On 30 December 2017, I pleaded here that nsimayi tikanachepetsa. Eighteen weeks into the New Year, it has not only been raining, it has been pouring. Everywhere one turns, it is one disheartening story after another. The economy continues to limp (I will not clap hands when all we have gotten is more ngongole), the education sector has no signs of recovery, and the health sector—according to the print media—is in fact, collapsing.
I have written here before about the lack of intra–party democracy in this country. The events of the last few weeks in the main political parties leave a lot to be desired. The folks in Red are serving each other one injunction after another; the folks in the Yellow are tussling over zida za bandi; the folks in Orange have banished from their ranks those who claimed the big mpando for themselves; the folks in Blue are anti–makanda; and AforD now has two presidents.
I have seen the constitutions of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the United Democratic Front (UDF), the People’s Party (PP), the Democratic Progress Party (PP) and Alliance for Democracy (Aford). All these founding documents are robust documents and—certainly from 1994—mirror the values of the Constitution of the Republic. And these values may be paraphrased as follows: people sovereignty; public and social trust in the exercise of legal and political authority of the State; open, accountable and transparent governing; informed democratic choice; inherent dignity and worth of each human being; equality before the law; and rule of law.
What has been happening in these main political parties is as far away from the constitutional values that I have shared here as is the North Pole and South Pole. The constitutions are good for the formality of registration of the parties according to the relevant law. The text of the constitutions is never genuinely intended to be implemented on the ground. The constitutions are a liability to the gang in each of the political parties that has captured the (biopolitical) power. Hence, we are left to watch a display of smirking, irreducible dimness where the youth are useful as circus clowns painted in party colours running around in midoli-induced trance. The women continue to shake their booties while singing songs with one-line lyrics. The men are in some competition about who can shower the most insults. And then finally the Big Kahuna or the Big Mayi stands and speaks. We can do better.
In the same context of intra–party democracy, a divisive debate has erupted in the country on age and political leadership. In the academy, age has very rarely been treated as a concept on its own. Such that studies on the relationship of age and leadership have been scarce if not outright non–existent. The Leadership Quarterly, for example, published, over a 20-year period, one study on the relationship of age and leadership.
Locally, during the constitutional debates of 1993 to 1995, it is not clear from the records that the age (whether minimum or maximum) of a candidate for political office was a sticky issue. So; among other things, if you are 21 years old, you can run for the office of Member of Parliament (MP). If you are 35 years old, you can run for the Presidency. However, the controversy surrounding age arose during the constitutional review of 2006 to 2007 led by the Malawi Law Commission. During this process, certain of the constituents wanted the Constitution of the Republic to prescribe a maximum age limit for presidential candidates. The Law Commission disagreed and stated that “this is a political issue best left to the political process. Political parties should be given enough leverage to field a candidate who is acceptable to the electorate and if this candidate fails to convince the electorate of his or her youthful exuberance, such candidate will be naturally removed by the process.”
In the analysis of the relationship of age and leadership what one finds is that the query must revolve not so much old or young you are but on the extent to which you are transformational, transactional or what Hannes Zacher and Others call ‘passive-avoidant’.
Parting shot: The National Statistical Office (NSO) in Zomba has informed us that 55.8 per cent of the population of Malawi is aged between 0 and 19 years. Those in secondary school, tertiary institutions or gainful work or employment—these are those between 20 and 64 years of age — are 39.9 per cent of the population. The over 65s form 4.3 per cent of the population.
Nsimayi tisangochepetse. Nsimayi tingosiyiratu.
* Chikosa is a lawyer & consultant at The Mizumali Foundation. He holds a PhD in Law from The University of Warwick in Coventry, England.