As debate continues on the 2014 presidential candidature bid of Atupele Muluzi and his role as national chairman of the United Democratic Party (UDF), George Mhango engages a political analyst, associate professor of political science Blessings Chinsinga of Chancellor College, on this and other issues.
Q: Critics say the UDF constitution was amended to accommodate Atupeleâ€™s 2014 presidential candidature bid. What does this speak of him as a democrat?
A: It is simple. The UDF convention was rigged in favour of Atupele. Who is it that proposed that the constitution be amended? What kind of legitimacy did they have? If Atupele is honest enough and desire to have a place in the Malawi register of democrats, then he must confess that his succession to the throne was long planned. It is a dent on his credibility since for many view his election was an integral part of the efforts to dynasties UDF, in particular, and Malawi politics, in general.
Q: What do you think of Atupele ahead of the 2014 polls?
A: Going forward, Atupele has his work cut out to reinvigorate UDF. As a party, UDF is in tatters. It needs to be rehabilitated as a matter of urgency. I, however, doubt whether he has the wherewithal to do it. He [somehow] lost his momentum when he abandoned his agenda for change. It will be difficult for him to excite Malawians again unless he really goes out of the way to summon his creative genius to inspire hope and confidence in Malawians he fits the billing for transformative leadership.
Q: Are Malawians ready for young leadership?
A: From a purely political culture perspective, Malawians are perhaps not ready for young leadership, but as Malawi continues to sit on the precipice of economic meltdown, Malawians are increasingly showing signs for the desire for transformative leadership regardless of whether it is young or old. Malawians simply need leaders that can deliver.
As stories of prosperity from the neighbouring countries continue to hit the headlines, Malawians are asking themselves why not us? Are we doomed? This gives chance to whoever can put on the table an inspiring vision about how to turn around Malawiâ€™s five decade long stagnation, young or old.
Q: Is there any conflict of interest in Atupeleâ€™s being chair and presidential candidate of UDF?
A: The bottom line is that African politics is not mature enough to allow antagonists to work together for the good of a nation. I will not be surprised if the Cabinet is reshuffled in the near future.
Q:Can Atupele Muluzi be a different leader from his father given that the party has the same political ideologies it had during Bakiliâ€™s time?
A: It is possible for Atupele to be his own man, a different leader from his father. The ideologies may be the same but he could be able to tweak them in a manner that would create a different UDF altogether. The challenge, however, is that he brings to the chairmanship of the UDF excessive political baggage of his father… His father has handed the party to him, and believe you me, he will always be a lingering shadow standing in the way of young Muluzi to evolve into his own man. He will always be judged on the basis of and penalised for the sins of his father.
Q: As minister, did he do enough to win public trust?
A: Not really. He did not use the portfolio to showcase his change agenda. If I am not mistaken, the change agenda had a significant component on economic transformation and job creation. My assumption was that he could have used his portfolio to push for a well articulated economic recovery plan from day one. As responsible minister, he should have pushed hard to have an economic recovery plan at least within the first two months of the new administration. It is nonetheless a source of hope on the part of his supporters that he will now contest the presidency with at least experience in government under his belt.
Q: Do you see President Joyce Banda forming a coalition with Atupele Muluzi in 2014 elections?
A: Politics is the art of the possible. This cannot be ruled out completely. We have seen coalitions of all shapes and sizes in this country, some of them quite surprising. A PP-UDF coalition would not be a surprise at all. I would say we should simply perch on the edge of our seats. More surprises are on the way as the election season rolls into full gear.
Q:Do you think Atupele can now win back the trust of people who had backed his agenda for change, which he abandoned after assuming a ministerial position?
A: It is not impossible, but it will be a tall order. There is no question about it. The change agenda trusted Atupele into a pole position among the opposition leaders at the twilight of Binguâ€™s despotism. Through the change agenda, Atupele had started a very important conversation with Malawians extending beyond UDFâ€™s core base of support which started capturing their imagination about the possibility of an Atupele presidency. These have moved on following a period of inactivity but more importantly Atupeleâ€™s own reactions to the future of the change agenda immediately he became the Minister of Economic Planning and Development.
Q: Will resolutions at the UDF convention help?
A: As some of us had predicted, the situation has taken care of itself. Friday Jumbe has given up and decided to form his own political party. This was a logical conclusion because a party cannot be discussing unity for three years without making progress. It just showed that there was something fundamentally wrong with UDFâ€™s politics. All eyes are now on Atupele and Jumbe regarding how they intend to take their respective parties forward.
Q: Should the public read too much into earlier statements by Friday Jumbe, now leader of New Labour Party, a UDF breakaway, that the convention was illegal?
A: Not really, especially after the court had given the Atupele camp green light to proceed with the indaba. Court decisions are not ideals for political problems. They often do not resolve the issues once and for all. This should be a lesson to all politicians on going forward.Â