Lessons from Malawi’s human rights activist, Comrade Timothy Mtambo


The name Timothy Mtambo is a very popular one in as far as Malawi politics is concerned. History will never be obliterated  that Timothy Mtambo competently staged nationwide demonstrations in an attempt to force the erstwhile chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Dr. Jane Ansah  to resign on allegations  that she mismanaged 2019 presidential election.

It is obvious that such national protests contributed to the nullification of 2019 presidential election.

However, most  Malawians  were startled when President Chakwera appointed Timothy Mtambo as the Minister of Civic Education  and National  Unity.

 Three years later, Timothy was  unceremoniously dropped from the cabinet for reasons best known to His Excellency the State President Reverend Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera.

What is more surprising is that  some weeks ago, Timothy organised a press briefing where he told Malawians that he would start criticising Chakwera government.

 However, this development was greeted with mixed reactions from the Malawian community.

In a nutshell, what  lessons can we learn from Timothy’s socio-political adventure?

First, trust a  Malawian human rights activist at your own risk. I have personally  heard various sentiments rebuking  comrade Timothy Mtambo for insinuating that  he has fallen out with his political mastermind, President Chakwera.

Truth must be eloquently told that  Timothy Mtambo  is not the only activist to have disappointed  many Malawians in pursuit of  the promised  holy grail.

 We have notable activists  like Reverend  Richard Macdonald Sembereka, Billy Gama,  Luke Tembo and many others who relocated  to other countries after being appeased by the Chakwera  government.

At least, Comrade Timothy stayed with us here in Malawi and we are still feeling  the pinch of the ailing economy together with him.

Much as we shouldn’t trust Timothy Mtambo, we should  extend our distrust to  other human rights activists as well.

 By the way when did you see the Chairman of Human Rights Defenders Coalition,  Gift Trapence seriously  providing  checks and balances to the Chakwera’s government?

Second, trust a politician at own peril. The truth  of the matter is that it is only the politician who knows the direction  of his adventure. If Timothy was hired and later  paid  or appeased, what can stop the State President Chakwera  from  recruiting  a more competent one again to replace  Timothy?

Most Malawians nurse the memories of the audio clip in which the former opposition leader Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera was heard instructing Timothy to disrupt the Peter Mutharika’s regime.

Does  Chakwera really  need  Timothy now? Hasn’t the Malawi’s political  landscape changed such that Timothy’s services  may not be needed anymore? In fact, Chakwera now needs a competent political strategist such as Ken Zikhale Ng’oma. 

Third,  everyone is fighting their battles. Most Malawians make serious mistakes to think that politicians and human rights activists are fighting  for their welfare.

The truth of the matter is that these politicians and  human rights activists are busy fighting for  their protruded bellies.

It was therefore asinine for a poor man to leave his own business and join nationwide demonstrations because at  the end of the day the common man benefits nothing.

For instance,  upon ascendancy to power, the first thing that President  Chakwera and Vice President  Chilima  did was to recruit their daughter and mother-in-law, respectively, to  foreign  diplomatic missions. They  don’t even care whether many Malawians are jobless or not.

It is not mindboggling then that Timothy accepted cabinet ministerial position after successfully fighting his own battle. 

After all, even the president,  the vice president, cabinet ministers and members of parliament have astronomically become rich while a common voter is languishing in abject poverty.

Fourth, freedom of association is a constitutional right. Timothy Mtambo is entitled to be associated with any grouping as is enshrined in the Malawi Constitution.

There is a certain  school  of thought  that argues that once a person is an activist then he must remain thus for the rest of his life. That is not always the case.

All over the world, it is not strange that people change their careers, visions and aspirations. Perhaps what is concerning is the question of whether such change would  increase one’s integrity and public  trust  in the society.

Fifth, be ware of opportunists. It is a fact that many people have excelled by being  opportunists. However, taking advantage of vulnerability, gullibility and high illiteracy levels of many Malawians just to attain political power is very concerning.

Timothy Mtambo was at the forefront mobilising people to vote for Chakwera. After three years of swimming in Chakwera’s glory, it is disheartening to discover  that Timothy has conceded that he sold us a bad rotten and foul-smelling egg in the name of Tonse Alliance government.

Sixth, blood is thicker than water. There are allegations that Chakwera regime is replete with tribalism, regionalism and nepotism. This is the reason former Malawi Congress Party spokesman, Reverend  Maureen Munthali defected  to Aford, a party that enjoys large following in the northern region of Malawi.

Without  glorifying politics of regionalism, it is highly alleged that Timothy Mtambo is now aligned with  Aford where he is expected to play   a pivotal  role in introducing a government of federalism  in Malawi.

Seventh, seek wisdom more than intelligence.  Most intelligent youths surmise that they can take leadership positions and perform well without any iota of wisdom.

It required wisdom for the renowned and experienced  legal expert, Mordecai Msisha to reject President  Chakwera’s offer of a ministerial position. 

While Msisha  saw the temporal offer of such ministerial positions that hinge on presidential prerogative, Timothy Mtambo grabbed the  cabinet post with ululations and  jubilations.

Perhaps it is high time that brilliant  youths such as former attorney general, Dr.  Chikosa Silungwe and former minister of civic education and national unity, Timothy Mtambo  humbly sought wisdom from veterans like Mordecai Msisha.

Eighth,  it is bad manners to talk when you are eating.  I have heard  some people rebuking Timothy Mtambo that he was supposed to criticise the government while he  was in good books with the Chakwera’s  regime.

The truth  of the matter  is that politics is very delicate and once one starts criticising the government, one is taken as a paid mercenaries of the opposition  party. Obviously, it is absurd  to cut off the hand that feeds you.

Ninth, make hay when the sun shines. When the sun stops shining, change location to any  potential place where you are likely to receive even more sunshine.

One day, when I was basking  in the sun along the shores of Indian Ocean,  I met a couple from Europe. They said every year during  winter  season, they relocate to Africa where they continuously enjoy the sunshine. I really concurred with them because indeed there was a time I had to step on  snow during winter in one of the European countries.

That is why political prostitutes such as Uladi Mussa, Brown Mpinganjira and many others know when to quit  and join others parties where they continue enjoying the delicacies of politics.

It is not therefore surprising that Timothy Mtambo is following the footsteps of political prostitutes and opportunists.

Lastly but not least, there are neither permanent enemies  nor permanent friends in politics.

 If there is any person  who fought hard to oust Mutharika’s regime, the name of Timothy Mtambo topples the list.

However, Timothy Mtambo has recently indicated  that he is prepared  to work with the Democratic Progressive Party as long as they share the same  political ideologies. Politics is a dynamic fraternity  indeed.


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