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About Callista’s gauntlet and other matters

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Politics becomes lively when someone of the blue throws down his or her gauntlet where angels fear to tread. Callista’s proposal for Saulos Chilima to stand as Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) presidential candidate instead of her brother-in-law,Arthur Peter Mutharika,has aroused a good deal of interest and some speculation.

While listening to a phone-in programme on Times Radio, I got the impression that the lady’s challenge had been widely welcomed. She has belled the cat, the mice are jubilant.

First the speculation: why is she de-campaigningher brother-in-law? Has there been a misunderstanding in the family? This cannot be dismissed as fanciful. After all, Callista is not Arthur’s biological but classificatory sister, a sister in customary laws only. Maybe she has been shunted out aside. Whatever the case, Callista has spoken out on something of national importance and ought to be examined by those who cherish democracy. Mutharika has dischanted leading politicians and clergymen in Malawi by the manner he has handled the issue ofreforms.

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Callista says Mutharika is being misled by his advisers and this may be due to the fact that he is rather senior in age. Old people, like me, who witnessed the coming of independence remember how at first Dr Kamuzu Banda used to treat all Malawians as a father treats his children. As he grew older he was only rubber stamping what his cohorts were placing in front of him. At this stage the populace was divided into first, second and third class citizens. This is what is happening now.Talk of national unity is a farce in the face of nepotism in the delivery of public services.

Callista’s suggestion of Saulos Chilima may be welcome on two grounds. Malawi, like several African countries, ought to be led by members of the younger generation and those of middle age but not older men. The latter may act as consultants but full-scale management should be left to those who are in full control of their mental and physical properties. Look at countries abroad. Tony Blair of Britain, Barack Obama of the United States and Putin of Russia first entered office when they were well-below 60. The President of France Macron is only 40 years. Let us try the younger generation; the older one has been given the chance and has not taken as far enough on the road to development.

Callista’s choice of someone from the Central Region, instead of the Southern Region, to lead the DPP is another progressive idea. A political party is not a family business to be automatically inherited by relatives of the founder. The practice of, as a matter of course, installing a son or brother of a departing leader is what has diluted democracy in Malawi. It has entrenched regionalism and tribalism. Besides, it is not in accordance with the tradition of Malawi’s founding father— James Sangala, founder of the Nyasaland African Congress (Nac). He was not the first president and none of his children succeeded him once he retired as president of Nac.

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The Malawi Congress Party was founded by two men from Nkhata Bay while resident in Blantyre, Orton Chirwa and Aleke Banda. When Dr Banda came out of prison Orton vacated the presidential seat in favour of Dr Banda, a more dynamic and popular personality at that time.

Those of who were disenchanted with the policies of the incumbent but were timid to speak now come out in the open and suggest that Callista should herself stand for election in 2019 as an independent. I would suggest to the People’s Party (PP) that they consider fielding her as their presidential candidate. Never mind what the lady in exile may say the PP is, as the name makes clear, it is a people’s [party] not a private property.

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The question of witchcraft arises now and again with no apparent solution because those who express views on it are not clear in their minds what it means and end up confusing others.

It is not true to say there are no wizards and witches; these are real people not fairies.

In the early 1960s, I visited a witch-finder called Chikanga in Rumphi District and saw outside his house mounts of concoctions, beads and nondescript things which had been brought there by people who confessed they were witches and wizards. Chikanga had warned them that his own occult powers were stronger than theirs and those who practised witchcraft would themselves die.

The dispute is not about whether wizards and witches exist, but whether, by occult power, they can make a person insane, die or suffer in some other way.There are people who saywitches and wizards have such powers but others scoff at the claim.

One undeniable fact is that, due to witch-hunting, many innocent people suffer. Those who have lived a long life are the targets of suspicion especially if they have no important relatives to protect them. A law must be passed making it a criminal offence to accuse someone of being a witch or a wizard. However, there is a caveat; suppose the accused person indeed engages in practices which are construed as witchcraft, what should you do with such a person— especially if he or she intimidates other people.

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