Same Death Different Mourning

By Gregory Gondwe

The 20 July demonstrations made the Northern Region pay the heaviest cost with 9 men that were slain when the police used guns to quell the situation. The aftermath was massive as it turned the nation on its head.

Reaction to such a gory action came in different colour and shade.

On the day of burial, people’s response was over whelming; thousands of people thronged the road from Mzuzu Central Hospital and escorted the slain to Zolozolo Cemetery where they were buried at the same place, in the same grave yard as heroes.

Already, the government protested the inauguration of the slain as heroes, with President Bingu wa Mutharika saying all the people that were killed, 19 in total in the country, ‘died in vain’.

The Police have not gone without any better explanation as regards those that were killed, as they are saying they shot at thugs who went flat out vandalising and looting property

Livingstonia Synod Creates Mourning Ground

Church of Central Africa Presbytery (CCAP) Livingstonia Synod suddenly has become the major bereaved union in the Mzuzu murders.

Already, all opposition parties and their leadership including the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and John Tembo, United Democratic Front (UDF) and Atupele Muluzi, People’s Party (PP) and Vice President Joyce Banda, Congress for Democrats (CODE) and Ralph Kasambara, and later People’s Transformation Party (PETRA) and Kamuzu Chibambo all came to the church to pay their homage to the slain.

All took a similar route; first they would go into the office of the Party’s Secretary General Rev. Levi Nyondo for a few words before meeting the media and the bereaved family members in the women’s hall where a few words of condolence and prayer would be shared.

The next place was the Zolozolo Cemetery where a prayer and the laying of wreath would take place.

While all the opposition leaders were of the view that this was the best way to console the bereaved members, ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials were of the view that they needed to console ‘the damaged property’ and those that suffered as a result.

Mutharika and DPP Mourns their way

President Bingu Wa Mutharika also toured the damaged structures which included DPP regional offices that were being housed in Sports Minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda’s property as well as what used to be a house of an innocent person who works for Airtel Malawi.

All these houses were in Katoto Township and while all these houses were razed due to the connection with the ruling DPP the other house suffered because a DPP driver had driven a DPP vehicle within its grounds.

When Mutharika finished touring the damaged property he moved to Chibavi to talk to the people about what happened on July 20 and pledged to institute an independent commission of enquiry that will be represented by the African Union, United Nations and Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

Some Asian businesspeople whose shops were looted have started leaving for their respective countries as they say they cannot revive their businesses.

Business Threat and Investigations

Most of the shops that were looted in Mzuzu during the fracas belong to Asian and Chinese nationals.

Property worth around 500 million kwacha was looted prompting some traders to declare that they might now be leaving the country since they do not have money to resuscitate their businesses.

“I wished I could continue doing business in Mzuzu but I cannot because things are out of hand,” complained one of the businessmen living the country a Mr. Farook.

Director for Church and Society of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia Moses Mkandawire a member of the civil society members that organized the ill-fated 20th July demonstrations told journalists on July 23 that although things got out of hand, they had a fruitful meeting with the police on the eve of the demonstrations on how to peacefully present their petition to authorities at the City Council.

“Before the demonstrations started, there was news that an injunction against the march had been sought,” he said.

After seeing no further communication coming forth, protesters decided to begin marching a few minutes after this, Mkandawire says this is when the police fired tear gas in an attempt to stop them. This is it that angered the people and triggered chaos.

Mkandawire said the civil society organizations are contemplating reporting the government especially police officers who have shot dead the angry people to international criminal court.

When Mutharika toured Chibavi he spoke from his Land Rover under heavy security that he is ready for a dialogue with the Civil Society Organizations in order to address their concerns.

It is here that he talked of instituting a commission of enquiry which was in contrast with what the Civil Society Groups wanted.

They said they will only support a parallel commission of enquiry to be conducted by Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC)

This prompted Mutharika to get angrier as he declared that even when 19 people were killed and 275 arrested after the July 20 saga, the civil society leaders were warned to take care

“I’ll go after you! Even if you hide in holes I’ll smoke you out!” warned Mutharika.

20-Point Petition and Bereaved

In a 20-point petition, protesters demand that the president stop paying his wife Callista a salary for charitable engagement, trim his bloated cabinet, tackle corruption, address shortages of foreign currency, fuel and medicines, solve intermittent electricity and water supply, and reinstate media freedom and human rights.

Nonetheless, as seen by how the death of those that was killed is being politicised – where the opposition is for the bereaved while the ruling party is for the damaged property that included their vehicles and that of their officials – it is not clear whether or not a lesson has been learnt.

