The existence ofÂ pressure groups in a country is a safeguard against abuse of power even where a democratic is anchored on a sound national constitution. Pressure groups are there to blow the whistle when the democratic train moves as if it will go off the rails and hurl the passengers into a fast running river.
People who man pressure groups are also human. They must be subjected to inquisition by the public at large in case they behave or talk as if they are above wrong doing. During the first half of the 1960s, I used to live in Dar es Salaam and enjoyed a song from the government radio station which used to say ulinambia nisile panya, nakumbe panya wamula weye, meaning you were saying I must not eat a rat, and yet you are the one that has eaten a rat.
We should avoid judging other people by standards which are even too high for us because time will come when our hypocrisy will be exposed.
Two countries which inspired the rest of Africa in the struggle for independence were Ghana and Nigeria. But in less than 10 years after gaining their independence, they set out giving a bad example for African self-rule. First in Nigeria, there was a bloody coup which included the murder of the Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, his Minister of Finance Felix Okotie-Ebo and the Sardauna of Sokoto. The Biafra war followed in which it is estimated that a million people perished.
A number of coups took place thereafter; Yakubu Gowon, Muhammad, Babangida, Obasanjo, Shehu Shagari and Sani Abacha. At last, the Nigerians got fed up with grab and snatch politics and returned to the ballot box.
In the same period, Africaâ€™s most admired president Kwame Nkrumah was toppled by the army which turned power to Dr K. Busia, an Oxford don. After two years, the army led by Ignatius Acheampong, overthrew Busia. But they did not last either. They were accused of mass corruption and were overthrown by young officers led by Jerry Rawlings and were executed.
After he had been in power for some time, Rawlings allowed elections to take place. Hilla Lemann from Northern Ghana became president. Rawlings toppled him again. The Ghanaians also got tired of the politics of the bullet and returned to the ballot. Both in Ghana and Nigeria, now democracy is at work. But what an expensive way of life to have ventured into all those coups only to return to where you had started.
Is there a lesson for us in this? Yes. If Mutharika and his government are forced out prematurely, those who take over wonâ€™t last either. They will just have given an example for others how to get power without campaigning andÂ qualifying for it. Meanwhile, some people will be dying while development will decline. When political instability enters a country, development goes out.
Those who demand Mutharikaâ€™s resignation or a referendum, what evidence can they give us that they are supported by a large segment of the nation? How big is the membership of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) whose representatives made these proposals.
In old democracies such as UK, France and the United States, the popularity of leaders is regularly gauged by opinion polls. It is usually found that a presidentâ€™s popularity goes up and down, but that does not necessitate removing him out of power in mid-term.
Since multiparty democracy in 1993, we have had a reliable organisation conducting opinion polls. It correctly predicted Muluziâ€™s victory in 1994 and Mutharika in 2009. Perhaps it should be invited to conduct such an investigation to find out if indeed people are so disenchanted with Mutharika that they want him out of the way.
A sample of people should be presented with a list of the projects successfully undertaken by the DPP government since 2004, including the food security programme. These would constitute Mutharikaâ€™s positive side. Then a list of the charges against him should also be presented. People should then be asked; would you rather he goes now or he completes his term, which ends in 2014? If he goes now, who should take over?
To the last question, we are likely to have several names. It is often easier to agree on doing away with the incumbent ruler than on finding his successor. At that stage, new factions arise, militias are formed, sometimes the army takes over and you have a military dictatorship.
In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya the unarmed uprisings were justified because the incumbents there had made themselves life presidents, Mutharika has said he will step down in 2014. Let not the forex and fuel problems make us forget all that he did in the first term. Malice and avarice in our politics will destroy Malawi. It is high time, however, that Mutharika realised the necessity of cooperating with all those who have the welfare of Malawi at heart. Let collective wisdom prevail.