Honourable Folks, Henry Chibwana was speaking at a party function as secretary general of the ruling People’s Party (PP) when he made the unsavoury remarks that Malawi would be better off with a one-party system of government.
It’s a calculated remark made from the PP’s vantage point as the party that sits on the government side in Parliament and whose leader is the incumbent State President. It’s also the party that dominates the Cabinet.
If it were slip of the tongue, Chibwana would’ve apologised. He has not. In fact he has refused to apologise. His party, in whose name the statement was uttered, has not apologised either. It also has neither condemned the statement nor assured us that PP would never champion a dictatorial rule.
Chibwana has simply resigned as secretary general. On its part, PP has concentrated on praising him for resigning. Interestingly, Malawians, including our analysts who are respected for having a discerning eye, are all dazed, fascinated by the fact that even in Malawi there are people such as Chibwana who can take responsibility for their mistakes by resigning from elected offices.
But wait a moment. If Chibwana was indeed articulating the position of PP and it boomeranged on him as is the case now, would the party shield him months before the May 2014 elections? That wouldn’t be prudent. The best is to wait for the dust to settle and offer Chibwana a big office in the public sector. That’s what parties in government can easily do.
The likes of Chibwana have always been with us. In the days of Kamuzu, people such as Hetherwick Ntaba went out of their way, only months after Malawians had overwhelmingly voted for the multiparty system in the 1993 referendum, promising that the one-party system would revert should MCP carry the day in the 1994 general election. MCP lost miserably.
In the days of Muluzi, there were people such as the late Dumbo Lemani and the late Davis Kapito who fought tooth and nail to bring back dictatorship by lying that the majority of the people in the villages wanted Muluzi to remain president for as long as they would be voting for him. Such shenanigans flopped miserably.
In the days of Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, spin-doctors for the longevity agenda included executives in the private and public sectors. They said Malawi was better with a professor at the helm. So, it had to be Bingu or his brother, Professor Peter. By the end of the day, their plot again failed and Bingu died when people, under the leadership of Public Affairs Committee (PAC), had given him a 60-day ultimatum to quit or face protests of the Arab Spring proportions.
Chibwana and PP don’t deserve praise. Rather, we should drum it into their heads that sovereign authority in Malawi is by continued trust of the public and that any party aspiring to lead us should not do so on our terms as stipulated in the Constitution and our laws.
One constitutional expert said reverting to a one-party system would require a majority nod through a referendum. That is the constitutional way and politicians in the ruling party have all along circumvented it and rule from a makeshift comfort zone of a de facto one-party dictatorship.
Often this happens when the ruling party takes advantage of incumbency to secure a numerical supremacy in Parliament. The opposition is ignored, people’s wishes are confused with the wishes of the ruling party itself and unpopular laws and policies are passed with the nod of our compromised traditional leaders who are forced to support a vaguely defined “government of the day”.
When that happens, the party in government does what it pleases including having its chair amass massive wealth at our expense while serving as State president without checks and balances.
Is that what we should expect of PP? I believe the real position of the party on Chibwana’s act of betrayal shall be known if JB secures her own term and her party gets enough seats in Parliament. But the best we can do for now is to be on our guard.