Where is Atupele Austin Muluzi heading to with the United Democratic Front (UDF) party?
This could be the question, many of those that follow Atupele, as his enthusiasts fondly call him, are asking themselves since he lost the 2014 presidential elections, and then, quickly run to the winning president, Peter Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for some mercy.
But you see, one does not go round asking elders such questions for you already know the consequence.
But maybe for how they love Atupele and the UDF, this question keep them scratching their heads, for they know quite well as this Akan proverb rightly puts it, “Ntimuka does not sit or doze off under the same tree whose fruit fell and killed his father, Ananse”.
They know, Atupele, might be sitting under the same tree whose fruit fell and killed the political ambitions of his father, Bakili Muluzi.
But does Atupele learn from such wise sayings? Oh, you don’t go round asking elders such a question.
Or maybe, Atupele has known well the side of the tree from which the fruit fell and had already mastered the art of keeping his head elusive to such falling fruits that fell on his father’s head?
Now, a woman may spit to clear her mouth, and an old woman may spit for nothing, but a young girl does not spit for nothing. But let us not judge hastily that the fruit will, on one bad day, hit on Atupele’s head.
So whether this question is answered now or avoided because it is not the right time, it will be answered someday.
Of course the people asking such a question know that Atupele is never a fool.
How Baliki lost his head
Atupele, must be one lucky boy leading a party that has already learnt many bad lessons in the past from February 2005 when Bingu wa Mutharika, deserted the party and hurried to cobble together his DPP.
That time Atupele saw it happening with the eyes of a new Member of Parliament just coming straight from school.
He saw how Bingu mercilessly jeopardized the dreams of his father and caused pain by immediately after winning the presidency, pulled out a case in which Bakili was to answer charges of depositing K1.7 billion of government funds into personal accounts.
Atupele also witnessed how the slipping spinal discs deteriorated the health of his father, exacerbated by the frequent court appearances in the alleged theft charge.
That time, Peter Mutharika, Atupele’s new friend was serving in his brother’s government and it was claimed he was the right hand man advising the brother on many legal matters.
It was during this period which Bakili viewed as political persecution that he lost his head further. It was more painful to learn that Bingu had not only fled with the presidency that belonged to UDF but that, he went further to attempt to throw him into prison.
From that time, Bakili was no longer seen as a political engineer as he had branded himself previously during his political hey days. Atupele’s father was humiliated to a mere political boat Bingu only used to cross the deep rivers of a presidential victory. Atupele saw all these happening.
But that was not the end. When Bakili attempted to wrestle back his powers as he went about preaching how it is an easy job for him to unseat the baby that he solely taught to sit in the 2009 general elections, he courted more pain.
And so when his call for another term was thrown out in court and after Bingu won by a majority vote in the elections, Atupele’s father, knew that more trouble now followed him than ever.
In all of Bakili’s attempts, he was only trying to bring back home the presidency that Bingu stole from the UDF.
Another set of trouble
Now Bakili was not only fighting the court battles in his alleged theft of government money, but he also started fighting the battle in his UDF home, now on how he will leave sanity to prevail in his party after the 2009 elections.
It was Friday Jumbe, the appointed care-taker leader of UDF and his camp that gave him a new set of pain. Jumbe instead of picking more fights with Bakili on who will be UDF’s next leader and its torchbearer in the 2014 elections, simply run away from the fight, knowing he could fight with Bakili further.
It was the same with Cassim Chilumpha. He, too, run away from, from fighting Bakili, complaining how you can never trust Bakili Muluzi and his politics.
New broom in town
But at the end of the day, everyone knew it was his son, Atupele, now considered a grown up and mature after a ten-year stay in politics, who was destined to take over the UDF leadership for good.
So Atupele came calling during the UDF convention. In what was seen as the rebirth of a party, Atupele, clad in yellow colours, not only looked like his father but he spoke like him as well. To many, it sounded like the return of Bakili Muluzi now reincarnated in his dear son.
Women who were fond of Bakili now felt relieved. They danced around and wiggled on their toes for the newly crowned Atupele Muluzi on the day of the party convention.
It reminded them of how Bakili, when he was in government, proudly called them in front near the podium, to wiggle their bodies before him and how the former president joked about how those women know a similar job in their homesteads.
