Written by Wise One from the East
Honourable Professor Peter Mutharika is leaving no stone unturned in his mission to wrest back the presidency into the Mutharika fold and reclaim Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)’s ruling party status. Honourable John ZU Tembo and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), after putting up not too bad a fight under the then prevailing circumstances as an opposition party during the DPP’s destructive regime, have now reverted to what they know best: napping.
Meanwhile, President Joyce Banda is, by hook or crook, using what fate has granted her as a springboard to a genuinely elected term of office come 2014. She has in fact become very adroit in using her fate granted chance to charm potential rivals in line. She dangles a ministerial post to one, and a second vice-presidency - that cannot materialize to another - and mum is the word. As a result: there are no challengers worth writing home about, save for a second coming of the Mutharika brand.
Opposition in a coma, a major rival in hibernation:
In the current socio-political environment, with memories of the tribulations caused by the DPP still very fresh, her manoeuvres have resulted in a virtual absence of opposition because although the DPP is barking on the side-lines, its barks are viewed as the barking of rabid dog. In this mix, and for all practical purposes in hibernation, is Honourable Atupele Austin Muluzi, the young man who caused a stir with his Agenda for Change.
Issues at hand:
Was the Agenda for Change also buried at Ndata Farm or will the crusade for change re-surface, and in what form? More relevantly, should President Joyce Banda be under the impression (or is it illusion?) that she has won over the young man and that his presidential ambitions were interred too at Ndata; or is the camaraderie the two are enjoying merely the calm before a storm?
Atupele’s Investment towards 2014:
Without referring to the painful but expedient brief stint in prison, Atupele Austin Muluzi, M.P. laid a good foundation for a strong 2014 bid. His Agenda for Change was gathering momentum, and had fate not intervened, even with the internal wrangling of the two factions of United Democratic Front (UDF), he was arguably far ahead even of then Vice President Banda in popularity ratings.
The Change Agenda and his campaign, though they were done at the expense of a united UDF, was a breath of fresh air in a country where politicians do not have much to offer in terms of ideology. It was a good start. And most importantly, “the Papa’s son” label that Atupele wears was, somehow, beginning to getting blurred.
The Agenda for Change - reconsidered:
The demise of President Mutharika did not help Atupele's cause. In fact, we can dare say that the youngster has all the reasons to cry louder than the bereaved. His Agenda for Change - and he only has himself to blame - had been too hooked on to President Mutharika and the DPP’s weaknesses. As a result, Bingu’s departure from the scene more or less made it irrelevant.
Mind you, we are not saying that things have changed that much in the direction that Atupele was promising no. But nevertheless, on the way to 2014, with a different president, and political party “in office”, he seriously needs to revise it.
And from the look of things, the one thing that will not happen is Atupele strategizing from inside. Swept by the JB euphoria, immediately fed a "ndasi" in the form of a ministerial post, he has never been heard on any issue of national importance: homosexual friendly laws, Section 65, declaration of assets debate, donor dependency – the way out, the sad Lipenga saga and the re-emerging Lake Malawi/Nyasa cold war.
On gay laws, it would have been nice to hear how conservative or progressive he is, and how he reconciles his position with his faith. On Section 65, the future of our democracy and any hope of bringing sanity to our unprincipled parliamentarians lie there in. What are his views? Or to put it in the context of his campaign gimmick: what sort of change was he promising in this regard? Is Atupele for behavioural change on the part of the prostituting MPs or would he want to tamper with the constitution?
On whether it is moral or immoral for a president to use a technicality to avoid being transparent vis-à-vis re-declaring her assets, his stance and statement would have again helped the electorate to predict his future behaviour. The Lipenga-MRA Saga and the way it was bungled with Lipenga’s head saved by a kangaroo committee is ammunition that the Change Agenda would have used, and re-used again and again.
How does Atupele feel to be leading the Economic Planning ministry of a country in partnership with a finance minister who cannot recognize a bunch of cooked figures when he sees them? Can one make any meaningful economic planning on the strength of figures that the Minister of Finance cannot be responsible for?
Atupele owes us a statement. Can we expect to hear his real views while he is all comfy under JB’s arm-pit? Forget it. One wonders: is this the sort of change he was agitating for? We will never know, the young man is happy - enjoying tea with mandasi (dumplings) – perhaps this is the change he wanted. Not that enjoying a cup of tea with dumplings is a bad idea, no – I myself indulge in this at home - but when you have been agitating for urgency and things are happening at a business as usual pace, you leave your followers with a sour taste in their mouths. And they have a right to ask: by the way Honourable, what was all the hullaballoo for?
The Muluzi Senior factor:
One however has to feel for Atupele. His father played an admirable role in the transition, making the right noises and all that. So when a ministerial post came knocking, he must have been at a loss how to say no.
Further, if Atupele needed a catalyst to join the government, his father’s uncompleted court case clinched it. What chances did Muluzi Senior have if his son was seen as “fighting” the government of the day? And what are the chances that the government will pursue Muluzi senior with the same zeal the DPP government had now that his son is wining and dining with the president, the attorney general and all the big boys in town?`
For all we know, had Atupele refused to play ball, President Banda could have, like Bingu wa Mutharika, used his father’s indiscretion with donor funds to keep Atupele in line. This is not far-fetched because firstly, Joyce Banda’s Attorney General – Ralph Kasambara – practically initiated this case and secondly, it is difficult to see Atupele’s motivation for a two year ministerial post when he could have easily gunned for gold in 2014. The young man is sacrificing himself for “papa”. Are the sins of the father being revisited on the son? Only Atupele can answer this one.
Crash of Agendas: UDF 2014 vs. PP 2014
Intelligence from highly placed United Democratic Front (UDF) sources have confided in Maravi Post that Atupele will soon break free of PP, and re-launch his campaign with scathing attacks on both PP and DPP, capitalizing on PP’s increasingly glaring weaknesses (basking in insignificant successes) and DPP’s horrific reign. Intelligence from well-placed People’s Party (PP) sources on the other hand have also confided in Maravi Post that President Joyce Banda is pondering enticing Atupele with a running mate position at the expense of course Khumbo Kachale.
She has a major huddle to cross however, because Khumbo Kachale and Ralph Kasambara among others will not have such “nonsense” happen under their noses. Interesting how history repeats itself, doesn’t it?
Politics being the art of the possible, one cannot predict at this point which way Atupele Austin Muluzi will go. Is he raising the yellow banner any time soon to ride on a UDF ticket; or does he have the guts to deal with Kachale/Kasambara challenge to partner President Joyce Banda in 2014?
While life has never been known to present stress-free options for politicians, successful politicians (if such exists); have made their careers by relishing such challenges. After all is said and done, there is one thing we can say without fear of contradiction. Late President Mutharika demise complicated everything not only for relatives and followers, but for seemingly unrelated people like Atupele.
Atupele Muluzi, unless he seeks the counsel of the wise, and re-thinks his and Malawi’s priorities, and makes a monumental decision could be a spectator in 2014 as far as the presidential race is concerned that is. And one thing is for sure: as the plot opens up more, there will be no shortage of drama ahead. And hopefully, we will be there to report, analyse and savour it all.
And of course, may God bless Malawi!