It is a well-known fact that a party in power and its leadership would want to remain there beyond its constitutional mandated terms. In this case, they come up with strategies to achieve their goal. The initial strategy is to ensure that opposition parties are suppressed with continuous threats and intimidation.
In Malawi, the maximum period for a President to be in power is two terms of five years each. If one wants to rule more than 10 years, the Constitution has to change. President Bakili Muluzi had an interest to change the Constitution to extend his rule, but the scheme failed in Parliament. Malawians did not want another version on dictatorship.
It is obvious that any leader who wants an extended rule creates some strategy soon after getting into power. Experience in Malawi has shown that the main strategy is to convince Malawians that the leadership in power is the best ever happened to them. The leadership goes further and challenges those in opposition that they have no capacity to lead the country. The most recent example is when Peter Mutharika publicly challenged Lazarus Chakwera that he would never rule Malawi as long as Mutharika was alive. This is now history. Chakwera is now the President of Malawi.
The strategy of the President showing that he or she is the best leader can easily be challenged by the people who have a different description of a successful President. First of all, they must deliver their promises on bringing change in the lives of the people. Without that, people cannot be convinced. Another strategy which Mutharika might have seriously relied upon is having party militias known as cadets.
The main purpose of the cadets seemed to have been protecting and supporting the President from any opposition so that he could easily sail to his second-term. Cadets were feared by all Malawians, especially by those opposition leaders who alleged to have been attacked by them. Even senior members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) had to handle them properly. They did not even care roughing up Cabinet ministers.
One can remember how Hon Patricia Kaliati was once roughed up at the gate of Parliament when going to a meeting. Surprisingly, the cadets sometimes did not know their limit. They once even interrupted the President as he addressed Parliament. No one, including the President said anything. Probably, the President did not want to annoy them as they were his greatest supporters.
DPP officials had no say on the militant behaviour of the cadets but just to support and cheer them on. Little did they know that their day would come to fulfil the adage of ‘tasting the salt of your own making’ meaning that bad things can backfire in your face. The day came, recently, when some DPP leaders had an indoor meeting. Unexpectedly, some DPP home-grown cadets went into the room and wrestled down the likes of Francis Mphepo and Brown Mpinganjira,–chasing out, and they shamelessly regrouped at another venue. This was very embarrassing. Now, after tasting the salt of their own making, the DPP top officials know how lethal the cadets can be.
Lastly, it must be known by now that having a militia group in a party saves nothing. Mutharika would have earned his second-term by working hard, in addition to achieving equality and using merit instead of nepotism and favoritism. He should have also known that in an election everyone matters and would have treated them equally. Party militia only matter in coups.