Now, playing the role of a political engineer again, Bakili, pretended that his son is a full grown up man, he left him alone in all public appearances.
The new Muluzi in town, carried himself really cautiously and traded himself in Parliament as the next big thing to happen in politics. He began with forming his base in Parliament.
His participation in parliamentary debates saw Atupele, the child of his father, rising to one truly honourable Member of Parliament calling respect from even the earliest settlers of the August House.
So it was not a very difficult task, in the first place, to set himself as a leader of a party. From the day he became a leader, he gingerly went about on a mission of renewing the party, and really, many people renewed their interest in the party.
Following a blind man
But it is his predilection to jump willy-nilly to any government that comes in, which is a thorn in the fresh, that has potential to dissuade his level-headed supporters from following him further because of his chameleon colours.
How with all their reasoning, Atupele’s elite supporters can keep on following a young man who at times, seems not to know what he wants in politics- an errand boy?
An errand boy who today, can spell you to believe that he has a new agenda to change his country and tomorrow he comes back to sink you in a new faith that his agenda is no different from the other in government.
He did that with Joyce Banda after she suddenly rose to the presidency and formed her People’s Party (PP) when he was appointed Minister of Economic Planning and Development. And now he doesn’t repent- he is shamelessly hanging out with the DPP.
Atupele must listen to the wisdom in this Yoruba proverb: “A fly that never listens follows the corpse to the grave and get buried with it”.
Atupele will certainly pay for his prostituting with the DPP some day in future.
The DPP never a friend
Does Atupele trust that the DPP is a true friend or does Peter Mutharika trust that the UDF is a true friend?
Is Atupele not aware of that his enviable political reputation that he laboured building years, easily get soiled if the DPP happens to fall out of the people’s grace? How will Atupele salvage his reputation in the event of the DPP fall while he is part of the DPP project- sharing and agreed to its development plans and policies?
But the next time that Atupele will start listening to the wisdom of the old, it will be in the grave getting buried with the corpse-the DPP.
Even until now, the UDF is always privy on its relationship with the DPP outside the Parliament. The DPP friendship with the UDF was tied out of no choice.
It is common knowledge that the DPP could not go to Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to beg for its support in Parliament. It could also not go to Joyce Banda’s PP. So the UDF was the only choice but not the best.
Disappointment with the Youth
Atupele in the run-up to the 2014 general elections brought himself up as a saviour for the Malawi youth who are facing many challenges particularly the lack of employment.
Atupele promised to create thousands of jobs for the youth. It was difficult in the first place not to take Atupele’s promises, for he claimed he represented the new generation.
Now, Atupele, who seems to have lost the way and appears to be not very sure of where he is taking UDF to in the near future, will plant a spirit of mistrust in the youth that took him for their saviour
Atupele’s continued absence now, to associate with the Malawi youth, even if he is not in the presidency, is costing his reputation among the youth.
Will he next time come back to these same youths to ask for their youthful vote? Has he not jeopardised them once more for his hobnobbing with the grey-haired?
A hiding snake- a future hope?
Or maybe we should think, the UDF, his followers and the youth that banked their hopes on him should wait patiently for he is playing the role of a hiding snake that is waiting for the right time to spit. Might he be the snake, which Vice President, Saulos Chilima, talked of recently at Nyambadwe Ground in Blantyre that “We don’t have to tame it, even if it were a young one?
But if hiding in government of the day is Atupele’s political tactic, for how long will he do this?
President Peter Mutharika is one of those that know better Atupele’s competence as he told New African Magazine last May that, “Thankfully, Honourable Atupele Muluzi is a competent person to be a minister in my government.”
But if really Atupele is a future hope and not just an errand boy in politics and that he is serious to form a government at one time in future, he must stop being lazy. He must adopt a guerrilla fighting spirit.
A guerrilla fighter always knows that it is not a small job to win government. A guerrilla fighter takes many risks and goes to the bush every time to look for wars until the end. Atupele must learn to take such risks.
For example how can Atupele speak against the government bad policies in which he is a serving minister? Hiding in a government of which he does not subscribe to all its values, has the potential to cost Atupele his own time to work on strengthening the UDF.
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