Election is competition about ideas

Under the leadership of President Peter Mutharika, Malawians have gone through all manner of suffering. The economy is nothing to write home about. So many businesses have closed down, with people being forced into joblessness. So many jobless Malawians roam the streets with no hope.

With such a gloomy picture, one would have thought all Malawians to be on the same page condemning the failed government and its entire leadership. But this is not the case as those in government and the ruling party [DPP] are on the defensive. Apart from spokespersons, they engage the youth wing of the party.

As it were, DPP youths, who are popularly known as cadets, usually it seems they go beyond being just defensive and become physical, thereby creating fear among people. The anomaly about cadets is that they even intimidate senior political leaders, especially now that the party seems to be divided between those who support Mutharika and those who support Vice-President Saulos Chilima to be DPP torch-bearers come 2019 elections.

The power of cadets was displayed during the recent State of the Nation Address (Sona) at Parliament, when cadets even disrupted the President’s speech. This was after they had harassed some DPP legislators at the gate of Parliament. Needless to say militant youths can easily destroy a party.

Every Malawian must know that the 2019 elections are a make-or-break in this country.  It will have nothing to do with physical strength, but ideas to turn around the fortunes of this country. Using youth militia to beat up opponents cannot be helpful.

Meanwhile, all the presidential candidates must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they are capable of turning the poverty situation around with new ideas. Even President Mutharika, whose government seems to have failed, should convince Malawians that next time round he will come up with better polices to improve the lives of Malawians. Forcing Malawians to believe that he has performed, just because of a poorly constructed road here and there while Malawians are deep in poverty, is unacceptable.

Time and again activists in this country have spoken against violence as a means of getting into power, especially during elections. In fact, violence creates a lot of intimidation that, in the end, gets wrong people who have no clue about leadership, into power. This is partly the reason this country has failed to develop. Those who aspire for power can hardly convince voters and this is why they engage militant youths to scare away would-be voters for their opponents. Malawians can remember well the drama that characterised Bakili Muluzi’s third or open-term bids.

The UDF youths, known as Young Democrats [YDs] were all out to beat up anybody who was against third or open-term bid. Despite all the intimidation, those people who were against the bids convinced their MPs to vote ‘No’. In the end, Muluzi failed to get his wish. That was a wake-up call to politicians who aspire for positions, that violence will take them nowhere.

A warning to political party youths is that being used as mercenaries is not helpful. The money given to them as handouts is a very temporary solution to their problems. The people who abuse them always have good lives while the youths are sidelined.

The other thing is that when political leaders have problems in their parties, using militant youths is not a solution. This only makes youths to over-rate their importance in the party. An example was when DPP cadets harassed Patricia Kaliati at Parliament the other day.

Last, but not least, Malawi needs leaders with development ideas, and not physical strength to bear up opponents.

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