge to refrain from interfering with the court on the day of judgement is civilized enough. While its authenticity could be doubted given the groups’ past records of violent conduct, proclaiming it publicly is a sign of clean politics.
This is in sharp contrast to the apparently high tempers, which can be seen in, particularly the MCP camp. They seem very eager and ready to violently object any court outcome that smells negativity. While there is no doubt the majority of the people do not want President Mutharika in power, is acting angrily and violently any better for progress as a nation?
Afterall, the nation has constitutionally trusted the court to resolve the issue. Do those that seem ready and willing to take the violent route have any idea of what lies ahead of their noses? Is this electoral issue really worthy dying for? Is it really worthy spoiling the future of the children that will need the country tomorrow?
I am sure someone is already stupefying these questions but, honestly, even if it is President Mutharika or Mr Chimulirenji, one thing for sure is that they will only hold that office for five years, which, I believe is enough time for the opposition-controlled parliament (and this is assuming it is really passionate about seeing Malawi move forward) to strategize and work hard at correcting political and policy failures that are responsible for the current political and socioeconomic mess.
Who is the leader?
Should the court order a rerun, who, among Chilima, Chakwera, and Mutharika is better suited to save Malawi from the socioeconomic ruins? Putting politics aside and allowing honesty to blossom, Malawi, this time around, needs a leader who is a performer and not a champion of bootlickers.
The year 2020 should be a year that should open the eyes of Malawians to this reality. It should be a year to remind us of our stupidity in failing to be serious with issues of national importance. Indeed, it should be a year, which everyone must realize that politics of the mouth and not action does not have a place in the country. As a matter of fact, everyone should realize that having intelligence in drafting policies but fossilizing them on bookshelves is uchitsiru or ugalu weniweni.
Certainly, Peter Mutharika is not suitable for this big task of delivering Malawi out of political and socioeconomic wilderness. There is abundant evidence pointing to his ineffectiveness. He is outrightly a ceremonial leader with no energy to steer Malawi to socioeconomic safety.
His ignorance of Malawi’s needs is pathetically embarrassing that even a visually impaired person without the aid of a white cane could do better when crossing busy roads of Johannesburg or London. It would, thus, be uchindere wakufikapo to think Malawi can prosper under his leadership.
Perhaps, Lazarus Chakwera makes a perfect choice. However, his presidency can be good in only seeing a mere regime change. I very much doubt his leadership qualities and his decision-making capabilities. His rise to prominence is not really a reflection of his own political energy but rather efforts of a political army of ethnic zealots, corruption hungry men, and a bunch of disgruntled politicians that have always sought refuge in political leaders with manifestations of political naivety and flaccidity.
For Saulos Chilima, he may not be the very best but he is certainly better than both Mutharika and Chakwera. He is passionate and demonstrates very enviable energy. These qualities are well known by very many Malawians. The only problem is that they tend to bury them in the graves of politics of tribalism and of the belly. I bet that even the leading figures in both MCP and DPP, deep down their hearts, fully recognize Chilima’s transformative potentials.
The big task for DPP
In case the court sees merit in the petitioners’ case, meaning that President Mutharika continues to be the president of Malawi, then there is, undoubtedly, a very big task ahead of him. To have a unified Malawi and to restore the country’s socioeconomic glory, he will have to employ a reconciliatory tone. This will enable him to regain the ‘presidency,’ which has technically slipped away from him. Indeed, eight months since being sworn in, he cannot only be a president for one region (southern) of the country. He has to show leadership.
He, too, needs to know that people are aware of entrenched corruption syndicates in his government. To gain credibility, he simply has to act by bringing all the culprits to book without fear or favour. He also must know that his slumber on the presidency is too costly for Malawi. In this era of high degree of globalization, there is no room for holiday making in the office of the presidency. Malawi needs a highly proactive leader.
In truth, these tasks are not difficult to fulfill. It is only a question of political will to make things work better again. But to show this political will, one has to be utterly passionate about wanting to bring change. A lazy approach to important national issues is only detrimental to Malawi’s socioeconomic success. I do not think “he is not Malawian” as he had once been misquoted by many social media users. Rather, he lacks passion for turning things around. With Peter Mutharika or without him, may the life after the court ruling be anything better than the one we are struggling to put together today.
*Njoloma is a regular contributor to the Lamp magazine. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org