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Atupele Muluzi lands, but with one or both legs

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By Richard Chirombo:

If, by 5pm Thursday, Atupele Muluzi will have submitted his presidential candidacy nomination papers to Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) officials at Comesa Hall in Blantyre, it will be fair to describe him as someone who thinks with his heart at night and mind during the day.

People who behave like this often discard what they thought at night— even if the situation they thought over at night had persisted for long—when the morning cock crows.

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The behaviour of the United Democratic Front (UDF) torch-bearer has been put under the microscope because he has been a bed-fellow of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for over four years now, freely dining at the table of the President as one of his Cabinet ministers.

He has served in several Cabinet portfolios, among them as minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining; Lands, Housing and Urban Development; Home Affairs and Internal Security; and Health and Population now.

During this time, the politician— who was born on August 6 1978— had a chance to study his own behaviour and judge every act. More importantly, he had to judge every act in the context of the election loss he suffered at the hands of President Peter Mutharika in the May 2014 Tripartite Elections, when the UDF came a distant fourth.

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In the elections, Mutharika floored the rest, chalking 1,904,399 votes against Malawi Congress Party torch-bearer Lazarus Chakwera [1,455,880], People’s Party’s Joyce Banda [1,056,236] and Muluzi [717,224].

Now, when one comes fourth, against the wave of positive public opinion after he rode on the back of Agenda for Change in the elections, it becomes necessary to think over every move— entering the political river with one foot at a time, if necessary.

This seems to be the case with Muluzi, who has, seemingly, been grateful to serve as Cabinet minister but not too glad to put both feet in the river-of-the-political-union with the ruling DPP. It is as if, even after serving in Mutharika’s Cabinet, he has been critical of his own behaviour— up to the point of expressing interest in presenting nomination papers today.

Al so on course to presenting theirs are Cassim Chilumpha of Tikonze People’s Movement, Pastor Baxten Boyd Natulu [independent], London Malingamoyo Phiri of National Salvation Front, among others.

Up for grabs are six million-plus votes, if the weevil of voter apathy, which Mtendere Election Support Network spokesperson Edward Chaka blames on politicians’ penchant for making false promises, will not spoil the broth. Again.

For, if the truth be told, the negative signs were there last year during the first phase of voter registration in Salima, Kasungu and Dedza, where would-be voters did not turn up in droves.

This prompted Mec Chairperson, Jane Ansah, to point a finger at those who have taken a liking to making broken promises. The other factor was stakeholders’ failure to sensitise people to the importance of voting.

Well, it seems that voters are simply giving back to the politicians what they [voters] have been at the receiving end of— bluff meals.

Yes, it seems that, after the re-introduction of multiparty system of politics in 1994, Malawians are not as excited as they were then. They, in fact, seem to have outlived that stage of life when excitement makes one the catspaw of feelings.

And, today, there is someone who seems to have, also, outlived the stage when youth-hood, not necessarily political naivety, makes an individual the catspaw of feelings.

The problem when an individual turns into a catspaw of feelings or first impressions, everything that comes into is that sight seems to have a magnetic attraction.

Is this not the case with Atupele, who stepped into a river with both feet when he accepted a Cabinet post but now seems reluctant to remain in the water— the said water being the shallow-surface working relationship between the yellow party and the blue side of town?

However, would – be voters better not read too much into Atupele’s political movements. It could be that he wants to behave like a highly sought after woman who wants to walk around, dance, shun a lover she really loves.

A woman who sways as voluptuously as a wave when, in fact, the heart has been stilled inside.

Perhaps Atupele wants to show the DPP that he is like the woman, with supreme beauty, who has been ignored for long or who did not get the attention she deserved or, better still, who does not get enough respect.

In so doing, it could be that he earns the respect he deserves and get better stakes in any working relationship with the DPP.

After all, it is possible to avail oneself at Comesa Hall, and announce, at the last minute, that the interest in contesting has, somewhere along the way, been lost.

But, as those at Mec know, a date for presentation of nomination papers is set so that there should not be an infinite wonder about a human being’s real intention.

Today, the human in the centre of a no-longer-infinite-wonder is Atupele.

He could be serious about his presidential ambitions and contest on May 21 or use the occasion today to adjust his pace so that, this time, his embrace with the DPP may be warm and long.

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