Chakwera: Prose and poetry

A certain publication that does little to mask its political leanings, namely favouritism for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and, as a consequence, disdain for the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP)—recently made a playful, if not unethical play, on Leader of Opposition and MCP president, Lazarus Chakwera.

The publication had a front-page story which was more riveting, thanks to a picture of a giant crocodile next to a portrait of Chakwera reading a speech. The article disingenuously claimed Chakwera had admitted that MCP was a party of killers. The actual context of the text Chakwera read suggests that he was discussing in general terms the party’s past and the admission more focused on what everyone considers as general knowledge; that the one-party rule committed some atrocities.

The insinuation of the article and its aim, though, were obvious: discredit MCP, in its current state, not using its past. Very few, can buy such thinking.

But if we want to cry murder, there is perhaps a kind of murder Chakwera’s opponents and indeed, those wishing this country well, are permitting him to get away with. And it has nothing to do with what happened in the 31-year dictatorship, or to be straight, with actual taking away of life.

The murder we are allowing Chakwera to get away with is his failure, as the head of the alternative government—if you believe in the concept that opposition is more than just a critic or thorn in the thresh of government—hence should articulate policy more clearly than Chakwera is currently doing.

For sure, at the moment, all we have been hearing from Chakwera are criticisms of the Pesident but, hardly, the party’s practical solutions to the same failures of the current administration. More worryingly, in Chakwera’s often lofty dreams shared through poetic well-woven speeches, we have for the three years he has been in public spotlight failed to at times discern a clear and concise long-term vision which can transform this country.

And that’s worrying because as a recent Afrobarometer survey confirmed, Chakwera has a more than realistic chance of forming the next government. So far, though, it has only been about his rhetoric, but little substance.

And we all know, as the saying goes, campaigning is done in poetry but governing is done in pose. So while the obsession with the incumbent administration is healthy and understandable, we also ought to pay a bit more attention to what the alternative government has in store for us. So far, we have found little.

Our problems are profound and need to be confounded with a serious plan of action. The question is: Where is Chakwera’s plan and how good is it? We know APM administration’s plan is nowhere near working, wanting actually, the alternative government ought to fare better.

It’s not enough just to point to the party’s previous manifesto, either. And the rest of the gang, too; the media, civil society and fellow opposition figures also ought to search a bit more on whether Chakwera has a credible policy apart from saying he is different from Mutharika. Failing to do so, lets him get away with murder.

There was a time Chakwera simply, by just being a political rank outsider, was enough to make him a game changer. Then, Malawians were fed up with politicians and just wanted a fresh face to shake things up and replace the establishment.

Chakwera has been in public office long enough for Malawians to pass judgement on his credentials. He has also spoken enough, but still there is lack of clarity of what kind of long-term vision he espouses. As MCP seek to end its stay outside government, it will serve Malawians no good if it makes it to government but end up as horrible at governing as the current regime. So far, that’s what seems to be obtaining in the country’s oldest political establishment.

But Malawians don’t just want to change those governing the country, they want a change on how this country is governed. And the only way we can tell that is when those seeking office demonstrate they have more than words to carry us through this prolonged storm we have been weathering as a country. n

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