If there is something the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has succeed to do, with abundant consistency, is ruling this country arrogantly—with little regard to the aspirations of the people, or the political temperature of the day.
Ever since the DPP won their deserved landslide victory in 2009 on the back of an impressive reign from 2004 to 2009—becoming the first party to win overwhelming support nationwide—the party that once inspired hope among Malawians, has lost its way.
A party which once drew pride from solving people’s woes is now more renowned for compounding them. And it doesn’t give a damn either. Not anymore.
So after ending the perennial hungers that characterised Bakili Muluzi’s ‘lost decade’, the party that gave us ‘zero-tolerance’ to corruption, championed prudent use of public resources, removed ghost workers, demonstrated the possibility of building infrastructure such as roads using local resources, became a party of plunder and arrogance, period!
Like a crazy fellow after receiving a windfall, the goodwill of the people and international community was squandered. The DPP made a strategic decision in 2012 to make diplomatic switch from Taiwan to China. The effect has been good and bad on the DPP. In the brilliant first-term, China’s generosity allowed the DPP to match its transformation rhetoric with landmark infrastructure development.
But it was also a curse. China—the Father Christmas—unlike his western counterparts, prescribes no conditions on its aid save for repayment of its loans and influx of its citizens and companies. That has emboldened DPP to act arrogantly in a democracy knowing when the western capitals freeze aid, the friends from the orient will always come to the rescue to fill the void.
And somehow, after winning the 2014 elections from the handicapped position of being in opposition, the DPP has focused on manipulating or winning elections legitimately, rather than nation-building. And that appears to be something they have mastered, too.
So, instead of championing right ideas, the party has been captured in politics of greed. It is self-servicing and no longer people-centred. Peter Mutharika is so distant to his illustrious late brother and party patriarch Bingu wa Mutharika as he espouses no clear vision for the benefit of the nation. APM doesn’t jail or kill opponents at the rate some of his murderous peers, but being democratic and tolerant is the least of the wishes of the citizenry at the moment.
Oriented to the progress of their neighbours, thanks to regional integration and cross-border business and further afield, thanks to the Internet, Malawians are more perplexed by the troubling levels of poverty and under development at home. It’s the single most charge many a Malawian today will raise against their government—failure to turn around the economic fortunes of the country and the people.
But that quest long stopped being the pre-occupation of the DPP government. The DPP has become a financial vehicle for its leaders’ self-enrichment. When its supporters proudly call the DPP a system—flaunting its ability to organise itself around a survival strategy, they are unconsciously referring to a cronyism. That system only serves the few in the system and their dependents.
That system plunders the State to sponsor its survival. That system stopped caring more about the plight of the people. That system is, as a consequence, hated by the majority of the people. That system promotes tribalism because once Malawians are blinded power, it calculates that it can survive on the principle that because it acts in a way that makes it appear to have a strong base in one region, it will always win elections or manipulate them in its favour.
That system is the DPP today. It has levers of power, but using it wrongly. It has potential, for both good and bad but since winning that election in 2009, has time and time again resorted to the bad, instead of good. So, when opponents match in protest, like they did this week, instead of genuinely seeking solutions to the ongoing crisis, it sends its hoodlums to the street to hack them with pangas. It uses State media to wage disinformation and propaganda against citizens who challenge the party.
So, DPP is a party that lost its soul. A party that most Malawians can happily say I once voted for this party, prayed for the good health of its president and hoped for a better Malawi because of its policies. But like when its arrogance and self-destructiveness chased donors away; or led to fuel and forex scarcity, DPP is a party that needs self-introspection: What are we doing wrong? How do we regain the trust of Malawians?
Sending thugs to the streets or having a President who ignores a smoldering crisis for months, is not one way of undertaking the task the DPP needs to for it to regain its own destiny or the country’s.