For a party repositioning itself as the platform for reform, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is doing a terrible at it. It seems heavily saddled with excess baggage under which it might buckle, if it doesn’t act with haste.
During discussions in Parliament last Thursday on the food situation in the country, one MCP legislator (yet to be identified) abused his parliamentary privilege and threw a Molotov cocktail at Lilongwe City Central MP David Bisnowaty that sent the House temporarily in disarray.
Bisnowaty had risen on a point of order to dispute Lilongwe South MP Peter Dimba’s idyllic assessment of food sufficiency under MCP’s 30 year rule.
“… when Dr Kamuzu Banda was in power… there was no hunger, harvest to mid-harvest, there were granaries in each and every household,” Dimba lied to Parliament.
In fairytales, indeed, Malawi has always been food secure. In reality, it has always been a basket case since 1964. Malawi, under MCP, didn’t import yellow maize from Kenya just for the fun of it, did it?
It was the type of cock-and-bull story which Bisnowaty could not stand by and let it find its way into the record books without a correcting footnote, so he told it like it is: “[Dimba] should remember that in those days everything was suppressed. We did not know whether there was hunger or not in this country. And we know very well that in those days, they were busy building palaces instead of doing irrigation so that we could have food in the country.”
A simple, innocuous and straight-forward statement! While certainly a tad provocative—an old woman will always be uneasy when dry bones are mentioned—it was not off-tangent.
That information under MCP was suppressed is not a myth, is it? It is, therefore, possible that some people may have died due to hunger but others didn’t know about it due to its grip of information flow. It is fact we didn’t have any meaningful irrigation under MCP apart from a few donor-funded rice schemes. While irrigation remained pre-civilisation, the government was building palaces, on taxpayers’ account to boot, all over the country, wasn’t it?
Now, where did Bisnowaty go wrong to warrant such vile anti-Semitism from the unknown MP?
To suggest that Bisnowaty should keep his counsel on matters of national importance—especially when he places them in context—simply because he has the wrong skin colour or is holding a “wrong passport” questions the moral code under which some MPs operate.
To imply that simply because Bisnowaty cannot point at his forefathers’ graves makes him less Malawian than the MPs shows how we are scrapping from the bottom of the barrel to identify leaders for our nation. There are thousands of people who cannot point at their forbearers’ graves because they were allegedly fed to crocodiles, just disappeared or died in exile under MCP’s rule, yet they are no less Malawian than those who can. What is a grave, if not just part of the landscape in the long run? It may have sentimental value, but I am yet to hear if the Department of Immigration asks about an applicant’s forbearers’ graves before issuing passports.
MCP president Lazarus Chakwera may have condemned, but it seemed half-hearted, especially that he could not resist to insinuate that Bisnowaty brought it upon himself for bringing up the past. Yawn!
But the racist remarks should surprise no one. As human beings, we are all inherently prejudicial. Last Thursday was about what losers do when they are found wanting in argument: attack the person. Bisnowaty may have been the victim, but it was just a symptom of something wrong about our society in general. So-called Malawians judge each other based on nothing but their tribes, but no one will shout those tribal slurs in your faces.
But why am I even surprised an MCP MP said “Myuda azipita kwawo.” It seems eerily like a statement plucked out from an MCP policy document of 1989 when some people were told to go home. n