Written by GARVEY KARVEI
Prostitution, said to be the world’s oldest profession, can be defined as the practice of offering sexual intercourse indiscriminately especially for money or some other material return.
Applying this definition to politics – said to be the second oldest profession and according to Ronald Reagan bearing a striking resemblance to the first, “political prostitution” becomes the art of offering political allegiance indiscriminately for money, power, influence or some other material benefit.
If we are to look further for typical political prostitutes in Malawi today there are thousands, with the likes of Yunus Mussa, Frank Mwenifumbo, Dr. Luscious Kanyumba and his fellow Ntcheu DPP MPs, Mr. Ken Kandodo and company, topping the list.
Generally, all former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) parliamentarians that have and will ditch the DPP for Peoples Party (PP) now that the DPP has found itself sitting on unfamiliar territory – in the opposition benches and devoid of its founding leader – can all validly claim to be political prostitutes.
Interesting to watch and yet to make a move, is the most successful political prostitute Malawi has ever seen, the inimitable harlot, the one and only, Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba.
Before we proceed, a brief background is in order. Dr Ntaba between 1992 and 1994 earned the accolade of “Talking Computer” when he, comical Ali-like, and despite the obvious, defended the falling one party regime with such eloquence that he could have fooled “strangers in Jerusalem.”
With the one party system destroyed and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in opposition, he continued practicing the art of oratory as a member of the opposition until his duplicity was exposed.
Then, he made his first move, and came up with a bargaining chip: the New Congress for Democracy (NCD). We will come back to this later, because before this he had toyed with a newspaper: the Malawian that was managed and ran by the late Chimwemwe Mputahelo.
Returning to his other creation, the NCD, he tried unsuccessfully to join the 2004 Mgwirizano Coalition bandwagon. Suspicious of him and his party, the coalition stayed away from him. Never one at a loss for what to do next, he sold his party, skills and talents to a very willing buyer: Bakili Muluzi and his United Democratic Front (UDF).
And with this move, he was back on the ruling side, where the gravy train flows. Needless to say that having languished in opposition for a while, when the late President Bingu wa Mutharika ditched the UDF, he quickly made himself available and useful, assuring himself a continued ride on the gravy-train.
He joined or co-founded the DPP, and was in the forefront demonising Muluzi and the UDF – where he had sought refuge briefly – as the Section 65 vs. Budget and Impeachment madness raged in Malawi. Along the line, he served as DPP Secretary General, fell out of grace, and resurfaced as Presidential Advisor and Spokesperson – until his client recently bit the dust.
One thing that needs to be said to Dr Ntaba’s credit is that through-out his dynamic career, especially in his chosen speciality and niche of defending unpopular policies, laws and governments; he serves whoever is willing to pay his body and soul with unflinching loyalty. He speaks the Queen’s language like his mother tongue and the same applies when he switches to his mother tongue, Chichewa. Not all people speak their own language that well!
And check this out: Not too long ago, in the aftermath of His Excellency Fergus Cochrane Dyet’s expulsion, Ntaba, tongue-in-cheek, took on the British Foreign Affairs Department, saying contrary to what everybody was saying, the Malawi Government had not expelled the British Ambassador. It had merely “lost confidence in him”.
Who does that? It’s like a spin doctor from the UK telling you that he or she has a better understanding of your vernacular language with its expressions. But that’s Ntaba for you.
While such ingenuity would be praiseworthy – if invested in a good cause and used for the general good – in a prostitute, political or otherwise, it just shows how low he or she will sink to satisfy their clientele.
Now why are we talking at length about lurid and blatant prostitution, as if it were worth emulating? It’s because for all his exploits, there’s price to pay. Going by the record of this former DJ and physician, what’s to stop to conclude that he could be looking for his next “victim”.
For one, Dr. Ntaba’s political career, for all his close association with powers that be, isn’t endorsed by folks in his backyard. To prove this, he lost the parliamentary elections in a by-election to a then upstart – Willard Gwengwe and then lost again when DPP won re-election in 2009 even candidates who had no business of winning made to parliament.
This speaks volumes. Putting it mildly, while in indulging in politics is always a gamble, being an unelected politician is even worse. It renders one prone to abuse by any client pulling the strings. And, as a result one’s political future winds up being subject to the fortunes of another – as has happened now to Dr Ntaba.
His fortunes at the polls underline one thing: political prostitution, though attractive in the short run from the perspective of personal survival, is generally frowned upon by voters, which is a good thing. I would want to bet every tambala I have that he isn’t among those thinking of jumping ship but one can never be so sure.
Malawi has other people who can do what he does but for a good cause. He is old school. And like Mark Antony, he has to first bury Caesar before making his next move – which would in theory leave him at the end of the line. But like a true prostitute, he had, it appears, prepared for such an eventuality and made some initial moves.
It may have gone unnoticed, but in fact Ntaba was the first to invest and gamble in the possibility of tables turning before anyone did. And he did this, very overtly on two or three occasions.
First time, I would say, was when as a typical opportunist, he made the most of President Joyce Banda’s studied response to PAC’s resignation call on Mutharika. The new President urged patience, saying it would have been better to focus on the economy as Bingu wouldn’t consider stepping down. Ntaba, in an interview, uncharacteristically praised Banda “for not eyeing the presidency.”
Not one to leave things to chances, in case the implied compliment above didn’t sink in, Dr Ntaba was at it again hailing Banda for “heeding police order barring her from holding a rally in Dowa due to the volatile political situation” that only the police and District Commissioners seemed to be aware of.
“She did postpone that meeting because it was the police asking her to do that and no problems occurred there. It’s the norm and she obeyed the law,” he concluded emphatically that Mrs Banda is a law abiding citizen – unlike the young Atupele Muluzi.
Commenting on a recent break in at PP offices, Ntaba said it was regrettable and for the first time, condemned the act instead of – as he always done – blaming the PP for doing this to themselves to gain sympathy.
Now on all three occasions, I was left wondering what the world was coming to. Events of the epochal last week have now explained everything. Dr Ntaba wasn’t Dr Banda’s personal physician for nothing. In the least, Dr Ntaba hasn’t totally forgotten how an old man whose health is failing looks like.
This plus the fact that he was, without a doubt, privy to whatever medical mysteries were being kept out of public eye by the State House, he had an inkling of what was coming, and typically he tried to make hay while the sun was shining, that’s how I look at it.
If Bright Malopa, a lay man as far as the science of medicine is concerned, can allege that he knew the late president was a “dead man walking”, what did Dr Ntaba see?
The question now is did President Joyce Banda buy Ntaba’s well veiled advances? Or has Ntaba finally run out of luck and his fortieth day is at hand?
It all remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure, we haven‘t seen or heard the last of the Talking Computer. Whatever software is loaded into it, when rebooted, the Talking Computer will make some sound bites which should only serve as entertainment