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Chain of fears

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If the names Joe Manduwa and Kampunga Mwafulirwa ring a bell in you, it must be for their valorous decisions once-upon-a-time to speak their mind without fear of poking at some people’s raw wounds.

Manduwa, at the height of the futile and infamous third and open terms bids, told the then head of state Bakili Muluzi that he— meaning Muluzi—had lost the charm he once had on people. Kampunga, if my memory serves me right, had the guts to tell the same Muluzi that his works as president then were not impressive for the people in the Northern Region. The two, some would say, might have prodded on Muluzi’s obvious and natural simplicity and forbearance in handling things. But we cannot undermine the guts they showed in saying things as they were despite the then threat of the marauding and blood-thirsty young democrats.

Eventually, because of their nerve, Kampunga and Manduwa found themselves alienated from those who loved the colour yellow while being endeared to those who rallied otherwise.

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Much as their end is not that inspiring—that is if you believe that politics is all there is—but the path the two took remains stirring much greater than their sad end.

Recently, the United Democratic Front has been in the news for its strange, awkward and costly romance with the ruling DPP. What is obvious is that the UDF has consciously sold its soul to the DPP. You do not need further evidence that the UDF is on a political quicksand than the declaration of the Speaker of Parliament that the party’s legislators be booted out of the house’s Business Committees. In common lingo, the UDF does not have a voice in Parliament.

Because of the culture of too much respect and fear for the powers that be, none in the UDF has gathered courage to protest against this obvious folly. Of course it is only Lucius Banda who has had the bravely to openly refuse to auction his conscious and decency at the cheap price of being on government side.

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We cannot tell at what cost the UDF members have gone, but the most obvious thing is that some of them are hurting within. Sadly they cannot gather enough spirit to approach and reproach their leader. The itch to speak their mind will soon turn to acceptance and, if the party is not careful, the move will bear general disgruntlement which will be the last act of deletion for the party.

The funny thing is that the moment Atupele Muluzi, who now heads the UDF, decides to shift goal posts again, the majority of those MPs and party followers who are supporting his lascivious move to the DPP benches, will also follow him wherever he decides to go.

For the MPs, it is not a matter of reasoning, it is just about following: A classic case of simply asking how high other than why you should jump. Because we have deliberately created a culture whereby those who opposed must have their names tagged rebellious , insolent, arrogant, intemperate and stubborn, Lucius Banda might have found himself in the black book of the UDF.

Now, the case of the UDF is simply a microcosm of what we all are. Just like MPs who are against the move by the party’s leadership to be in union with the DPP are hurting inside, the majority of us are living a gagged life. Sadly we do not want to accept it.

The most basic example is how we are too silent to question our government for fear of the unknown or sometimes imaginary reprisals. In fact we prefer letting things go because we believe our voice will not carry much weight or that we may be silenced through brutal means.

Recently, computers that had important data got lost mysteriously at the Malawi Revenue Authority. No one seems to be interest. But here we are talking of possible criminal acts. Even if you were to ask those working at the MRA what information was lost from the vanished computers all you will get are muffled responses.

In the wake of Cashgate, Escom house was inexplicably reduced to ashes. Rumour was rife that there were some shady dealings. Our lazy attempt to ask what went wrong was met by a cold and unconvincing response that there was no foul dealing. Nearly two years after, there is nothing to talk about as far as proper investigations into the Escom issue are concerned.

We have had far too many things which we ought to seriously question but we just can’t. We enjoy a culture of silence and cowardice and exceeding veneration of institutions and people who we unknowingly elevate to demi-gods.

The chain of silence and fear is astonishing in this nation. For instance, my junior will be too meek to tell me something is wrong even when it is glaringly so; I, on the other hand, will cower at the idea of telling my boss if he has gone bonkers; my boss will be reluctant to speak his mind to the next in rank, while the one on the top will be too diplomatic to confront those in the wrong, while we all fear the government which in turn is forced to make silly decision for fear of upsetting donors. Ours is just a chain of fears.

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