What was supposed to be a solemn and dutiful undertaking of governing by the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has needlessly digressed to a mundane and needless war with the opposition despite being the party given the mandate to govern.
Ironically, this is the party whose leader, President Peter Mutharika, promised to do business unusual.
Doing State business would entail departure from politics of witch-hunting, intimidation and name-calling.
Malawians expected that DPP would invest much energy in governing the country and steering it to higher levels.
But high hopes sometimes yield nothing.
The party is blatantly sleep-walking down the same road its predecessor took—fighting pointless battles.
Soon after rising to power, DPP did not waste time but lived up to the mantra of Lucius Cornelius Sulla of Rome: No friend served him, and no enemy wronged him, whom he did not repay in full.
DPP elites began seeing enemies—either imaginary or real—around them.
Instead of concentrating on running State affairs, it wandered off to the insignificant blanks of fighting with its critics, especially opposition leaders.
Its spokesperson Francis Kasaila disputes and down plays the silent war on opposing voices.
“DPP is not unnecessarily engaging in any battle with any other political party or organisation,” he says, explaining: “Like any other organisation, DPP has the right to respond to any accusation as provided in our laws.”
But DPP started fighting with Mutharika’s predecessor Joyce Banda and her People’s Party (PP). In its talk, it insinuates that the first female president’s self-imposed exile has to do with Cashgate, a scandalous looting of public resources by individuals and companies with political connection.
DPP seems anxious for her return. It flexed its muscles, exulting in the prospects of netting her.
In November 2015, PP secretary general Ibrahim Matola stated that Banda was afraid to return because “DPP leadership has on several occasions tried to go after the life of our party president”.
He wrote about “several attempts to link her to the Cashgate scam” and “baseless allegations”.
Kasaila says it was actually PP members who linked her to Cashgate.
They include her former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Ralph Kasambara and party director Oswald Lutepo who mentioned Banda’s alleged involvement in court.
But she tops a pack of the ruling party’s known enemies, which includes the civil society whom it accuses of colluding with opposition parties.
Two years ago, Kenneth Sanga, DPP regional governor for the North, accused National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust district civic education officer Patrick Chikoti of campaigning against Mutharika and the party in preference for Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Recently, Public Affairs Committee (PAC), a faith-based human rights and governance watchdog, came under fire for saying the DPP has failed to govern the country.
Nearly 18 chiefs went on the State-run MBC Television and asked PAC to apologise to Mutharika and his administration for saying Mutharika was breaking his promises.
Rights activist Billy Mayaya says DPP is using the State machinery to vilify its critics because it has lost the trust of many Malawians.
He says: “Government is using State institutions and corporations corruptly and there shall be consequences. No one is above the law. Parties come and go. When they go, there shall come a time to account for acts of impunity. The abuse of MBC and chiefs is a case in point.”
Mayaya called for a probe into the sources of funding for forums where people with different viewpoints are castigated for providing checks and balances.
He questions the integrity of MBC directors and the role of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
PAC spokesperson Father Peter Mulomole vowed to continue pointing out the flaws and failures of government.
Another voice that the governing party loves to attack is the media which it attacked in November 2016. Mutharika and his lieutenants frequently decry “false stories” aimed at discrediting him and his administration.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter chairperson Thom Khanje wants DPP to concentrate on governing rather than “wasting time fighting the media”.
No journalist has been imprisoned since Mutharika ascended to presidency.
However, MCP former spokesperson Jessie Kabwila, Ulemu Msungama and Peter Chakhwantha, were arrested in February 2016 following the leak of a WhatsApp chat which the DPP-led administration deemed treasonous.
Their case was, however ,dismissed by the High Court in Blantyre this year.
In December 2016, DPP dressed down MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera, who is also leader of opposition in Parliament.
It described him as lacking integrity and obsessed with delusions of political self-righteousness.
Chakwera irked DPP elites by echoing PAC’s sentiments that the President had failed.
Early this year, DPP was lobbying the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate Chakwera on some alleged corrupt practices.
But Kasaila defends his party, saying it has no authority to influence any public institution while carrying out its mandate.
“Insinuating that we are lobbying the ACB to arrest Chakwera is just political propaganda,” he says.
He reckons Malawians have lost confidence in PAC and civil society organisations.
But its heavy-handed crackdown on critical voices shows the party is jittery.
Kasaila insists that his party is not wasting its energy fighting Joyce Banda, opposition and activists. Yet its speed and clumsiness in handling its perceived foes tells a story of a party that is increasingly becoming insecure and afraid of what its critics say, not the gaps they want it to close to improve the well-being of Malawians.