Freedom to belong to a political party of one’s choice is one of the most appreciated attributes of multiparty democracy in Malawi. However, this freedom demands that people must be mindful of their responsibilities as well. For example, providing government or public service must not be based on party affiliation. All people must be treated equally since it is not illegal to belong to other parties other than the one in power.
At the moment, the problem in this country is the misconception by some people who think there is no difference between the political party in power and the government. This was the case during the single party rule and, surprisingly, it is continuing in the multiparty democracy. During his campaign President Peter Mutharika promised to separate government business from party business. This is not yet the case!
It cannot be overemphasised that public service providers must be above politics. It must also be mentioned that it is not necessary for anyone to emphasise that they are supporting the government of the day. In fact, every Malawian supports government in one way or the other by paying tax.
In Malawi, chiefs are victims of political affiliation. As everyone knows, chieftainship is royalty through family heredity. They do not need to thank anyone for their positions. Instead, they deserve lots of respect. Sadly, their respect has been eroded by forced affiliation to parties in power so as to be seen to be supporting government of the day. Imagine, chiefs are summoned by politicians to line up for a mere hand shake at meetings and to be seen to be around. Under normal circumstances, it would have been the politicians, including the Head of State to pay a courtesy call at the chief’s palace. The chief would be free to discuss issues of his area in the confines of his or her palace.
When Bakili Muluzi wanted to extend his term, traditional authorities throughout the country were summoned to Sanjika to assure him that they supported his move. They even claimed that their subjects were in total support. This was not the case. Chiefs went back home where some were rebuked and short of being beaten. They were paying the price for political affiliation.
Chiefs have an important role to play in national issues. They seem to have abandoned that role and now behave as if they are a political wing of a ruling party.
At the moment, chiefs need to be worried about the proposed Land Bill which might give a lot of land to investors. Malawians, including chiefs, might end up landless and squatting on investors’ land as tenants. Is this what people of Malawi want? If chiefs waste time pleasing politicians their chieftaincy will be under threat and without land they will be nonexistent. They should not be blindfolded that investors will bring a lot of money to the country. No one is likely to benefit from this money at the rate Cashgate is allowed to continue.
Meanwhile, it does not need a genius to know that the Malawi economy has reached rock bottom. Every sector, including security, is falling apart. To see how bad things have gone, one needs to experience robbery. You call the so-called police hot line, no one answers. If you are lucky and get through, after telling them who you are, the police ask you to pick them up to the crime scene. One wonders if the big shots in the ruling party can be treated in the same way. In fact, it is unacceptable that the police or any other government department should operate as if it is a section of the party in power. It is so sad that if one is an ordinary person, reporting matters to the police is just a formality. It is time the President rose up and used the strongest language to rebuke such selective treatment. The ball is now in President Mutharika’s court. He must be decisive and flex his muscles in giving strong instructions to the police about insecurity. Failing which it will be business as usual while mob justice will escalate and DPP regime will be likened to a reign of terror, which will lead to a failed government.
Finally, people must move away from the perception that donations from the President come from the ruling party and not government. Therefore, people are forced to support the party in power. Political party affiliation is by choice and it must remain so. Nobody, whether rich or poor has the right to abuse it. n