Lately, so many of my friends beyond the borders have been inquiring on our forthcoming elections. Often, their question is on who is best to govern Malawi at this opportune time of global power shift borne from the Maga ideals of Trump and Xi Ping’s China. And we mentioned Mordi’s Indian bags of money.
When the polling stations open on May 19, it is very likely that some of the poorest people will stay away. Malawi is a divided country on tribal and poverty lines.
I treat every day as a working day. So during the festive period I had the honour of working with some villages in Chiradzulu where people were welcoming, kind and honest enough to tell me they only have confidence in their ward councillor. “Ndidzakavotera yemweyo basi. Zinazo zidzaoneka”. (I will only vote for our councilor. The rest will solve it self).
This is enough proof of the deepening divide between voters and the elected.
No wonder, all elections since 1994, and save for 1999 and 2009, have been spoiled by mass voter apathy. Multitudes that are grappling with poverty have chosen not to vote because they feel disconnected from the political process of choosing those to manage their lives through political establishments.
Can we say that people have found nothing or maybe nobody worthy of their trust and dreams of their children? Or maybe nobody has shown interest to be that for them.
Around the world, and even in the most democratised countries of the world, party leaderships no longer arise from a serious series of engagements with hundreds of thousands of members.
For years past, it was the grassroots supporters who could tell what life was like in their villages and countries.
From such conversations, they could tell what they thought wasn’t being done right in the gold power corridors. From there, those middle men went away with clues on the kind of person or leaders who could turn things around and make life better. Their situations better.
This is exactly how Hastings Kamuzu Banda found himself leading Malawi. It was via the same ticket that Bakili Muluzi fell on grace. Some middlemen believed in them, garnered support for them and they led Malawi with their human failings.
Unfortunately, a coup happened to democracy. Crooks have long loved halls of power. Interestingly, amateurs, the maladroit and the deranged have found their way too. The illegitimacy of these political leaders has gone beyond the tyrants of antiquity.
And the ineptitude of those in power now has much critical consequences due to globalisation, technology, the complexity of society, as well as the speed with which things happen.
Malawi has experienced ‘coups’ of this kind since 2004. Take me seriously.
Small city-based gangs who are better at plotting than governing, have taken over Malawian politics. Often, they are in it for their friends, Uncles, brothers and other beneficiaries than the common folk who they visit on the election year alone. That one who ululates on am empty stomach for their passing guzzlers is nothing but a ladder to their club interests.
Now that it is confirmed that Arthur Peter Mutharika, Lazarus Chakwera, Saulos Chilima, Joyce Banda and Atupele Muluzi will battle it out for the presidency. God be with them.
Behind them, a bunch of half-deserving others will be fighting for a seat and a loan that will come for being parliamentarians. This is a second level team of gangsters. Ladies and Gentlemen, some of these are clueless men and women far detached from the people they intend to serve.
But motivated by greed, they do everything possible to force their way onto the electorate, buying attention at every turn.
As we speak, they have organised soccer bonanzas and lined up a number of handouts for their suspecting voters.
After 2019, Malawian political parties must fix their grassroot structures and allow them true participation.
But fear comes when the money that runs our parties is concentrated at the centre with the elite.
Power has a tendency of residing where money does.
Maybe we can simply call them ‘Modern Politics’ that killed the democracy dream and left people like Chikomeni Chirwa humiliated by the very card said to have been a line of their hope- the vote.