The dethroned Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should explain the evils the party committed when in power and make an honest apology to earn the nationâ€™s forgiveness, say Malawians in a survey.
Nation on Sunday conducted a week-long survey in which we asked Malawians whether the apologies the party has been making since leaving power in April are genuine.
The poll, in which 927 respondents gave their views, was conducted across the country by a team of reporters and correspondents. The social media and the short messaging service (SMS) were also used to collect the data.
The results of the poll are damning for DPP as 66 percent of the respondents rejected the partyâ€™s apologies as insincere, only meant to seek votes and sympathy from Malawians now that the party has found itself in opposition.
But DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said respondents in the survey may have been people with â€œpathological personal grudges with DPP or personalities therein.â€
Dausi insisted that the party was serious in its apologies.
â€œWe were not only serious but also concerned. Itâ€™s only proper to acknowledge that mistakes were made and move forward. I donâ€™t think Malawians can be so hard-hearted as not to accept an apology and yet claim to be a Christian nation,â€ said Dausi.
At Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s funeral in Thyolo, DPP secretary general Wakuda Kamanga issued the first apology.
Then in July, party president Peter Mutharika sought a truce with Malawians over DPP sins which include the economic mess, human rights violations, threats to close down newspapers, banning government advertising in some media outlets and passing repressive laws.
During another rally in Mzuzu, he said the party was sorry for the 20 July killings. This was a departure from his brother who said the victims were looters under Satanâ€™s guidance.
The survey results have not come as a surprise to some analysts such as Chancellor College political science lecturer Dr Mutsapha Hussein who said it is the economic woes during the DPP reign that continue to rankle Malawians.
â€œPeople still remember the fuel queues, the soaring prices and the effects of devaluation that they are suffering now are a product of DPPâ€™s rule. People cannot forget the 20 lives that were lost during the 20 July demonstrations.
â€œThen, there are issues of the silent media war DPP waged against media organisations, withholding adverts and all that,â€ said Hussein.
Lack of sympathy
He said DPP is apologising with the 2014 elections in mind, a sentiment echoed by some respondents who participated in the survey on social media platform Facebook.
Human rights activist Undule Mwakasungula attributed the lack of sympathy for DPP by Malawians to the human rights violations the party committed.
â€œMalawians might be unsympathetic due to arrogance, squeezing of the democratic space for Malawians, human rights violations, corruption, mismanagement of the economy, nepotism, police brutality , leadership insults against Malawians when they needed hope, and the killing of the innocent Malawians during the 20th July national demonstrations.
â€œDPP never believed in change and this change we have witnessed is the result of nature and not facilitated by them â€¦because of their arroganceâ€¦Malawians will not forget easily,â€ said Mwakasungula.
Another human rights activist, Billy Mayaya, said unless DPP gives a â€˜realâ€™ apology, Malawians will not forgive the party.
â€œThe citizens of Malawi are aware of the dynamics that constitute a genuine apology. Therefore, the findings of this poll point to the expectation for a more far-reaching apology that does not simply gloss over the need for the DPP to be accountable for all acts of impunity.
â€œThe initial apology is an appropriate springboard, but it has to extend further in order to address the concerns and needs of those who were victimised by the party while it was in power.
â€œPeople expect these apologies to be directed to the aggrieved coupled with genuine acts of restitution,â€ said Mayaya
Donata Lengimani of Ndirande in Blantyre, who lost a brother during the July 20 protests, also raised eyebrows at the sincerity of the DPP apologies.
â€œThey wronged us and they offer an apology at a podium in Mzuzu? I thought if you wrong someone you go to them and apologise? I actually did not know that someone apologised until you told me right now,â€ she said.
Anger against DPP
Responses on the social media also pointed to the anger that some people still have against DPP.
Said one respondent on Facebook: â€œIf Professor Peter Mutharika unconstitutionally successfully ascended to power following the April 5 events, would DPP have made the apologies? Would it be as remorseful as it is pretending to be?â€
Yet, there was also sympathy for the party: â€œYes, itâ€™s a genuine sorry. It takes courage to say sorry, and to me, they have shown maturity and they can really do better if given another chance.â€
But what can DPP do to redeem itself from the mire?
The party should make concrete changes and fix intra-party democracy, says Hussein.
â€œDPP should change the way the party is run. There should be internal democracy. Up to now, the party has not had a convention. It should really work on its image.
â€œTo truly be forgiven, DPP needs to come out on the atrocities they committed and show remorse for it, not only in words, but also in action,â€ he advised.
Mwakasungula asked Malawians to let go of the past, while DPP needs to do away with its bloated ego.
â€œLet them [DPP] go back to the grass roots and kneel to seek forgiveness in an honest and genuine manner, not in a form of show off.
â€œSecondly, the nation seems to have forgiven MCP though it had not forgotten MCP atrocities as victims of MCP rule are still suffering and need support. It would be unjustified to continue condemning DPP when atrocities under MCP rule have never been accounted for,â€ he said.
On the advice from observers that DPP should improve its intra-party democracy, Dausi said DPP is already a democratic party.
â€œWe are already a democratic party. We are a listening party. Accepting diverse opinion is a sign that we are democratic.â€
He assured Malawians that despite the mistakes of old, DPP will continue to answer to their needs, namely, food security, development, security and good public service.