Some years ago, a BBC reporter based in Tanzania was quoted as saying “no one should underrate an African because he might be a nobody today only to be
He elaborated his statement by giving an example of his experience in Tanzania where a number of politicians from neighbouring countries lived as they ran away from persecution. One of the closest acquaintances was Laurent Desire Kabila. The reporter said they could socialise and he could interview him without booking an appointment. Then, an expectedly, Laurent Kabila became the president of DRC, whereby reporters could not just drop in for an interview, but book six weeks or so before the interview.
The statement about not underrating an individual is a warning to most political leaders who have a narrow mind and think that the presidency is a monopoly and special anoint for them and their parties. This is a dictatorship attitude to which Malawians do not want to go back to.
In fact, it was only during the dictatorship that people were brainwashed that being a president is a mystery. In fact, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s unique way of life and discipline forced people to think that no one else could ever be a State President. Thinking in the same manner in a multiparty democracy is totally unacceptable because everyone in Malawi has the power to be a State President.
Meanwhile, what is more important is that political leaders, including those in power, must learn to co-exist with one another.
In Malawi, what is usually the case is that some State presidents, despite appealing for unity, show no unity with opposition party leaders. Even at government functions, the presence of other party leaders is not recognised. This has usually happened to MCP president Chakwera, who is also leader of the opposition in Parliament. Honestly, it is such behaviour which has divided Malawians. There is nothing wrong for one to lead an opposition party, which is the government-in-waiting. In fact, underrating anybody, let alone a leader of an opposition party is a risky affair.
Just imagine, at the moment as the political campaigns are gathering momentum, parties such as MCP, the UTM and People’s Party (PP) are front-runners. It means all things being equal, a leader of one of these parties can also become State President of Malawi. Probably it is the thinking along these lines that leader of UTM, Chilima, emphasises that his party campaigns should be issue-based, and not personal attacks on other party leaders. He even showed that he was serious by rebuking a UTM party member who had ridiculed MCP president Chakwera and his deputy Sidik Mia. One can only hope that other leaders will emulate Chilima, and let Malawians co-exist.
The example of Malawi political leaders failing to co-exist is what happened at the funeral of Paramount Chief Chikulamayembe in Rumphi recently. Apart from President Mutharika, there were some important dignatories such as Chakwera and Chilima, who were supposed to say their eulogies, but they did not. The reason given by government was that after the President had spoken, no one else could speak. This was a poor reasoning. Why could they not allow the two opposition leaders speak before the President then? All in all, it just showed how deep the hatred between the leaders is. Anybody who claims to be a good leader, but refuses to co-exist with other people, is doing more harm than good to himself or herself. n