Written by GODFREY CHAKAWERA MUNTHALI
Every time the name Peter comes up in my mind, I think about the Biblical Peter who started poorly as a disciple of Jesus and at one point he even denied Jesus three times. But peter learned from his weaknesses and rose to become one of the pillars of Christianity.
At the climax of his persecution, he begged that he should be crucified with his head downward. Peter Munthalika, are you going to learn from your namesake and rise to build Malawi? If that is your intention then continue reading this letter.
Before I go further, I allow me to pass my belated condolences on the loss of your brother, who also happened to be our beloved President. One thing that comes out clearly in my mind is that your brother had a unique character that is so rare to find. Your brother was brave and for that I will live to remember him. Some people mistook his courage for stubbornness.
I think they misunderstood him. When the late Dr Kamuzu Banda decided to work with apartheid at a time when South Africa was being shunned, Banda was labelled ‘brave’. But when Bingu said no to economic neo-colonialism he was labelled ‘stubborn’. Bingu just like anybody else had his weaknesses but looking at how he survived pressure from opposition parties during his first term office and how he manoeuvred through the stormy civil society organisations during his second term of office up to the time he died, I can only say Bingu was brave.
So please receive my heartfelt belated condolences for losing a bravery family pillar. Coming to politics, looking at the mammoth crowds that have attended your public rallies in Thyolo and Lilongwe one would conclude that DPP is still a strong party that needs a vibrant leader who should take it back into government.
It would be totally wrong to insinuate that the people who are attending your rallies are doing so because they sympathise with you on the loss of your brother. They are coming to your rallies because they want you to find solutions for them on the skyrocketing of the prices of basic goods on the market.
They want you to explain how you intend to protect their property and lives from the technologically advanced robbers. People are losing their lives and goods to robbers at the click of a button. Talking about devaluation of the kwacha, life is proving to be too tough. Malawians are experiencing what Bingu was trying to avoid when he persistently refused to devalue the currency.
Do you have solutions to the economic sufferings that Malawians are going through? If yes then explain how you intend to overturn this. You were part of DPP and you saw what led to the infamous July 20 demonstrations. Just like your namesake Peter, did you learn anything from that? How do you intend to avoid that happening again if you take power from masteni in 2014?
It has been argued now and then that generally the Muthalikas are not good public speakers. This is proving to be a fact. But if you recognise this as a weakness you can turn it to be a stepping stone. The first step to address a problem is to accept that there is a problem. People trust someone who can convince them.
Even if you are telling lies but if you manage to convince someone that what you are saying makes sense you are likely to carry your day. This is why people miss Bakili Muluzi. When it comes to public speaking, Bakili has no friends.
Despite his age, if he can decide to retire from his retirement, as Gwanda Chakwamba has done, he would prove to be a strong candidate during the 2014 general elections. You do not have to insult your opponents in order to be a good public speaker.
Recognise this as your weak area and find ways of how you can convince the electorate come election time. The good thing is that most commentators are saying that you are improving. Practice makes perfect, so they say. The more the rallies you address, the higher the chances that you will pick up.
You should also learn from the weaknesses of Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and Malawi Congress Party(MCP). These
parties will find it hard to rule Malawi because they are regionalistic in nature. Afford looks at the north as its base while
MCP puts much focus on Central region. If a party is to go into government, it should have its grassroots spread throughout the country. Figures are very important in elections. According to Malawi constitution, two hundred votes can make a very big difference in an election.
Therefore try to avoid making DPP a Southern Region party as some people would like it to be. DPP got almost all votes in the northern region and those votes made a very big impact. Maintain DPP as a national party.
Malawians want a leader who can bring them together in order to face the many and serious challenges affecting them. United we stand, divided we fall. Do not accept to make DPP to be a southern region party because if you do that you would be disappointing those who attended your rally at Mgona and thousands of DPP supporters who are likely to attend your northern region meeting.
Your apology to media houses in Malawi is also a sign that you are becoming a mature politician. Any opposition politician, who dares to come into government, would make the apology which you conveyed to the media fraternity.
The media plays a very crucial role in our today’s world. No wonder it is called the fourth estate. The media has the power to destroy and build. The media made Bingu popular by writing about his successes during his first term of office. Both print and electronic carried the late Bingu’s development projects and no wonder he was a world star. He got so many awards.
But when things went from good to worse within few months of his second term, the same media destroyed him. The media reported about violation of human rights and poor governance. No wonder the July 20 demonstrations and no single award was given to him. I remember one award was even withdrawn from him. You should know that if your message is to reach the intended audience (the 2014 electorate) the media is very important.
You cannot visit all the corners of Malawi but through the media you can reach everyone regardless of how remote his/her place is. Therefore, I would like you to prove that your apology is genuine by even accepting criticism from the media.
Today, they will write positive stories about your rallies but tomorrow if you blunder they will also report about it. When they do that, you should be there to praise them for factual reporting.
For today, I will stop here. I will write another letter after the DPP convention. It will be a congratulatory letter for your success or for accepting defeat and your willingness to support the new leader.
Godfrey Chakawera Munthali