Peoples Party should be commended
Honourable Folks, strange as it appears to say in a democracy, the ruling People’s Party (PP) is ahead of the pack by calling for a convention to elect its executive members, a risky but necessary exercise, when it is hardly four months old in government and preparing for the May 2014 elections.
The sad reality of our multi-party political dispensation is that since its advent in 1994, the party in government has had in its executive appointed as opposed to elected people. These have gone by the saying: You don’t bite the finger that feeds you, pledging blind loyalty to the party president in exchange for power and money.
Of course, both the late president Bingu wa Mutharika and his predecessor Bakili Muluzi did not hesitate to abuse a powerful and extremely undemocratic tool they had at their disposal—presidential prerogative—to hire and fire without having to account for their actions to anyone.
The two leaders also deliberately championed the vague concept of political government in which the ruling party and the government they headed, were treated as two sides of the same coin, thereby allowing their hand-picked party stooges unfettered, if not outright monopolistic, use or abuse of State resources including its money, agents and vehicles.
There went power to the people up in flames! The lack of intra-party democracy, probably more than anything else, helped to greatly inundate participatory democracy. The only time the voters’ wishes could be heard was during election time. Afterward, the roles were reversed and the electorate were made to serve—not to be served—by their elected president and MPs.
In the days of Muluzi, such reversal of roles helped government change laws—including the Constitution—to suit partisan interests of the president and his ruling UDF. The overtures to change the Constitution to allow Muluzi to serve open terms and later a third term are a typical example of how appointed party leaders could easily be cowed to serve the interest of the appointing authority at the expense of the national good.
Any wonder that when Muluzi lost the bid, he imposed Mutharika on UDF and fired from government any leader who dared raise an eyebrow?
In the case of Mutharika, the lack of intra-party democracy in DPP helped him turn his party’s executive as well as Cabinet members into cabbages who were there to nod and applaud whatever he decided to do, right or wrong.
They watched as Mutharika used State funds, agents and other resources for party or personal interests, changing our national symbols and laws, personalising State-run broadcaster MBC, and alienating us from our neighbours and development partners.
Even when Mutharika, who believed he was an economic engineer, decided to commit economic suicide by abruptly antagonising donors and taking us on a zero-deficit route, they applauded and helped him doctor the figures so he could lie in Parliament that all was well when the Titanic had already hit the iceberg!
Now that we are suffering after knowing the truth, all they can say is sorry and hope Mutharika’s successor—his younger brother Peter—will be elected president in the 2014 polls so they can go back into government to continue from where they stopped.
Against this background, PP of Joyce Banda should be commended for quickly calling for a convention at which all executive positions, including the presidency itself, are up for grabs.
Never mind that it appears aspirants are skirting around the top-most post, scrambling for the three posts of vice-president, instead.
The right to contest for a position is also the right not to contest for the position. As some analysts have pointed out, there’s no point contesting when the probability of winning is extremely low. That does not render the elections any less credible.
However, what is not clear is how the elected PP executive will carry out its duties. Since most of the leaders PP are the same people who messed us up in UDF and DPP and since it is clear the majority of them go into politics for money and power, and not as a calling to national service, it will take much more than an elected position for them to serve the interest of the people who elected into office.
If precedence is anything to go by, JB, as State President, has keys to lucrative positions in government and parastatals. She also can influence who gets government business and who does not. Besides, the presidential prerogative is now with her.
All these can make elected leaders compromise the greater public interest to give blind support to the President in anticipation of tangible returns. It appears saving our democracy will also require political goodwill from JB to avoid leading these gullible folks into temptation.