Hon. Folks, today I am partly reflecting on former president Bakili Muluzi who still deserves unprejudiced honour for the many ‘good’ things that he did while serving as Malawi’s first democratically elected President.
Despite many governance failures under his United Democratic Front (UDF) administration from May 1994, Atcheya is credited for many good things, including facilitating the setting up of the core foundations of our democracy such as constitutional and governance bodies, civil society groups and expanded media outlets that continue to support democracy in this country.
Most importantly, it was the senior Muluzi and his UDF government that brought a change in the mind-sets of Malawians and encouraged them to embrace participatory democracy which also led to the creation of fertile grounds for citizens to hold different views on politics.
It is such active citizenship in politics that prompted the Africa-America Institute (AAI) to honour the people of this great Republic with a National Achievement Award for their contribution to democracy which led to the cancellation of the May 2019 presidential elections and the June 2020 court sanctioned Fresh Presidential Election.
It was, therefore, exciting to see President Lazarus Chakwera on Tuesday receiving the award on behalf of all Malawians at a virtual event held on the sidelines of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (Unga) in New York.
Certainly this is what Atcheya and other pro-democracy activists envisaged when they led the fight against the old one-party system in the early 1990s.These are the fruits of their contribution to the establishment of the many freedoms that we enjoy today, including the rights to vote and to demonstrate which were well exercised by citizens in 2019 and 2020.
Again, it is not fair also to blow the horn for a few people without acknowledging the role of the Judiciary in this whole issue. Our judges also deserve respect for timely terminating the fantasies of the previous DPP administration’s that the Executive under former president Peter Mutharika or the National Assembly (as Mutharika would claim one day) was superior to the other government branches.
Hon. Folks, the other reflection on Atcheya is his futile 2008 campaign to alter citizens perceptions towards his handpicked successor Bingu wa Mutharika by trying to convince them that Malawi’s economy was better under his rule than during Bingu’s time.
Unfortunately even today, many ordinary citizens hardly understand the economic factors that affect commodity prices. All they care about is to get commodities on the market at somehow ‘affordable’ prices and this is exactly the alteration that Muluzi asserted deliberately to decampaign Bingu ahead of his 2009 re-election bid.
In a bid to stain the globally acclaimed economist, the comical Muluzi would cite anything from low salaries to the rising cost of transportation and from the rising prices of matches to various household commodities such as maize, sugar and cooking.
“Komanso ngati chuma chikuyenda bwino aMalawi, zikutanthauza kuti [mitengo ya] katundu wa zinthu idzikhalako bwino. Ine am not saying kuti munthawi yanga katundu samakwera iyayi, koma not to the magnitude imene tikuona masiku ano.
“Mwachiotsanzo, m’mene ndimachoka ine [pa May 2004], petulo anali pa K67, lero ndi 251 per litre..chuma chikuyenda bwino? … munthu udziona mavuto a anthu, after all, you are a leader for the people,” Muluzi charged in reference to Bingu.
It was Muluzi’s parting question to patrons, however that was interesting as the crowds emphatically yelled “Ayi” (No), a subjective hint that indeed life was getting harder.
As luck would have it Malawians almost find themselves in a similar scenario now as prices of various basic commodities are going up almost on a daily basis which is fostering uncertainties among many citizens.
These include fertilizer and cooking oil prices, among others although there are fears that not long from now fuel or electricity could also go up.
I am keen to see which opposition leader will replay the Muluzi economics during the next campaign against the current MCP-led government.
But one thing remains true; things are not okay in the country due to ever increasing commodity prices and this routs the hopes that the Tonse Alliance leaders stirred in the minds of Malawians ahead of their victory last year. n