It is not the squabbles for succession that have characterised the post-Kamuzu MCP or the need for intra-party democracy and constitutionalism that are shaking Tembo now, but rather his constituents of Dedza South, who have all along silently treaded in the shadows of his stewardship as MP, spanning over 50 years.
They believe despite his power and influence, the veteran legislator has not delivered on the development front, arguing he has failed to use decades of his stay at the centre of power to uplift the area’s social economic status.
But Tembo has his own script: Government has frustrated his development agenda all along.
On the other hand, experts believe there is aÃ‚Â misunderstanding about the role of MPs and that legislators brew problems for themselves during campaigns, promising development when this is a factor of many players and issues.
The constituents argue Tembo, who was during the MCP 31-year rule, finance minister, Reserve Bank of Malawi governor for 13 years, minister without portfolio and chairperson of several influential statutory and corporate organisations, could have used his position to uplift his people but did not.
They also observe that their MP has also been leader of opposition in Parliament for some timeÃ¢â‚¬â€with the power to influence budget lines in favour of Dedza and its southern constituency, in particular.
Apart from Tembo, there is a long line of other MPs who are said to have failed to develop their areas even when they have had the political clout to do so.
For example, former president Bakili Muluzi always mocked his own vice-president Justin Malewezi after their fallout for not delivering a tarmac road to his home district of Ntchisi and failing to develop his constituency.
On the other hand, Muluzi himself used the power of his office to divert funds earmarked for a road in another district to construct one in his home village of Kapoloma in Machinga.
President Bingu wa Mutharika, too, did not waste time to tarmac the road through his home in Thyolo where, apart from building a personal sprawling mansion at Ndata, he has also directed his government to build a university and vowed to turn the area into a major town.
Founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda also built houses for his relatives at Chiwengo in Kasungu and the Etonian elite Kamuzu Academy, completing the benevolence with a good tarmac road leading to Kasungu.
While Tembo has never been a State president, some say his power in the MCP glory days made him a mover and a shakerÃ¢â‚¬â€enough power to sway decisions in favour of his area. At least, that is the impression one gets from people of Dedza South.
And if what The Nation recently saw and heard in communities around Traditional Authority Kasumbu in Dedza South Constituency is anything to go by, Tembo will sweat profusely to cling to his seat in 2014.
The visit to the area was courtesy of the Dedza Diocese Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) Action for Better Service Delivery Project (Changu Potumikila Anthu) supported by Irish Aid.
CCJP asked Dedza District Council officials to accompany the team to communities whose Area Development Committees (ADCs) claim to receive little attention from their MPs and local authorities, leaving the people in abject poverty and lacking access to basic services and amenities.
The key challenges are dire in the three key sectors of transport, health and education and the people there think that if their MP cared enough for them, he could have addressed them after noting that the council is not moving fast enough.
They cite the impassable condition of Mbilira Bridge, which has cut off from civilisation 1 770 people living behind Mulunduni Mountain in Dedza South.
Chairperson of Kasumbu Area Development Committee, Agnes Bwanali, told The Nation Ã¢â‚¬Å“both the dead and the living are in misery.Ã¢â‚¬Â
She narrated: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The health centre that serves 14 villages behind the mountain is Dzindebvu, which is across the river. Others are taken to Dedza District Hospital 22 kilometres away, but when they die during the rainy season, the only option is to carry the body by foot through the mountains as the bridge is very risky.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The maternity wing and general condition of Dzindebvu Health Centre that serves 28 000 people is also a sorry sight.
A visit to the centre showed that the facility, which delivers 10 to 12 babies a day, does not have a proper maternity ward while its leaking guardian shelter sees guardians and expectant women sharing the crowded wing at night.
Lengwe Primary School, built with grass from Ã¢â‚¬ËœwallsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to Ã¢â‚¬ËœroofsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to house 360 learners, is also a nightmare.
Deputy Education Minister Wictor Songazaudzu Sajeni blamed the poor condition of the school on the high demand for schools from communities. But he also took issue with local leaders, accusing them of failing to aggressively push for resources from the council.
Chair for Dedza CCJP Father Gerald Bwemba described TemboÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Dedza South Constituency as Ã¢â‚¬Å“one of the most backward,Ã¢â‚¬Â despite the areaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s MP having been one of the most influential figures in the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s development process.
He said some of the development needs require Ã¢â‚¬Å“very minimal sums of money like K20 000Ã¢â‚¬Â to improve learning or health services that could come from the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) controlled by MPs.
TemboÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s constituents even claim that he rarely visits them to discuss the challenges.
Claimed Bwanali: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Our MP [Tembo] comes during campaign. We hope to see him again in 2013 or 2014. This bridge has been like this since February .Ã¢â‚¬Â
Group village headwoman Matenje said: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Tell our MP we need him to speak about this sorry state of our school.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Ã¢â‚¬ËœPolitics to blameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
But in an exclusive interview later, Tembo blamed politics for the woes in his constituency, arguing he has been a victim of defamatory politics.
He also claimed he is being denied development despite numerous requests he has made to both the UDF and DPP administrations.
For example, he said, he is aware of the concerns on Mbilira Bridge, but said the assessment of the structure showed that it requires K17 million (about $101 796) to have a new one which, he said, cannot be financed from the K5 million (about $29 940) a year CDF funding.
Tembo said he has on numerous occasions tried to ask for government assistance to no avail.
On the health centre, Tembo said he raised some funds to repair the maternity wing which is now providing temporary shelter to expectant mothers as they await a new wing.
Dedza District Council officials said they were on the trip to appreciate the challenges and would review their findings to assess areas that can be prioritised for urgent assistance.
But are MPs responsible for developing their constituencies? Should powerful politicians prop up their areas at the expense of national priorities?
CCJP national coordinator Chris Chisoni says MPs cannot duck the blame when development fails to take place because they serve as a link between communities and policy makers.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“That is why even in Parliament, there is question time as it is envisaged that the MP has knowledge of the shortfalls and is better placed to move authorities to ensure that development takes place. The same principle applies to CDF as the MP is central to projects,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Chisoni.
He said influential MPs such as Tembo can serve as role models in not only using government structures, but also his acquired skills over half a century to make a difference in the lives of the people he represents.
Said Chisoni: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The problem with Dedza South is that there has only been one MP. That makes it difficult to compare on how others could have represented the people.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In his paper, The Interface between Local Level Politics, Constitutionalism and State Formation in Malawi through the Lens of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF), associate professor Blessings Chinsinga of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the University of MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Chancellor College notes that MPsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ role has evolved beyond their classical triple roles of representation, legislation and oversight.
He writes: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The functions of MPs now include the constituency service function whose prominence is linked to the increasing competitiveness of electoral contests which requires sitting parliamentarians to demonstrate tangible contributions to improvements of the livelihoods of their constituents.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Meanwhile, a governance expert, Dr. Augustine Magolowondo, says there has been a gross misunderstanding on the role of Members of Parliament which he said in some instances has been worsened by individual parliamentary candidates in an election.
Said Magolowondo inÃ‚Â an exclusive interview this week: “During campaigns, they present themselves as development workers which raises expectations of the electorate. Critically, their role is to represent the interest of their constituents, parties and the public at large in enactment of legislation process.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Magolowondo says the role which is development-related is the one of oversight over public finances but said as a legislator it would be wrong for a particular parliamentarian with influence to concentrate in his constituency with development projects.
He adds: “It would be abuse of a public office for one to use his position of influence to develop his own constituency. The major issue should be that of equity and fairness in how development projects are implemented at all levels.Ã¢â‚¬Â