An axe to grind

If you missed Atupele Muluzi’s Twitter debut, there are mitigation factors. Either thanks to the endless power outages, your phone or computer was down or you are among millions of Malawians who, in this day and age, have no access to internet let alone are on Twitter.

Witnessing the young Muluzi’s debut on US President Donald Trump’s platform of choice, though, was an illuminating experience. He was at his usual graceful best but that didn’t stop other Twitter users immediately trolling him and delivering some home truths.

“You are in this for your dad,” ventured Vitumbiko Chinoko. “Why does the UDF Muluzi family feel entitled to UDF leadership? UDF has weakened to despicable levels…Not that I wish it was different.”

At this early stage, it’s important to state that the young Muluzi, son of a two-term president Bakili Muluzi—currently and perennially facing corruption charges emanating from a decade in power, which  Emmie Chanika and Adamson Muula aptly described as a ‘lost decade’,—was once a source of hope for millions of Malawian youths.

His forgotten Agenda for Change campaign once seemed a plausible blueprint to ease our suffering when the administration of former president, Bingu wa Mutharika, hit the self-destruction button.

Until Mutharika’s sudden death in office, and Joyce Banda’s subsequent ascendancy as successor—and appointed Muluzi in her cabinet—Agenda for Change was the buzzword for hope; hinting at possible political genius yet unearthed.

Even after botching up the agenda, thanks to political prostitution that has seen UDF bed the ill-fated Cashgate-plagued PP administration and now the incompetent and out-of-sorts DPP—Atupele returns gifts, subtle and obvious, that mark him as a leader and a gentleman.

Certainly nowhere near the eloquence of his father, he skilfully still  engages each demographic with ease, especially the youth that he has always hoped will one day aid him in following his father’s footsteps in State House. His eagerness to listen and engage is what made him join very small team of Malawian politicians currently on Twitter in first place.

President Peter Mutharika has an official account but, you guessed right, hardly uses it. Opposition lawmaker Juliana Lunguzi is active thanks largely to her previous career as an international civil servant in the UN system.

People world over uses social media, put it mildly, to settle scores with their powerful representatives, as Atupele found out on his debut. And in this country, at this time, many a citizen, whether youthful or elderly, in cities or villages, have a grievance with politicians whom many rightfully deem have betrayed the promise of this country.  For far too long, the men and women in charge, have left the country reeling, plunging from one crisis after another.

The citizens have been passive interlopers in their own affairs. Today the citizens are calling out those culpable for the nation’s malaise. Such holy anger may eventually be channelled towards genuine change.

While in the past Atupele’s hereditary leadership easily guaranteed him a base among his father’s loyalists, the recent by-election results have betrayed a re-alignment of the electoral map in ways we had not seen coming nor anyone had predicted—making it far too difficult to predict what awaits us in two-years’ time when every Malawian, aged 18 and above, will have a chance to choose the country’s new representatives.

If this was a war to reclaim the country’s destiny, ordinary Malawians are emboldened. They’ve seen their government only waking up to their plight after election shock. They’ve realised their destiny is in their own hands. And this is where it will be tough for recycled politicians like the young Muluzi to convince the populace that they still have their plight at heart.

Youths who have seen their social media activity and serious business that put bread on the table such as barber shops paralysed by a nagging power crisis that is crippling the economy and homes will not be easy audience. And they are as tired as mothers restless over where to get the next firewood and charcoal to prepare meals for their families; men tired working soils that no longer guarantee bumpy harvests or businessmen who have seen shop after shop close because people’s buying power continue to wane. Nobody is short of an axe to grind. n

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