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Are they ready for us?

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Finally, the much awaited 2019 is here. May is only a few months away. It was in May 2014, when the country decided that they had had enough of Joyce Banda and her People’s Party (PP) government. The circumstances that led to Malawi having its first female president are well known to Malawians. Despite the goodwill that greeted Banda’s ascension to the presidency, she was only in power for two years. President Peter Mutharika has been in power two years longer than Banda.

There have been several theories as to why Banda quickly lost the support of Malawians within such a short time. The theories range from the Cashgate to the female factor (the argument that Malawians were not ready for a female president). While this might be true to others, there is a school of thought that characterises Banda’s conduct as president as lacking the maturity of the office. In other words, she was not ready to govern. She had been accustomed to opposition politics, hence did not plan for being in government.

This is 2019, the election year. Malawians will go the polls again in May. The political environment which has been readying itself for elections in 2019 will now move into the final gear. From the comments and conduct of some of the main opposition parties in Malawi, one can only see political manoeuvring in readiness for a potential victory. Opposition parties are salivating at the prospect of contesting the elections against the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). But are the main opposition parties ready to govern?

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The way the main opposition parties are run demonstrates a lack of transparency, accountability, and common sense in government processes. Beyond the ability to speak fluently in borrowed accents, or parading their supports when going to court to answer charges, there seems to be nothing to demonstrate their readiness for running the country. Malawians are tired of flashy slogans, rhetorical platitudes; and empty promises, they need development and transformation that matches their aspirations as enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution states that all persons and peoples have a right to development and therefore to the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural, and political development.

They need a leader who shall take all necessary measures for the realisation of the right to development through the equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, shelter, employment, and infrastructure. But, by now, Malawians know that most politicians, by their very nature, are an arrogant, self-serving, and often disrespectful lot and therefore need to be constantly monitored and held to account even when they are in opposition.

While we talk of good governance or indeed transformative leadership as the missing ingredients to Malawi’s democratic utopia, are the opposition parties any better. Do you see any good governance in the running of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) or UTM, PP, United Democratic Front (UDF) or Alliance for Democracy (Aford)? Are there any signs of “transformative leadership” in these political parties? Are these leaders any better than the DPP leadership?

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The next time Malawians go to vote, they must be alert to the current economic conditions that have driven the population into abject poverty, the reason that has made Malawi a permanent member of the poorest 10 economies in the world. Are there any signs that those in the opposition benches will not seek to transform their own economic conditions through looting and other nefarious activities before serving the national interest?

While it is easier to point out the shortfalls of those in power, history has told us that it is easier to say what is wrong and extremely difficult to find a solution to the wrongs identified. Malawians will do themselves a service by analysing the potential leaders now. The conduct of the opposition politicians as well as those in the ruling party exposes flaws at different levels and in varying degrees. Unless someone comes up between now and May 2019, Malawians have witnessed the competencies of the potential leaders while they have been conducting their business in Parliament and, for the UTM, both its elective convention and the “all constituencies in one day” primary elections have exposed the governance weaknesses in the new kid on the block. Some of the current opposition leaders have, during their political careers, displayed incompetence, irresponsible leadership and bad judgement, hence not fit to lead Malawi.

Apart from political gamesmanship, some of these opposition parties have nothing to show that gives confidence that they will be any better. There have no clue on what strategies they will employ to drive the much-needed economic recovery. They have not demonstrated any ability to give confidence that they will mend the broken but critical sectors such as health, education, and infrastructure. Some major opposition political parties have demonstrated that they are ready to throw away adherence to the rule of law and respect for the Constitution by supporting projects that have defied the laws of the land when it comes to environmental impact assessment simply because of the money they have received from potential contractors.

How can such opposition political leaders fix and strengthen dysfunctional State institutions if they are in the lead to undermine them? How can they convince us that, when in power, they will fight rampant corruption and patronage across the board? In fact, most of the opposition parties have also demonstrated loyalty, tribalism, and regionalism in the appointment of key positions that determine efficient governance of their parties. How will they be different when in power? Are they ready to govern us?

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