The ruling DPP and its leadership has nothing to do with those that were killed and has no kind words for the bereaved, prompting an angry reaction towards the president through a petition that wanted him to at least wear a kind face and speak a word of condolence on their loss.

“We the bereaved families and injured persons of the July 20, 2011 police brutality in Mzuzu…are concerned that the president…has not condoled with the dead and injured,” reads a press released signed by Aubrey Nkosi representative of the bereaved families and the injured.


Mutharika’s Features of Muluzi and Kamuzu

President Bingu wa Mutharika is unfortunate to be the country’s third occupant of the State House. There is bound to be comparisons between his rule and that of his two predecessors whether or not this inference is his cup of tea.
However, since he keeps on declaring that he wants to take after the first President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, there has been some conspicuous gaps in as far as his trying to carry out his emulation of Kamuzu is concerned.
It would also be interesting to know that Mutharika is a product of the warmth of the United Democratic Front (UDF) where the benefactor of this heat was no one else other than former President Bakili Muluzi.
Therefore, although Mutharika tries to try to be like Kamuzu, there are certain aspects within his style of leadership that are purely the Muluzi fashion of headship.
To start with, Mutharika has been unfortunate to inherit a country, which has a wholesale-liberalised market force that even when he tried to dictate tobacco prices for the buyers in our auction floors the reverberation has been adverse to the farmers instead.
Then there is a question of appeasing the Malawi Congress Party (MCP). For wrong moral reasons I assume, Bakili Muluzi spent K3 million taxpayers’ money to print the MCP cloth, which was a dominating factor at its convention at the Natural Resources College at one time.
I am timidly saying Mutharika has followed suit. Why? One may ask. My contention is without complex. The cloth, which The Guardian newspaper has reported to have cost tax payers K3 million also is an appeasement because what is outstanding on the cloth are pointers that are unmistakably MCP.
Others like me have argued that the cloth would have been something else. Something like a colt of arms going together with the face of Kamuzu, just to make it more nationalised than the party slant it took. Not all, of course, can view good things from a shared perspective, so they say.
One other feature that Mutharika is trying to emulate Kamuzu is that of making our cities look clean. At the height of Kamuzu rule, Blantyre won big prizes as one of the world’s cleanest cities.
However, there Mutharika has been slighted a bit by sticking to one Donton Mkandawire.
During the Muluzi rule all the city assembly officials, workers and what have you, never wanted the services of one Professor Donton Mkandawire. Muluzi stuck to the Professor. What Muluzi did then is what is now being practised by Mutharika; he is sticking to Mkandawire.
The result is that despite chasing the vendors from the streets, dirt is now the commonest of all eye sores in the streets and the hope to achieve what Kamuzu did remains a pipe dream.
The other similarity of Mutharika and Kamuzu would perhaps be the fear of arrest that hovers above our heads; but this is not more than the stance that he has taken though; Mutharika is bold when he executes his pronouncements etc.
While Mutharika is not much into the globe trotting as was characterised by the Muluzi rule he also has his share and unlike Kamuzu who was a lucid planner he seems to be driven by his whims as I always insist.
Take the crop inspection tour for example, Kamuzu used to plan the itinerary of it. But one day in Mutharika’s rule he just decided to do it the Kamuzu crop inspection way. The fact that puts to the clear that he was just jerked by his whims is at the time he said he will start the tours; it was in the middle of the growing season and he never visited all the areas proposed as was the case with Kamuzu.
To imagine that each trip the President makes costs K30 million plus one can really see how costly his impromptu imitation of Kamuzu is costing the country.
It is an open fact that Kamuzu was a dictator and Mutharika has also declared that in order to emulate Kamuzu by the letter he is ready to be called a dictator as well.
The way he has conducted himself of late has in fact exposed this dictatorial trait and really given chance he might really turn himself into a worst dictator.
He is very unfortunate though, because this is a democratic environment and for the Kamuzu system to work there was a suitable environment that nourished its growth.
The difference again was that Kamuzu was the country’s life President and hence was assured of his tomorrow without being threatened by the polls.
Reverend Dr Sausten Mfune, President of Seventh Adventist Church during a prayer during the unveiling ceremony of Kamuzu’s mausoleum mentioned something to this effect.
Mfune said politicians think of the next elections while statesmen think of the next generation and that Kamuzu was a statesman. He was short of mentioning though that this was possible because he made sure that he became life president.
Mutharika declared during the opening of the Mugabe road that he can not be threatened to execute decisions he so desires because people are saying they will punish him through the ballot box. He challenged that who said he was going to look for their votes come 2009 any way?
All this point to one thing that Mutharika must neither be Kamuzu nor Muluzi after all he is the first Bingu wa Mutharika not the second Kamuzu. So he has to live and rule by his own terms otherwise he won’t manage any borrowed terms.
I would like to thank you sir for reading and understanding my last piece in the previous week’s issue and you indeed used that Constitution provision I reminded you about and fired one Ralph Kasambara…

