Hon Folks, DPP may not like being asked prying questions but boycotting TV debates for presidential candidates and running mates only help to reinforce the arrogant leadership style associated with the governing party.
For a party vying for votes in the forthcoming May 21 tripartite elections, shunning debate is a decision sprouting from a flawed strategy, if at all there’s one. PP tried it in 2014 and if it wasn’t the cause of the party’s failure, it most likely was an aggravating factor.
In 2014 APM with Saulos Chilima as running mate won the presidential poll albeit with only 36.4 percent of the votes. Did that base grow or shrink in the past four years? The APM/Chilima duet is now history and both are now contesting in the presidential race. The 36.6 percent following is obviously split between the two of them, what isn’t certain is the ratio.
Considering the cutthroat competition there’s among the three major contenders—DPP’s APM, MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera and UTM’s Saulos Chilima—victory for the incumbent hinges on much support he can get from voters outside his base who make up over 70 percent of the electorate.
Yet, outside DPP is where arrogant leadership is loathed with a passion. You just have to go back to the many statements, pastoral letters and ultimatums issued in the past four years, demanding of APM to lead the country differently by accommodating dissenting views, giving the people space to exercise their constitutional rights including demonstrations, allowing the law to apply to us all equally and allowing for inclusivity in the formulation and execution of the national development agenda.
In fact, the recent Ipor and other studies done since 2014 have revealed people’s trust in the multiparty system whereas APM himself and other political leaders command much less trust than traditional leaders!
People hate cronyism, politicisation of chieftaincies, corruption, abuse of MBC, crippling of governance institutions including ACB, politically instigated violence by the youth among other vices. People want their President to go and answer questions in Parliament, be a unifying force of our divided nation and ensure we are all treated equally before the law.
There’s no denying that APM has done well on infrastructural development but which President since the time of Kamuzu Banda failed in that area? Infrastructural development is mostly done with donor aid which constitutes 80 percent of the development budget. Implementation is also closely monitored by the donors themselves.
In fact, it can be argued that with the tendency to demolish the approved budget (it’s happening for the third time now since 2014), transferring mostly the domestic revenue component of the development to the recurrent budget, DPP under APM has reduced further the 20 percent of the development budget which used to be funded locally.
Which is why, DPP must not waste time trying to call the shots on who can interview their candidates and how. The people whose votes the party desperately wants are the ones who need to hear their prospective leaders so they can make informed choices on May 21.
The media is just playing its constitutional role to facilitate that process. We all stand to benefit as a nation if the electorate are adequately informed to cast their votes for mediocre-averse transformative leaders who can decisively tackle the challenges rocking the development of this country, including corruption, abject poverty, food insecurity, environmental degradation.
From APM people want to hear how he can do differently in the areas where he has not done well in the past five years. Can he ditch arrogant style of leadership and embrace the “servant leadership” style, for example? Can he up the game in the fight against corruption?
As for APM’s running mate, Everson Chimulirenji, many people did not know he exists despite the fact that he was all along in the Cabinet. It’s not exaggerating to say he has so far exhibited an inconsequential persona on the national political arena.
Is he articulate? Can he be trusted to lead Malawi in the event that APM faces impeachment, incapacitation or death? These are questions the voter has the right to reflect on before going to the ballot.
Participating in the TV debates could’ve helped demystify Chimulirenji to us, the people he is aspiring to lead as Vice President. So far, the little we know about him is that even in DPP, the mere mention of his name as APM’s running mate resulted in many pulling a long face.
Was it mere jealousy? Was it a genuine concern that he doesn’t have what it takes to serve as Vice President? Unless DPP stops shielding him from the very people he wants to serve, we shall never know. n