In the early nineties, the political wind of change was blowing across Africa and Malawians took advantage as they were already fed up with one-party rule, and wanted to change to multiparty type of government.
Therefore, they pressurised Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s government to accept change via the June 14 1993 referendum.
In 1994, a multiparty government was adopted. People did not like the one-party government, because they thought that decisions on running the country were from one person and the best would be having alternative views from other people, which was considered good for development.
In fact, the other parties, which would form the opposition, were supposed to be government’s watchdogs. Above all, the opposition was expected to be strong and full of ideas as a government-in-waiting.
Multiparty government started in 1994, with Bakili Muluzi and his United Democratic Front (UDF) being in power. Surprisingly, a lot of people left their parties and joined UDF. Their reason was their claim that they wanted to assist in developing the country. This was, in fact, a fake reason.
The real reason, only talked about behind the scenes, was that they wanted to take part in the spoils of government such as lucrative appointments, and contracts from government. This trend of defections to the ruling party is continuing and in the end depleting opposition parties. In the end, a one-party version of government is being created.
It does not need a genius to know that defections to ruling parties have depleted the opposition parties to a shadow of their original self. Just imagine, both UDF and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were a formidable force while in power. As if defections are not bad enough, parties go into leadership squabbles. Who would have known that the once mighty DPP would break up into factions?
The most sensible thing for DPP would have been to regroup and strategise on how to get into power. They can do this by showing that they are credible as an opposition party. The other thing that weakens opposition parties is that those, which have once been in government, cheat themselves that they will rule forever. They see no one to replace them. In this case, then, they are not prepared at all on how to handle themselves while in opposition.
The importance of strong opposition, especially in Parliament, cannot be overemphasised. At the moment, DPP and UDF who have been in power, should have been giving the Tonse Alliance administration a good run of its money, by challenging their plans and sharing their experiences. It does not make sense for the opposition parties not to share ideas, and think that they will reserve them for the time they will get in power again. If opposition party leaders continue with their habit of breaking up their parties, they might not quickly come back into power.
What also weakens the opposition is the usual blame-game after losing elections. Some members are blamed for not campaigning hard enough. This is not helpful at all as it just creates cracks in the parties.
Parties in opposition should not have an illusion that by working hard they are simply promoting the government in power. This is not the case because all leaders should know that they are helping the people of Malawi.
Malawians have eyes to see who does what. It took 26 years for the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), now under the Tonse Alliance administration, to come back to power. Malawians might have thought it was time to bring back MCP. Probably, they had been thinking about the progress they brought into the country under Kamuzu.
Opposition parties stand up and be counted.