The Presidency Must Stop Embarrassing the Nation

I am not supposed to be talking to President Bingu wa Mutharika himself but I have chosen to pick on the whole presidency for reasons you will appreciate as we discuss the matter at hand later.
I must say that in the past weeks, the presidency has ridiculed the nation and if we do not act, then we, as a nation, shall fail our duties together.
Some of the actions by the president, which have been classified under the ‘intentional controversial issues’, should have been avoided.
Take for instance what the President did last Monday at the Auction Floors and last Tuesday during the opening ceremony of the First National Constitutional Review Conference. Before this, his office wrote a letter whose target was Vice President Cassim Chilumpha.
Let me start with the Auction Floors speech. Mutharika was clearly angry and for him to say that he was not, as he claimed there, is deceit. The tough talk he gave the buyers was quite moving to Malawians like me because we feel the buyers were cheating us and we cannot accept a raw deal.
But the president should learn to give directives without losing his losing his head because when he does so, he injures his character. We all know that the president has to be bold on matters of national importance, for instance issues concerning tobacco prices but he should do so diplomatically.
I hear the buyers have now conspired to buy the best quality tobacco for not more than $1.10, contrary to what the president demanded.
On the other hand, I feel these so called tobacco buyers astound me because this shows that they are playing double face. They offer as high as $3:50 for the very same tobacco when it is smuggled across the boarder, which is strange, isn’t it?
The other thing is that it is absurd for them to sulk after the President talked tough as if they are our benefactors when, in fact they are the most beneficiaries in this tobacco trade. I really hate their beguilement.
While we are still on this dishonest proclivity, what is this that I hear is giving the president enough clout to play hardball with the buyers? Is it true that he has set his sight to markets in Zimbabwe and Japan and he is not worried even if the buyers decide never to visit our floors again? Why can’t it just come out in the open? Zimbabwe and Malawi, I wonder what the two countries intend to become.
The opening of Constitutional Conference where the president irritatingly claimed he was not angry when he made the outburst that Section 65, which is threatening his ‘co-opted’ DPP MPs, be scrapped off from the statutes because it contradicts with sections 32 is a display another outrageous behaviour.
One tends to wonder if the Attorney General, who used to be sharp in private practice, has lost his high legal acumen or he is bent at embarrassing the President who made a brilliant speech save for the imposition he made on the conference, which stole the glamour, he had accorded it.
I have another biggest problem than the ones earlier expressed. This is concerning letters coming from the presidency.
There is a man from the OPC press office whose write-ups when he was working for newspapers were good. Now it is a different story altogether.
Surely, he needs to demand his terms of reference and job description. I don’t think the taxpayers money can be wasted on someone whose job is to refute allegations using a kind of language that can tear us a part as a nation. There are many ways to make the bosses appreciate that you are working hard even without injuring others in order to please them; but to embarrass them.
When I sat in the conference hall during the constitutional review last week, one person whose presence and contribution to the process I missed highly was that of the State Vice President.
The Vice President could not come because another letter writer, this time not from OPC, but from the state residences warned him against attending public meetings because his security is not guaranteed.
As I declared in one of our past discussion, I really do not want to take sides on the standoff that exists between Mutharika and Chilumpha, which I believe is being fuelled by such kind of letters.
I don’t know what happened to our manners. I wonder if there is no means of communication between the state residences and Chilumpha other than the so called press releases or media releases.
By the way, did you read a feature by Mzati Nkolokosa in The Nation newspaper analysing how inconsistent Chilumpha’s actions have been lately? Please look out for that issue that came out a day before the State House release that warned Chilumpha.
If you succeed in finding that feature story, then look for the State House press release, which also came out in the papers. Believe you me, you will not doubt that either Nkolokosa is de facto press release writer for the State House or someone is plagiarising at the state residences.
Aren’t these reasons enough to declare that the presidency is embarrassing the nation?

