Scripture tells us a riveting story about one Jewish political and religious leader during the early days of Christianity.
Back then, prosecuting the apostles and the rest of the early Christian community was fashionable. But no amount of persecution, apparently, seemed to halt the rising tide.
One day, during the trial of some Christians, this leader, Gamaliel had words that ring true today. He turned to his fellow Pharisees and said something to the effect: “Folks, if these guys are for real, we cannot stop them, if they are fake, well, they will fall by the wayside as others before them.”
You see, sometimes in politics, there are times persecuting your opponents becomes a self-defeating exercise. It doesn’t always work out.
And if there is a party in this country which must grasp this dose of wisdom it is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Let’s not forget, folks, that the current DPP leadership, the president and a few members of the Cabinet, only attained freedom when the DPP victory was pronounced by Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda’s late court ruling on validity of the 2014 elections.
Before that, they were haunted men and women answering some very serious charges. But not even tags of treason suspects prevented ‘mighty’ DPP from dishing unprecedented triumph in 2014.
The point is, folks, when the people in a democracy want you as their representative, no amount of persecution from the State or your party can stop them. That last point should bring solace to many aspiring members of Parliament who have cried foul that their parties have mistreated them during primaries.
That, too, must be heartening to new political kid on the bloc, the United Transformation Movement (UTM), which this week faced ignominy of having its application to be registered as a party rejected by the Registrar of Poltical Parties, and subsequently, its notice of intention to hold a political rally rejected by Blantyre City Council (BCC).
And you can guess whose invisible hand is behind all this.
And you would also think the ruling DPP has mastered this art, by now.
After all, after threatening to arrest former president Joyce Banda while she was in self-imposed exile, accusing her of being a corrupt baron, DPP has been smart enough to stay away from the former president.
The net-effect has been that JB’s career seems to have nose-dived on its own terms. It only begs the question: Why change strategy then?
Look, folks, DPP has seen both sides of this argument before.
Prior to the 2014 elections, DPP made a mistake of arresting one Atupele Muluzi, then a political novice, on some funny trumped up charges. Overnight, the young Muluzi’s fortunes had hit the roof and his ‘Agenda for Change’ was the talk of town until, well, Bingu wa Mutharika died unexpectedly during those three mad days in April 2012, and Atupele began to lose the plot.
In today’s fast-maturing democracy, restraining political rivals using State machinery is foolhardy, in the least, and self-defeating, in the worse.
Apart from offering UTM cheap publicity, what is the point when we all know, too, that today’s increasingly liberal and assertive courts cannot accept this blatant abuse of our constitutional freedoms? In the end, one way or another, UTM will get registered and obtain an injunction guarantying its right to assembly. All what DPP would have achieved is to provide the movement with the oxygen of cheap publicity.
UTM is DPP part B, hence there is more plausible political ammunition DPP can use against it without turning to desperate measures.
In the end, we all want a credible election in 2019. It begins by ensuring that the playing field is levelled. By rejecting UTM’s application to register as a party, citing flimsy reasons, and by using the same rejection to deny it the right to hold a rally, what the State apparatus is doing is tantamount to attempting to fix results of next year’s elections and that, in itself, is not only flawed, but unacceptable.
As Gamaliel of the scripture reasoned, we do not yet know about the future of the 2019 elections, but there is no wisdom trying to fix the same. UTM might not win the elections, it might even be a party as flawed as DPP, but that is not a question for some government clerks to singlehandedly decide, that is a question for ballot.