When I was still young, one remark I usually heard by grown-ups was politics is dirty, politics is dangerous; keep clear of it.
It is not politics that is dirty, but some people who take part in it. It is true there is danger in politics in that you may be imprisoned or assassinated by those whose interests you threaten. But this is true of many other activities. Most of the murders we hear or read about have no connection with politics. Therefore, if you feel an urge to engage in politics do not be deterred by terms like dirty or danger. They are imminent in life.
The prophet of dirty or evil politicians is Niccolo Machiavelli, Italian author of The Prince. The word prince in this title stands for ruler rather than son of a monarch. The gist of his book is that those who acquire and retain power resort to any tactics. Moral or immoral; cruel or benign. They bribe, murder, rig elections or betray friends. Their ethics is ‘the end justifies the means’. What matters to them is acquiring power and retaining it.
Since Africans gained independence, some countries have been ruled by people who have resorted to Machiavellian methods. In the majority of cases, they have ended miserably. It is a historical fact that the majority of tyrants are never strong enough to remain in power indefinitely.
Politics suffused with greed, cruelty, impatience, violence, betrayals and hatred are impure. They should be purified. It is attributed to Winston Churchill the remark that democracy is the worst form of government but for government, other forms are worse. Therefore, the purification of politics must start with the setting up of democratic constitutions.
In large communities, it is possible to let everyone take part in governing the country or making laws. Democracy simply requires that those who make laws for the nation and implement them must be directly or indirectly be elected by people of a given minimum age. Democracy also requires that elected representatives should remain in office for fixed terms and then stand for re-election or give way to others.
The practice or holding elections periodically such as five years is a sure way of a people protecting themselves from those who get corrupted by power. When a ruler or legislator knows that after being in office for five years he will have to seek fresh mandate from the people, he tries his best to endear himself to those who will cast the vote.
Periodical elections are an insurance against insurrections that sometimes arise in politics. When no time limit is placed on a ruler’s or legislator’s tenure, those outside suffer frustration or expectations. There is a limit to which they can suffer in silence.
The trouble with life presidents or virtual life presidents is that usually as they grow older, they tend to groom a successor who may be a son, daughter or a protégé. This is what aggravates the frustration of those in opposition. The so-called Arab spring which erupted about five years ago occurred in those countries which were ruled by virtual life presidents who were preparing their scions for succession. If you wish to see the country embroiled in political turmoil, then be possessive about the top office you hold. You will succeed in making some people hate you.
We Malawians may justifiably congratulate ourselves in being peace loving and reluctant to make capital out of minor political failing. However, all patience has a ceiling. We must not assume that what is happening there cannot happen here.
To purify politics and democracy in Malawi, the reform proposals that have been made should be implemented. In the year 2007 and 2008, galaxy of representatives from all walks of life produced a document of constitutional reforms. There were brilliant lawyers, professors, members of Parliament, chiefs, women’s representatives, intellectuals and semi-literates. It is sad that not only members of the ruling party but even those in opposition have seen no need to implement those reforms because some of them threaten their privileges. This is political myopia. History is the graveyard of privileged classes. Take the recommendation to Parliament, debate them, make amendments if necessary but for goodness sake, stop making lame excuses for not doing so.
Though the political parties claim to be national, they tend to be identified with regions. If party is perceived to belong to region A, then the president and his successor must come from region A not B. Because of this tendency, some able people have been denied the duty to lead. This is impure politics.