Trying on African Political Shoes

When we were in the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) rule, the general feeling was that Malawians were unhappy with the one party autocratic rule but no one spoke openly against this until 31 years later when the then President late Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was forced to call for a referendum, which he miserably lost.
The rest as they say is history. Banda called for elections which ushered Bakili Muluzi and his yellow United Democratic Front (UDF) into power, how Bingu wa Mutharika was voted into power and how he ditched the UDF, the party that sponsored him into power, thereby administering the UDF the bitter medicine.
We were several times told by Banda that in 1964, by the way I was not around then, the country had multiparty system of government but all the parties died a natural death, leaving the MCP the only party in the country.
However, is it not strange that across Africa it seems all other parties except those in power died a natural death as well?
Our neighbours, Zambia had the all time KK- (super Ken) Dr Kenneth Kaunda who was that country’s only highest political authority until after Fredrick Chiluba wrestled power from him.
These independence time leaders with higher academic papers that designated the higher political knowledge they had garnered which in turn assisted them unseat the colonial rulers decided to go African way and designed an African political shoe which they intended to use to stride into the future.
The African nationalists developed a political ideology called African Socialism in the 1950s, which Cassell Dictionary of Modern Politics describes as lacking clear form or expression or flatly a vague.
It says African socialism, which generally seeks to combine certain features of African traditional societies with ‘socialist’ concept is a nebulous term, which has no theoretical framework.
These characteristics include land ownership, the extended family and kinship relationships and the concept of sharing as well as an emphasis on cooperation rather than competition and on the group rather than the individual.
Attempting to achieve socialism in the African context, African socialist tend to reject calls for class struggle, atheism and dictatorship of the proletariat (the class of workers who own little or no property and have to work for wages especially at unskilled jobs in the city), asserting that socialism can be built on a peasant base.
The ideology is most closely associated with Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, who incorporated it into his philosophy of Ujamaa, and KK whose A.H was greatly influenced by it.
Kaunda went a step further when he expounded what is now known as African Humanism, which is another African version of Socialism.
He designed it to give direction to the newly independent Zambia and was based on KK’s views that “the high valuation of man and respect for human dignity which is a legacy of our tradition should not be lost in the new Africa.”
In Tanzania, up across Nyasaland, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, that country’s first president came up with his own version of African socialism, which he called ‘Ujamaa’ a Swahili word for ‘familyhood’, which he consequently adopted as the name of the brand of African socialism Development.
Nyerere first used the term in a 162 pamphlet in which he argued that socialism was a matter of distribution and an attitude of mind.
“Ujamaa,” he wrote, “describes our socialism. It is opposed to capitalism … and is even opposed to doctrinaire socialism.”
In 1967 Nyerere combined Ujamaa with the concept of villagisation leading to the creation of Ujamaa villages in which small groups of farmers would work together on communal farms and pool their resources.
In Malawi, Kamuzu simply preached hard work in the field and guided the country albeit with an iron dictatorial single party fist under the banner of unity, kukhulupilika and discipline which he said will fight poverty, hunger as well as bringing shelter.
It is not a secret that these systems only seemed to work because the West, which is Africa’s major donor, was engaged in a cold war with the eastern block and upon its fall pressure mounted and revolution that led to plural democratic political dispensation took the centre stage.
Now looking at the Malawi case where the political terrain has been characterised by political killings and persecution, vindictiveness, manipulation, corruption, incessant power struggle that does not make a distinction on time for campaign and time for development, constitution abuse, economic plunder etc do we really need the political shoes we have been putting on since independence?
We have had the MCP political shoes, which fitted the leadership quite okay and left out the masses that were trampled on as a result. The UDF shoes claimed to have taken all of us but most of the people who enjoyed its comfort tell us now that what we had was a raw deal. The problems of the current none descriptive Mutharika shoe which he labelling DPP has what we all know.
Now the question is perhaps it is time for the African Union leaders to develop an African Democratic concept this time round with a proper theoretical and structural framework unlike the African Socialism envisaged by their predecessors; the African Nationalists of the Defunct Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Conceivably since we are brought up in purely African set up and learn a Western political science late in the years we tend to derail the masses either deliberately to plunder the national wealth or out of incompetence because looking at political tension in African countries it is just very abhorring.
You know about the Zimbabwe crisis. In Zambia you hear what Levi Mwanawasa is doing now that elections are near, in South Africa follow how Jacob Zuma fell out of Thabo Mbeki’s grace and favour. These problems are huge that they dwarf our own Mutharika and his vice Cassim Chilumpha political impasse.
May be it’s time we became our own African cobbler to mend the Democratic shoes we bought from the West which has proven too heavy or too light that we stumble or fly when in them and with some African modifications may they will fit us and enhance a smooth gliding into the future.