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Aipira rewinds Malawi’s political leadership tape

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By Richard Chirombo:

Okoma-Atani Aipira’s observation skills glitter on the pebbled corridors of Malawi’s Presidents From 1964 to 2014, a book that gives the former minister of Statutory Corporations, parliamentarian and academician a life-time chance to add paragraphs to the limelight of Malawi’s chapter in history.

In 398 pages of the book, his pen sways slowly, in rhythm with the throbbing drums of his memories.

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Aipira may consider himself lucky for passing through Malawi’s four political dispensations, namely colonial rule, independence, one party reign and democratic dispensation in all its forms— the United Democratic Front (UDF) reign under Bakili Muluzi, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) regime under Bingu wa Mutharika as well as People’s Party (PP) regime under two-year term president Joyce Banda.

“From 1964 to 2014, the period covered by this book, Malawians of my generation have experienced political, economic and social changes,” Aipira said.

He added: “Malawi’s Presidents From 1964 to 2014 takes the reader down [the] memory lane I have travelled and [is] largely shaped by political leaders in their endeavours to define the destiny of Mother Malawi.”

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He said the book was different from others in the sense that, as a part observer and part participant, he offers insights into some of the things that have shaped Malawi through the prism of personal experiences.

As such, he excuses himself, in advance, for any misunderstandings that may crop up, saying opinions are bound to be ‘judged’ differently anyway.

“It is said and acknowledged that to err is human’.

“However, the opinions expressed in this book are entirely mine,” he said.

Apart from bringing, up close, stories that define the leadership prowess, or lack of it, of Malawi Congress Party’s Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, UDF’s Muluzi, DPP’s Bingu and PP’s Banda, the book also focuses on parliamentary sessions.

Aipira also addresses the issues of government and party politics, economic partnership agreements and budget sessions.

And there is a reason he focuses on the period between 1964 and 2014, instead of, say, 2016 or 2018 , when another Mutharika, Peter, has been warming the chair of the country’s chief executive officer.

“I have started with 1964 because I was there. And I have closed the chapter in 2014 because this is the time I retired from active politics.

Remember, I served as parliamentarian and Cabinet minister but all things come to an end.

“So, in a way, it is much about Malawi as it is about me [my political life, which ended in 2014]. I want us to keep records of things that have happened over the years, especially because we do not have many books of this sort and information is difficult to come by,” he said.

The book is written for students, especially those pursuing programmes ranging from development economics, economic history, political science, social science, law and parliamentarians and civil society groups.

The book, which is being sold in all Montfort Media bookshops in Malawi, was launched last Thursday in Lilongwe and Aipira is confident that it will not founder on its voyage to vintage points on shelves of public institutions and private individuals.

Whether the book sways slowly or quickly into people’s hearts as it becomes part of the country’s institutional memory is not the issue; the issue is that it is in rhythm with the need to lock a nation’s important stories in books.

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