Atupele’s dazed 2019 strategy

Hon Folks, so far four elderly politicians (born early 1950s and before) have led Malawi after Kamuzu.  If truth be told, only Bingu wa Mutharika impressed in his first term. I guess that’s why he garnered a record number of votes in the 2009 polls.

Bingu  lost his political capital earlier in his second term and by the time he succumbed to cardiac arrest on 5th April, 2012, he was probably more loathed than Kamuzu ever was. The others have been disappointingly ineffectual they make the ditched Kamuzu a super star.

They do the same things that have failed before—practising nepotism and cronyism, harbouring vendetta against their political rivals, paying lip service to poverty reduction and the fight against corruption, politicising development, abusing public resource and monopolising MBC.

They pay lip service to gender equality and youth empowerment. They brag about catalysing economic growth and poverty reduction yet whether the measure is GDP per capita or HDI, we’ve been a flop even by sub-Saharan Africa standards.

The inertia of the past two decades somewhat made age a factor in the 2014 presidential race. APM contested with Saulos Chilima as runningmate on a DPP ticket and Joyce Banda paired with Sosten  Gwengwe on a PP ticket.

The toast of the town was Atupele Muluzi who at 36, was the actual presidential candidate for UDF, a major party in Malawi .

Dubbed Ung’onoung’ono, Muluzi had a strong base among the millennials in the 2014 polls. Probably, it’s the tendency of the youth to stay away from actual voting that led to his being number four out of the 12 presidential candidates!

The good thing is that the millennials are getting more mature with time and are likely to dominate the 2019 and subsequent elections. Will Atupele remain their favoured candidate?

After the polls, Atupele joined the APM government as Minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining. Later he was moved to the post of Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security then Land, Housing and Urban Development.

The deal appears to have been made between DPP and the Muluzi family as owners of UDF. Consequently, only Atupele was initially accommodated in government. Later, one or two other UDF executive members were slotted in parastatal boards.

At what price? Atupele bulldozed the 14 UDF MPs to join him on the government side in Parliament, effectively losing their identity and voice. Only Lucius Banda put his foot down and remained on the opposition side at the cost of being chided as a rebel.

In government, Atupele was a go-getter.  He proved to be agile, industrious and hardworking. He was there to douse fire when uranium miners of Kayerekela crossed paths with communities in the neighbourhood.  He also provided leadership in arraying fears among chiefs in the wake of the enactment controversial Land laws.

But as leader of UDF, Atupele is, so far at least, no better than his father, Bakili Muluzi, who has a what’s-in-it-for-me approach to political leadership.  A divisive decision could be relentlessly pursued if it gave the old Muluzi power or wealth.

Today, Atupele is saying come 2019, any alliance with DPP will have to be endorsed by the UDF convention. That’s how it should but why wasn’t this principle used when he made UDF jump into bed with DPP in 2014?

Isn’t it taking voters for granted that crossing the floor, constitutionally dissuaded at the level of MPs, could be encouraged by Ung’onoung’ono at the party level?

A political analyst told The Nation earlier in the week that Atupele may be driving the UDF to its death and I’m inclined to believe him. Taking the people for granted is the reason why UDF has shrank from the party that whacked Kamuzu Banda in 1994 to a party which can’t even amass 20 seats in a 193 seat Parliament today.

For the same behaviour the late Chakufwa Chihana led Aford, once formidable party in the North, to a small party with a single seat in Parliament today. The problem with Ung’onoung’ono is that age deprives him a past from which to learn the way to a better political future.

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