The Lady and black cockerel

TIt’s not so uncommon for politicians to have the damned-you-do and damned-you-don’t moment. In polarised society, almost every move politicians make will draw a negative reaction from certain quarters.

Truth be told, our politicians have let this country down again and again as well so it’s no surprise they are not held in high regard by many.

But there are still moments when a few of them rise to the occasion or consistently display selfless leadership. The trouble is, those who do so are few or those moments are rare.

When it comes to politics gaining a bad name, it’s not much a case of a few apples spoiling everybody’s name, most of the apples are just bad anyway.

But in the wake of Joyce Banda’s recent withdrawal from the presidential race, I have had to reckon with the fact that while the act itself will inevitably draw comparisons to a caricature of a clueless and undecided politician, the move deserves more applauds than it will understandably get.

Yes, after bedding, figuratively, the (UTM) for a fortnight, telling the world its leader Saulos Chilima was the only hope for the country, it is only justified that our lady from Domasi gets all the flak for the decision she made on Friday.

Few would wonder whether we should take her seriously after pledging her support to Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera and revealed that the two have been in talks since 2015.

But beneath all this drama lies the truth about JB’s character and intentions. For once, here is a presidential hopeful who has humbled herself to read the writing on the wall, that her party carries little hope of winning the elections; and consequently withdrew from the race.

If all parties and politicians could be as wise, we all could be averted the trouble of contending with so many players who have not even a prayer of a chance on winning the elections.

The caricature of Alice in the Wonderland withstanding, by withdrawing from the elections, JB inevitably reminds us that she is the only politician who is willing to sacrifice personal ambition for general good. In this election, rat race so close that no analyst is willing to stake their reputation and predict the winner, the onus has been on politicians to show their gravitas and form alliance that can break stalemate.

But what has blocked any alliances so far has been the greed. No politician has been humble enough to shelve their ambition for another aspirant’s benefit. Well, until now.

So, while the decision to withdrawal doesn’t make JB an instant Mother Theresa, considering that in 2014 while crying foul that she was robbed of victory (even the electoral body confirmed there irregularities in the vote), she was courageous enough to accept defeat and allow the installation of her bitter nemesis, Peter Mutharika as President.

More selfish leaders would have done more to stop that act, including doctoring the election results themselves or turning to the army to stop peaceful transition of power. Those who are familiar with this country or continent know that’s not farfetched.

So. JB, her legacy spoiled by cashgate, has a legacy she will carry into her retirement. Her decision to support MCP certainly boasts Chakwera’s election chances and is fresh evidence that the country’s version of grand-old-party is becoming streetwise—casting its net wider and wider. First, the arrival of Sidik Mia, Khumbo Kachali, and now JB.

While JB’s fortunes have been waning, credible research indicates she has at least five percent of the electorate behind her. MCP was in a statistical tie with the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), according to the last survey by Institute for Public Opinion and Research (Ipor).

But whether JB’s pivot leads to MCP victory or not, this must be the last election she should be involved with. Her legacy cannot stomach any more intrusion into politics. She has done her part. There are a few gray areas in her legacy, but there are some bright spots, too. It is time she focused her energy on how best she can empower women and other vulnerable groups, a course so dear to her heart, on other ways beyond politics. n

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