Grand Coalitions : United we stand…


There are many political parties in Malawi. According to this link on Malawi Voice, and another report on the Nation here, there are as many as 46!

Whether this is indeed true or not is indeterminate. However, Wikipedia helpfully lists some of the older of these parties, and interestingly, some of the most recent ones such as James Nyondo’s National Salvation Front (NaSaF) Party and Thoko Banda’s Independent Malawians (which I’m not sure is a political party yet??), which have been newly founded are missing from the list.

There is an interesting phenomenon in Malawi that exhibits itself with reference to the date of a presidential election. Usually, just before an election (several months to a couple of years before), new small political parties begin to emerge, all hoping to make a dent in the electorate. After the election, some of these small parties quickly dissolve, their leaders having jumped ship to become ministers in the government of the election winner. Whether the leaders of these parties (which have been termed ‘briefcase parties’) genuinely believe they can win an election is doubtful? Whether they have the skills, attitude, experience and competence to run a country (or become an effective minister) is even more doubtful? Especially in a country where there are no progress reviews/  reports for ministerial work.  Nevertheless, being a presidential contender is probably better than just standing idly on the sidelines.  As Plato once said:

“One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.”

Some of the leaders of these parties have had exposure to new ideas, and have skills that Malawi definitely needs. These skills pooled together could have significant benefits for Malawi.

Further, some of the policies these parties (or their leaders) are promising look good on the surface. If implemented as part of a wider vision, they could most definitely move the country forward.

Some people are dismissive of these parties, seeing them as more of extensions of their owners egos, and symptomatic of greed. “Everyone wants to be a president. They just want money” read a comment on a News website.

In view of the recent Cashgate crisis at Capital Hill that has revealed that millions of dollars were embezzled from state coffers, it would be a sign of wisdom, patriotic service and forward thinking if some of these small parties formally began discussions on manifestos, constitutions, ideology and principles, with a view to finding common ground on which to join hands and form one alternative large contender for the 2014 elections, a party / coalition without the baggage of the MCP, UDF, DPP, PP lineage.

In this regard, it would be important to map a grassroots strategy designed to challenge the egoistic, regionalistic, neopatrimonial, ageistic, propagandistic politics that is inherently dishonest, corrupt, recycles politicians and keeps out young, talented and well-informed candidates from participating in politics in Malawi. Here, it would probably be expedient to solicit expert help from agencies such as Blue State Digital (the media agency that successfully campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008) which are skilled in such elections issues. However to do this requires financial backing…

With such pooled resources, expert input, an integrated skill base and financial backing, I believe the resulting machinery is something that would have a serious chance of lobbying donors and convincing a big percentage of the Malawian electorate to finally turn their backs on the corrupt elitism that has gripped Malawi for close to 50 years now. Together with the likes of Mark Katsonga (who is well-funded but has a comparatively small following), even the young Muluzi could be material outside UDF than within it.

Who said he has to be president first time even without substantial ministerial experience” declared a friend  “Why can’t he serve for 5 – 10 years as a minister, and succeed in such a position, gaining some experience, before putting his name forward for leadership within this coalition

Personally, I think a new platform would hugely benefit not only the young Muluzi, but also the likes of newcomers such as Lazarus Chakwera. Its an inescapable fact that in order to get rid of graft and fraud within government, the monopoly over politics by the major parties has to be done away with. Chakwera has been exposed to progressive ideas, and critically appears to be a man of high integrity, which are good qualities in a leader. However, the sins (and personalities) of the old MCP may alienate some voters from supporting him. Further, suppose Chakwera won the 2014 election within MCP, who will be his ministers? Will we not see some former MCP, DPP, UDF (or even PP) bigwigs returning to the fore? Will the likes of Tembo not begin exerting some kind of influence behind Chakwera?

I think my money (and Malawi’s taxes, donor funds, etc.) would be in much safer hands  (and managed by more enlightened minds) if a coalition were to be formed (however wishful this may sound) that included Lazarus Chakwera, Kamuzu Chibambo, Atupele Muluzi, George MNESA, Thoko Banda, Mark Katsonga, and other promising but non-establishment hopefuls. Leaders with integrity (or who at least appear to be clean and have nothing of great concern behind them to cause alarm).

Hopefully such a coalition / party would be advised by knowledgeable and incorruptible types – the likes of Henry Kachaje and John Kapito – who we know to be decent and credible characters.

While presently (and in view of the Cashgate scandal and recent revelations about DPP’s misuse of state funds) I would not vote for any of the big political parties in Malawi, or any of the small ones individually, I would definitely vote for such a coalition!

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George Mnesa of Mafunde on Straight Talk – May 2012

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