Here is a lesson that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should have learnt by now: Mistakes are not meant for repeating but for learning.
But if the events of the past weeks are anything to go by, this lesson has not been heeded by this administration. It is déjà vu. To imagine that the DPP can follow in the footsteps that the government of 2009 to 2012 had taken with no apology or remorse whatsoever is a shock to those who lived in this country pre-2012 when divine intervention rained on Malawi.
The rate at which the Ministry of Information is churning out press statements responding and castigating all dissenting views is nothing new. The measures that this government is going to implement in an effort to instil fear and intimidate those with opposing views has happened before.
In 2012, it was the offices of civil society leaders being torched. Now it is intimidatory visits from government arms under the guise of enforcing the rule of law.
Before this year, it was unheard of that a government official would directly attack faith leaders, especially the calibre of the Public Affairs Committee (PAC). If at all this country has any faith in any institution, it is the church, certainly not the traditional leaders being paraded on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
The winner in this whole fight is already declared and it is certainly not this administration. No government can win a battle where the church is on the other side. It is the church that every presidential candidate runs to for endorsement in the run-up to the elections. That just shows the amount of power that men of the collar wield in all corners of this country.
It is, therefore, laughable that the government, in another ineffective press release, can even question whether PAC really represents the popular desire of the people of Malawi.
Silencing the likes of Boniface Dulani and Kamlepo Kalua with threats of arrests over allegations of tax evasion is an archaic tactic that really should not work in a country that has experienced worse torture of its citizens with dissenting views.
As the pre-2012 DPP learnt, something this current administration is failing to do, using public media, traditional leaders and even buying and poaching vocal civil society members and journalists to its side will never be enough, it has never worked.
It is just as ridiculous to align every civil society member, religious leader or journalist who gives contrary views to those of the administration in power to an opposition political party.
This government would be shocked to learn that the fiercest critics of the opposition are actually in civil society, in the development partners and among journalists. If the DPP administration had smart people as it touts itself to have, this line of warped thinking would come to an end with a grinding halt.
However, this is the DPP. It suffers from serious selective amnesia. The DPP forgets that today’s enemies were yesterday’s friends. It also follows that today’s friends will be its enemies come 2019 and if the DPP would direct its energies to dialogue and less towards writing senseless press releases, it would come to the same conclusion and quickly backtrack from the destructive path that it is on at the moment.
At the end of it all, it is unfortunate that not every civil society member, journalist or church leader has the devil-may-care attitude of Kamlepo. In the absence of Kamlepos, this country risks developing a culture of silence only prevalent in communist countries and that is a dangerous path that Malawi, with its political history, should never ever take.