Analysts react to Lazarus Chakwera, Peter Mutharika meet
President Lazarus Chakwera’s visit to the house of former president Peter Mutharika in Mangochi District has attracted mixed reactions from the public, with political and social analysts explaining the public reaction.
Once the picture of Chakwera and wife Monica posing with Mutharika’s wife Gertrude emerged Monday, the social media erupted with different views as some people expressed happiness with the gesture while others were sceptical of the visit.
However, political and social commentator Henry Chingaipe said, while the country might not get to know what the two leaders discussed during the visit, it was a good thing for many reasons.
“I think that the scepticism challenges all of us to observe developments on ‘clearing the rubble’ with keen interest and to raise voices when accountability for crimes of impunity and privilege becomes stifled,” Chingaipe said.
He said there were three dominant views in the public domain on the issue, with some quarters expressing happiness with the visit as it dilutes the political culture of deep-seated hatred between political camps represented by the current and the former presidents.
“This view is reinforced by observations that the political upheaval experienced since the election in 2019 and the change of the government in 2020 would not necessarily allow [for] such a visit.
“So, for proponents of this view, the visit was a good thing, perhaps the beginning of a new wave of political toleration,” he added.
He further said the second view is that propagated by a group of people that can be called ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ and are die-hard, almost sycophantic, supporters of either presidents or parties.
“This group thrives on sustaining and reinforcing conflicts. They probably draw resources to finance their livelihoods by fanning real or imaginary conflicts. This group is unhappy with the visit because the visit threatens their goldmine.
“They are already spewing all sorts of vitriol and ridiculing the visit. They blame the President for visiting and they blame the former president for welcoming the President,” he observed.
He cited the way the two groups were creating multiple counter-narratives and propagating them on social media to misinform the public.
Chingaipe farther said the third group’s view thrives on the idea that Malawian presidents protect their predecessors from accountability and criminal prosecution for crimes of impunity and corruption committed by themselves or their agents when they had political power.
“They see this visit as a first step towards subverting the course of justice for all the crimes reported in the public media that happened when APM was in power. They assume, or suspect that, the meeting may have set a tone for some kind of an agreement that would take APM and his family and associates off the hook of accountability,” he said.
He was, however, quick to say that such fear had no valid grounds
“I think that this fear is not without valid grounds. The Muluzi corruption case is cited countless times and it reinforces the scepticism,” Chingaipe said.
On his part, Chancellor College-based political analyst Ernest Thindwa said Chakwera should be commended for paying a courtesy call on Mutharika.
Thindwa said the public reaction was understandable as people are conditioned to perceive political opponents as enemies, but said he was of the view that political competition should not be construed as adversarial but the pursuit of winning the mind and heart of the prospective voter based on alternative ideas on how society should be socially and economically organised.
“It is time the political elite started to demonstrate that belonging to different parties should not translate to a confrontation. Consensual politics can improve the quality of political competition and our democracy— the reason President Chakwera should be commended and supported in his project to positively shape our political culture,” Thindwa said.
He said the other issue that had raised eyebrows was that Mutharika has court cases and his accounts are frozen.
The political analyst, therefore, said there maybe the temptation to assume that the meeting between the two may influence the due process of the law.
“But I have faith in the incumbent President’s commitment to the rule of law,” he said.
When asked as to what the discussion between the two revolved around, government spokesperson Gospel Kazako said the visit was meant to convey compliments of the season.
“It was a private visit by which President Chakwera wanted to convey compliments of the season to his predecessor, and the two presidents and their wives spent over an hour together in private conversation,” Kazako said.