Hon Folks, I had the mind to give a blow by blow response to the APM press secretary’s statement, justifying why APM does not recognise Leader of Opposition at public functions.
I believe much of what is said on the issue is hogwash targeted not at the office of Leader of Opposition per se but rather at the incumbent Lazarus Chakwera, probably the only one so far with the real chance of wresting the presidency from APM in 2019.
When APM ignored Leader of Opposition at the opening of HTD House in Blantyre a couple of years ago, the excuse was not protocol. Rather, the omission was described as inadvertent.
At the consecration of the Bishop of Mzuzu Diocese last Sunday, Chakwera was again ignored but for a different reason—protocol. We were told that Leader of Opposition is five or six steps removed from the most important person in the Legislature deserving presidential recognition at State functions.
Surprised? What has changed is not APM’s tendency to confuse political rivalry with personal enmity. APM is giving Chakwera exactly the same therapy he administered to JB—passionate hatred.
But the change to the spin for that hatred is more a reflection of the change in the configuration of aides at the State House. The spin-doctors who handled the HTD issue were less harsh. Now in town are the “experts” at finding something clever to say about the vices rocking our democracy.
As a principle, Leader of Opposition does not just represent a party with highest number of seats on the opposition side of the political divide. Behind those seats is a following, at times constituting the majority of the voters.
How can a President who recognises the presence of his own wife at public functions use protocol as an excuse for not recognising Leader of the Opposition?
APM and his cronies are averse to the position of Leader of Opposition because of what it symbolises—a government in waiting. It also symbolises the audacity of the electorate to have on the sideline an alternative to a government that fails to deliver.
Since 1994 the behaviour of the government side has been predictable–it automatically switches to the one-party mode of the Kamuzu Banda days, sidelining their opposition rivals and even shamelessly denying government business to the latter’s sympathisers.
They wish is for the opposition to once again “die a natural death” as Kamuzu used to claim is what led to his one-party dictatorship of 30 years. The latter-day Kamuzus also dream of ruling without let or hindrance, enjoying tenure of office way past the constitutional two consecutive five-year term limit.
But in the case of Chakwera, his biggest problem isn’t APM and cronies who want to treat him like trash at state functions. Rather, it’s the intra-party challenge to his leadership within MCP rank and file.
The infighting which so far can be traced from the National Executive Committee way down to the district chairpersons, has the potential to undermine MCP’s competitive strength in the run-up to the 2019 elections—the homogeneity of Central Region stronghold support.
It’s the support, I believe, that forced DPP to partner with UDF so together they can neutralise JB’s PP in the Eastern Region. That way, the presidential candidate for DPP and MCP will have battle it out in the North, the king-maker of 2019.
But if an opportunity avails itself for Chakwera’s support to crumble like a scrambled egg in the Central Region should the likes of alienated MPs–Joseph Njobvuyalema, Jessie Kabwila and Felix Jumbe and probably others—decide not to endorse the party president to their supporters, then DPP will seek the Northern vote only as an icing to the cake.
A word of caution: if MCP loses its clout and becomes too weak, DPP will take the voter for granted in the run-up to the 2019 elections. Likewise, a sweeping victory for DPP in both parliamentary and presidential polls just might produce a tin-pot dictator as was the case in 2009 when Bingu and DPP parliamentary candidates enjoyed a landslide victory.n