May 21 polls: Atola chikwama odutsa

They say musicians are soothsayers, the forecaster of the future or just prognosticators. Yes, for us on the streets, we see some sense in this saying, particularly here in Malawi where musicians through their work have not only predicted the future, but offer lessons buried in borrowed parables, which if applied in different worlds of thought have turned out to explain well stories of some politicians who ended up on the wire for ignoring avoidable edges of their career.

In his song, Dyera, renowned musician Lucius Banda tells a story of how greed costs fortunes. There are several examples in Malawi politics of how greed has cost potential candidates a bright future. Everyone wants to take the top seat singlehandedly.

Folks, have you ever wondered why since democracy we have had between five and 10 presidential candidates on the ballot paper? And only two or three candidates share over 90 percent of the votes?

Someone many argue that this simply means democracy is maturing. Yes, it is democracy, but some figures are a waste of space on the ballot paper as they barely create any competition. This is why coalitions make sense to us. Not any coalition though, but meaningful coalitions endorsed by the party owners and voters. Why contesting in an election when it is evident that you cannot amass even five percent of the total votes? Why?

We on the streets want to emphasize that no matter what colours one politician wears, they are birds of the same feather, they flock together. They will preach positivity and signal they are contesting for our interests, but as it always turns out to be, it is sheer politics. Typical of politicians, they fill their food containers first before thinking about our plates.

The lessons have been made bold by this week’s political occurrences. The announced coalitions, failed coalitions and dilemmas to go into coalitions testify to this. It simply means even our politicians are divided not by principles of serving our interests, but theirs. We on the streets will repeat that no solid coalition will work this time around involving competitive political parties. Only those who know they cannot even achieve 10 percent votes will take anything offered to them to go into a coalition.

But do not expect a coalition involving the country’s major political parties—Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Malawi Congress Party (MCP), People’s Party (PP), United Democratic Front (UDF) and UTM. As of now only UDF can sacrifice to join any of the four to pay for their sins having lost relevance over the years.

The reason is that these political parties feel too big and popular enough to win any election and can hardly take little in any agreed coalition. They all want their presidents to lead the coalition. Very few of them can accept to contribute a vice-president to the coalition. This is the most awkward thing with political coalitions and requires leaders who give in for public’s interest. With greed at play, no major party will accept to be in a coalition in which their benefits are unclear or less rewarding.

The quitting of Joyce Banda and her PP from a UTM-PP alliance is a typical example for us all. It is a lesson that should take us to the voting booth this May.

Since 2015, there has been one song—preached in beer halls, supermarkets and even homes—that is to do away with the DPP. The party has given us a mixed bag—commendable development projects and staid shortfalls such as gross corruption and failure to address some basic issues haunting most Malawians. Put on scale, the shortfalls outweigh the highs.

For the first time, Malawians spent 24 hours or more without power when money meant to avoid such occurrences were being put in the pockets of the few and spent at Bwandiro in Lilongwe. Even when generators were bought to complement the power grid, some greedy individuals took advantage of the dire situation to siphon resources from the initiative, including fuel meant to power the generators.

This is the reason we had strong expectations that for the first time, we would see major political parties teaming up to unseat the ruling DPP. But check your literature, the same people who had our hopes are fighting for positions, quitting and ignoring viable coalitions without giving it a second thought.

We on the streets, without fear or favour, repeat that if there will be no solid political alliance ahead of the May 21 polls involving the major four opposition parties, DPP will carry the day. We shall republish this article and play Lucius Banda’s Dyera hit on our Thunderpower megaphone to mock the potential candidates who gave us a deaf ear. n

*Albert Sharra is a Ph.D student in Political Studies at Wits University and is a guest writer of this column.

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