Talking Blues: Déjà vu, we should have seen this coming

The second signal that President Lazarus Chakwera had elected to follow the course of his predecessors came on 17 January 2021.

In his second Covid19 national address, he clearly stated that due to the Covid19 pandemic, Malawians should forget all campaign promises.

As a reminder,

• World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30 January 2020 and a pandemic on 11 March 2020; and

• the FPE’s official campaign period was from 2 May 2020, almost two months after Covid19 had been declared a pandemic, to 21 June 2020.

Therefore, the whole campaign was conducted amid a globally recognised pandemic.

Now, having made various promises to all and sundry during the Covid19 pandemic, on 17 January 2021, Chakwera shamelessly declared:

”We must all accept that the scale of the pandemic demands a change of priorities. This is important to say because some are still obsessed with politics, some who are still obsessed with cabinet appointments and reshuffles, and some who are still obsessed with campaign promises that were made on assumptions and in conditions that no longer hold.”

Now, wait a minute.

What kind of person makes promises during a pandemic period without factoring in the raging pandemic?

You know what I think? It is either a genius with the wherewithal to circumvent the pandemic or a conman.

You can decide which is which. Whatever you decide, I posit that we – the citizens – are to blame.

We should have seen this coming.

Permit me to digress. Do you remember the ten biblical virgins who took lamps and went out to meet a bridegroom? Five of whom were foolish and five wise?

We are those virgins.

The wise are those who were sceptical of Chakwera’s ability to deliver the moon he was promised but nevertheless voted for him with expectations in check.

The foolish ones who did not bring extra olive oil are those who swallowed the scam hook, line and sinker and gullibly expected to enjoy the succulent fruits of the Chakwera SUPER Hi5.

As a result,

• both categories’ expectations and aspirations, like the delayed bridegroom, are taking forever to transpire; and

• when they do occur – like when the bridegroom eventually appeared – the foolish five are belatedly realising that the “wedding banquet” is for a crony here, a close relation there, a puppet master yonder and not at all for “Tonse”.

We – the forsaken virgins – are the unfortunate majority, and for us, the much-touted SUPER Hi5: Servant leadership, Uniting Malawi, Prospering together, Ending corruption and Rule of law; is an illusion if not a bait.

The door is closed. Our pleas of “Please, let us in!” are being met with “Verily I say unto you, I do not know you!” in an accent you know.

The end of this parable, which you can find on Matthew 25:1-13, admonishes us thus: “Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.”

Of course, we got the day and hour wrong!

Only now is it abundantly clear that the day and hour for Servant leadership, Uniting Malawi, Prospering together, Ending corruption and Rule of law are definitely not likely to transpire on Chakwera’s watch because despite calling his predecessor names for similar behaviour, this particular “bridegroom” is here to satiate a select few.

The question is: where did we go wrong?

I could go way back to the 1950s, but space will not suffice. I will therefore start with the period before the 14 June 1993 Referendum.

After the Catholic Bishop’s sea-changing letter, late Chakufwa Chihana was the first person to openly challenge then-Life President Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda.

Chakufwa formed AFORD. For whatever reason(s), rather than all opposition politicians uniting under one umbrella, many opposition parties, one being the UDF, popped up.

UDF, just like AFORD, had visionaries. Many capable people would have taken over from Dr Banda to continue building on the foundations laid and quality standards set without taking us back like the UDF’s choice of a leader did.

However, such characters would have been difficult to “control”, “manipulate”, or “steal public funds behind their backs”.

Hence the UDF ‘kingmakers’ settled on Muluzi, probably the least qualified for the daunting task of adapting the then-existing strong institutions to deliver in a multiparty setting.

As a result, one by one, institutions that used to function well, professionalism in civil service, the export-oriented public and private sector firms started to choke and die.

By 2004, save for the Press Corporation Ltd, nothing notable left by Dr Banda was thriving.

Ironically, those who had underestimated Muluzi’s political ambition and acumen became his bitterest enemies.

Come time to leave, Muluzi, for the same reasons he had been selected, handpicked late Bingu wa Mutharika. Despite UDF having several candidates who could have fixed the mess he had created to put Malawi back on track.

Fortunately, Bingu, in his first term, defied the odds and delivered. However, his second term was a disaster, and perhaps the biggest mistake Bingu made was allowing a faction to pick the least capable of all people in DPP in the name of Peter Mutharika as his successor.

Note that even Bingu’s 2009 running mate selection followed the same script of picking someone with dubious potential amidst capable people.

Come 2014, Peter Mutharika, backed by DPP ‘kingmakers’ as the most susceptible to “control and manipulation”, defeated caretaker president Joyce Banda and the rest is history.

Meanwhile, in 2013 Malawi Congress Party (MCP) had a window of opportunity to replace veteran Hon. JZU Tembo.

From what is happening now, it is crystal clear that the brains that plotted and executed Chakwera’s rise had also picked him for his propensity to “control and manipulation” and nothing else.

To sum up: Muluzi, picked for selfish reasons by UDF founding fathers, takes up a task he is ill-suited for. For selfish reasons, he anoints Bingu for a job that could have been better handled by some in UDF. Bingu, for fear of a formidable Vice President, picks Joyce Banda. Then DPP gurus, for selfish reasons, anoint Peter Mutharika. Choice of Chimulirenji also followed the same script.

When the opportunity came, MCP machiavellian puppet masters mimicked the con invented by UDF and perfected by DPP, and that’s how today we have pathetically ineffectual Pres Chakwera.

With hindsight, the pattern above should have been our first signal that if ever elected president, Chakwera wouldn’t be any different from his predecessors, who were also picked for the wrong reasons by Machiavellians who needed a presentable ‘frontman’ for personal gain.

This is a vicious cycle and a déjà vu we should have seen coming.

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