To be fair to governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), or specifically, those in support of the party’s leader and Malawi’s fifth President, Peter Mutharika, it is not easy to let go of power.
Think of that primary school teacher or church pastor who got so accustomed to their institutions that when transfer or retirement came; hell broke loose at their making.
Families turn the blood-is-thicker-than-water mantra on its head and degenerate into bloody fights over mere village chieftaincy successions.
Then, imagine the reaction of those with proximity to State power at a time their king is being asked to move on. They come gun-blazing, as DPP functionaries are!
Thanks to the storm pounding mighty DPP, our version of grand-old-party (GOP), Malawi Congress Party (MCP) can finally enjoy some respite. But what we’ve said about leadership contests in MCP holds also true for what is obtaining in the DPP today.
Often, we erroneously call them leadership fights, but, this is democracy at play.
What we are seeing happening in DPP didn’t happen in MCP, when Kamuzu Banda was allowed to rule as a god. It’s something Bakili Muluzi’s UDF never countenanced; eventually turning a strong party that helped return the country to democratic norms, into a briefcase party—a personal fiefdom where only those Muluzi imposes, or who bear the clan name can govern.
So, the war raging in DPP is a just war. Good for our democracy. Good for the country.
The reaction of the panicking mainstream DPP to the instigation for change of guard has been confused and chaotic. While seeking to claim a façade of unity, we’ve seen a Cabinet minister losing his head to dismiss his supposed superior, a State Vice-President as ‘baby’.
We’ve seen party youths chanting Chilima’s name while others call him out. We’ve seen Calista Mutharika, the President’s sister-in-law and wife to the party’s departed patriarch, Bingu wa Mutharika, attracting both direct and veiled ridicule from the party’s rank and file for delivering a season we are now referring to as Hurricane Callista.
Those desiring to prolong Mutharika’s rule beyond 2019 have moved swiftly to declare the party will not accept any leadership challenge.
And in that element, they betray a great fear.
They are too accustomed to trappings of power to imagine life without it and they are less confident in Mutharika’s political prowess to take any guarantees.
Blinded by desperation and rage, they forget that while they might easily quell a leadership challenge within the party [nobody knows if they will do so successfully] they will still have to confound their fears and face the general electorate not so far from now.
The primary reason Hurricane Callista is here is because Mutharika, the State President, has performed unimpressively and failed to deliver the mandate Malawians gave him in 2014. Voices of discontent that Malawians have been voicing on a daily basis with his rule are now being heard in the corridors of power—and in the ruling party.
Callista might have whatever motive for what she said, but she has said nothing ordinary Malawians have been saying ever since it became clear that the Mutharika presidency was not going to be any memorable or transformative.
DPP might ignore the voice of reason, now, because a change of guard means loss of top business contracts or jobs for people close to the President. But in a few months’ time, the elections will be a moment of truth of what Malawians think of APM.
Maybe DPP may win again the elections, thanks to whatever explanation.
But, today, it is so obvious that the DPP has failed the aspirations of Malawians; failed to develop enough infrastructure, end the scourge of corruption, connect more Malawians to clean water, ease our perennial electricity crisis, build more schools, and pay workers a decent wage.
Shamefully, DPP has failed to deliver the constitutional reforms it pledged and while for a while the Public Sector Reforms, then headed by Chilima, appeared like would be a success story, political considerations ended up messing that good programme, too. And save for being remembered as Bingu’s brother, history will struggle to remember this presidency. This plane has been on autopilot for some time.