Many sides of Mpasu

 

Former minister and Speaker Sam Mpasu, who died two weeks ago, remains an enigma to many. In this interview, our Staff Reporter AYAMI MKWANDA spoke to the deceased’s long-time friend and political ally Humphrey Mvula on an array of issues.

Mvula: I will miss a social justice crusader

Q

: Did the late Sam Mpasu deserve a State funeral after being jailed for abuse of office in 2008?

A

: He really deserved to be accorded full military honours properly organised. He played a pivotal role during the fight and the transition from one-party era to multiparty democracy that we are enjoying today. He was one of the few Malawians who risked their lives when they took it upon themselves to see that things should change. In those days, it was not a simple undertaking. It was something that required strong hearts or individuals that were prepared to sacrifice their personal lives for the good of the country.

 

Q

: How did Mpasu contribute to the fight for democracy?

A

: Mpasu’s biggest work during the time we were fighting for multiparty democracy was that he had great wisdom on how we could fight Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda and his one-party regime. Our expectations were that democracy was going to bring political change and socio-economic development.  So, during that time I saw Mpasu as somebody who was dedicated and a good leader. He brought to the discussion things that most of us were simply emotionally carried away with. He would bring in more experience or something novel. He would say: “If we do this, what about if Dr Banda does that?  If we follow this route, how are we going to achieve the following objectives?’ He was somebody who was objective in dealing with issues. He wanted a clear roadmap in everything he was involved in. When you were trying to do something, he was asking you: “Who’s going to  do it? How?”

Q

: For decades, the country has been talking about establishing a national heroes’ acre. How do you feel that nothing is taking shape?

A

: That is the tragedy that we have as a country. We have not established the rules that would govern how we

declare somebody a hero. We don’t have criteria to use.  Not even an independent body or commission to declare somebody a hero. Now this is done courtesy of the goodwill or prerogative of the sitting president who says: “I’m going to declare Gwanda Chakuamba, Sam Mpasu or Chief X a hero deserving of a State funeral with full military honours or not.” We  don’t have a policy that tells us who is going to be a hero and is entitled to such kind of military honours, a 21-gun salute or a three-gun salute. We have heroes in all fields but other people have achieved greater things either in academics or politics, or other activities noble to this country.  In the absence of clear criteria, it becomes a discretionary activity.

Q

: What were his major contributions during the multiparty dispensation?

A

: He has done a lot of things. When he was Speaker of Parliament [from 1999—2003] he was astute and never partisan. He never supported his party, the United Democratic Front [UDF], for the sake of it. He was objective. As a minister, he worked hard to bring results. As minister of Education in 1994, he contributed greatly to free education when we were not ready in terms of learning and teaching materials as well as teachers. But within that difficult time he tried. I know you will bring the Fieldyork issue that possibly was an unintended consequence, but I don’t think I’m capable of looking into that. When he was minister of Commerce and Industry, he contributed a lot as he was somebody who knew what the business community wanted.

Q

: What were his weaknesses as a person?

A

: He had two major weaknesses. I noted that when we agreed to do something and he committed to seeing it done, he was slow to change the direction if new information and issues came up requiring us to change course. He was very slow to adapt to the changing political environment that required him to revisit our earlier decisions. The other weakness was that he was a loner. Most of the time, he would not be involved in very active debates. If he didn’t find rapid progress in a heated debate, he would recoil or move away from it.

Q

: How are you going to miss Mpasu personally as a friend?

A

: I am going to miss a good partner and a crusader for social justice. He would boldly say:  “I believe in social justice as an individual. I believe in doing good for the larger population. I believe that this country is for every Malawian irrespective of where you come from. I don’t believe in tribalism, regionalism or petty issues that will serve the ruling elite.” I see very few people who occupy Mpasu’s shoes.

Q

: Away from politics, who was Sam Mpasu?

A

: Sam Mpasu was a great writer. He has several books accredited to his name. He wrote several articles and has contributed to several newspapers and journals. He also read quite a lot. He also contributed to culture. Look, he died as an impi which is a high title among the Maseko Ngoni clan.

 

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