A lion and a tiger happened to come together over the dead body of a fawn that had been recently shot. A fierce battle ensued, and as each animal was in the prime of its age and strength, the combat was long and furious. At last they lay stretched on the ground, panting, bleeding and exhausted, each unable to lift a paw against the other. An impudent fox, coming by at this time, stepped in and carried off before their eyes the prey for which they had both suffered so much.
The moral of this fairy tale from Ernest Thompson-Seton’s The Animal Story Book, but originally from Fables of Æsop, analogically sums up the likely outcome of the visible hijacking of the transparent democratic process by absolute monarchic politics practised by some Malawi Congress Party (MCP) subjects.
The MCP national executive committee (NEC) on April 25 cancelled the party’s convention which was scheduled to start on April 26 at the Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe to, among others, elect the party’s presidential candidate for next year’s elections.
Speaking in an interview with The Nation on April 25 after a day-long NEC meeting at MCP president John Tembo’s Area 10 residence in Lilongwe, MCP convention director Joseph Njobvuyalema said they had cancelled the convention because they failed to raise the required funds for the meeting.
He said there were also logistical challenges on accommodation of the delegates to the convention which has attracted more than 10 contestants for the party’s presidency, including Tembo, retired Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, former Malawi Assemblies of God president Dr Lazarus Chakwera, former Cabinet minister Jodder Kanjere, former Farmers Union of Malawi president Felix Jumbe, the party’s former secretary general Beston Majoni, the party’s former director of political affairs Eston Kakhome and Chris Daza.
The cancellation also came against the background of some delegates from the party’s political regions rejecting the process of submitting nomination papers for aspirants and later scrutinising them by the accreditation committee, effectively declaring the process as null and void.
The accreditation committee would use an eight-point checklist which, among others, says aspirants should be persons with “good and sound” education background who have not served any other political party in Malawi and have no criminal record for the past seven years.
The concerned delegates feared the process could see some aspirants for the party’s NEC positions disqualified.
The delegates said the normal course is that aspirants for various MCP NEC positions, including the presidency, are nominated and seconded by delegates at the convention and not through submission of nomination papers to the party’s administrative secretary.
But Njobvuyalema said there was nothing wrong with the nomination papers because they reflect the current trends in handling conventions.
Interestingly, Tembo defended the eight-point criterion for scrutinising aspirants for the party’s NEC positions, including that of presidency, saying every organisation has its own rules.
“That is very important because some people come in just to inquire. Any organisation, whether a political party or government, has rules. People make applications and then the organisation sits down to see whether they qualify. It is not strange for the party to do that,” said Tembo in an exclusive interview with Weekend Nation of June 8.
So, MCP’s democratic transition is back in the spotlight.
The concern now is the blindly loyal MCP subjects that are busy orchestrating means – including checking aspirants’ pockets – of hindering some NEC positions’ hopefuls in the yet-to-be-announced convention in favour of their preferred ‘godfathers’.
The challenge, however, to MCP’s success is not the emergent interest by many new faces in contesting in various positions, including the presidency, nor Tembo’s perceived moles, but the use of monarchic politics to promote narrow personal interests. It is greed. And greed is inimical to democratic advancement in any polity.
Again, it is documented that political leaders often exploit such ‘obscene’ loyalty to advance personal gain, parochial interests, patronage and cronyism.
No wonder much of MCP’s attention over the last three general elections has been devoted to jostling for power, especially the presidency.
University of Malawi political commentator Blessings Chinsinga, quoting an internationally acclaimed author, founder and president of Haggai Institute, lecturer and “leader of leaders” John Edmund Haggai, elsewhere said that “leadership is the discipline of deliberately exerting special influence within a group to move it towards goals of beneficial permanence that fulfil the group’s real needs”.
Ephraim Nyondo’s analysis in The Nation of 19 December 2012 of Tembo’s performance as a torch-bearer for MCP indicates that he has failed the party when especially read in the context of how the party has been faring on parliamentary seats in the past two general elections. Its core message is dampening. More specifically, in 2004, MCP got 58 seats in the Centre against one in the North and none in the South while in 2009, it stooped to 24 in the Centre and got none in both the North and South.
Thus, the party should take this interest from new members as an opportunity to demonstrate how democratic it is and eventually win back the public confidence.
If MCP is to prey on the ‘fawn lying dead on the ground’, it should not put cosmetic, retrogressive and prohibitive hindrances to aspiring candidates.
Upon assuming power in April 2012, the President Joyce Banda (JB) administration hit the ground running to reverse some of the harmful policies of the previous Bingu wa Mutharika administration.
It is cheap politics to pretend that if somebody comes in today things will be different, but that is not to say that the JB government, despite recently trimming the Cabinet from 36 to 32, is necessarily doing a good job.
The challenge was and still is how to administer the bitter medicine required to heal the economy while at the same time mitigating against the side effects of the measures.
Recall that economic, political and philosophical causes combined to bring about the French Revolution.
The JB administration, therefore, is ‘a dead body of fawn’ which MCP, among other parties, can prey on but only if it exorcise itself of monarchic politics and greed, and give a facelift to its leadership; all of which have stunted the party’s progress and success.