he detonation set off by former first lady Callista Mutharika had many people excited, no doubt.
First, you have to admire her bravery and brutal honesty. But the emerging discourse is troubling.
It seems that what she said has been reduced to this simplistic notion: Malawi’s problems will be fixed by replacing an exhausted old man with a younger man.
Already, some people are fiercely coalescing around the appeal of the ‘young’ element. But let me warm against fetishising age in politics.
The next election is not simply about putting a younger person into State House, but having the best person in that office to manage the daunting affairs of this nation for the following five years.
Since it is far more important than just age, we need to look at our options strategically, not emotionally.
I am not interested in anyone whose messaging is honed on the populism or appeal of age. Centering age in a political campaign strikes me as an unnecessarily risky thing for any serious candidate and his supporters to do.
A better strategy is one that serenades the people with the quality and substance of grand designs a candidate has for rebuilding Malawi.
President Peter Mutharika is much more than just a tired old person. Vice-President Saulos Chilima offers much more than just the charisma and energy of a young man.
Allow yourself time to engage with and examine the substance of each man, their leadership style, track record, vision for Malawi and what, in the grand scheme of things, their leadership means not only for now, but for generations to come.
This country is not divided into young and old.
It would be delusional for anyone to pretend that a presidential election can be won on age appeal. Ask United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi.
The election will be won by a candidate the majority of voters believe will bring jobs, roads, hospitals, schools, opportunity and improvements in quality of life for themselves and their children.
To young and old voters, theirs is the person best able to convince them that they are the most capable of leading Malawi to prosperity.
Malawi cannot afford any leader—young or old— seemingly disconnected or disinterested, who lives in luxury at the poor people’s expense, who allows the rot of corruption to grow and whose tribesmen corruptly rise from nowhere to dominate virtually all top jobs, especially in the public sector.
The next election is not about rescuing the country from an old man. It is about recusing the country from sliding inexorably towards a system that favours a select few over the rest.
Malawi is browbeaten and could do with a new beginning, a reset and restart.
We are a nation tired of leaders stealing—or allowing their cronies and tribesmen to steal—in the process ruining this nation for us and for generations to come.
This nation is tired of politicians, young and old, who pretend to be interested in the poor, but after winning retreat into their shells to help themselves and their cronies to from the public coffers.
That said, the reactions that Callista’s bold assertions received are an interesting barometer. All is not well with the DPP.
Instead of the DPP wetting themselves and calling her misogynic and sexist names, they should have said: bring it on!
But it is because they know their candidate is weak and would not stand a blistering challenge from within his own party that the DPP went apoplectic.
They know that it’s not because of his age alone that Callista is convinced that Mutharika is not the leadership Malawi needs.
She is concerned about his grasp on reality, his full comprehension of Malawi’s many problems and the vultures he has surrounding him.
Now, that is concerning. n