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DPP missed it on Pac indaba

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The 5+1 All-Inclusive Stakeholders Conference organised by the Public Affairs Committee (Pac) ended peacefully on Thursday at Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre. Pac and all stakeholders must be commended for putting up such a civilised platform for Malawians to discuss challenges facing this country and propose solutions to the same.

But the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should feel ashamed for coming out of this gathering as an irritating cry baby. I am sure that any progressive member of the DPP is feeling ashamed of the desperate tactics the party attempted to throw at Malawians to attract sympathy.

Surely, the DPP ought to know that a functioning democracy demands that a winning party must govern and not rule a country. Therefore, the DPP must admit that it is there to merely govern Malawi. It must govern and not rule because Malawians already put in place constitutional provisions to run their state and public affairs. There is no need for someone to come up with iron-fist tactics so that Malawians must be cowed into submission.

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In fact, government has itself to blame for the dissatisfaction that is so palpable in the citizenry. Had government taken seriously issues that come out of Parliament and had it made sure that its organs such as the Anti- Corruption Bureau functioned according to the letter, the citizens would not have been claiming rights that already belong to them.

It is a failure by government, to be inclusive, that is pushing the owners of the country — the citizens— to reclaim their destiny. Had the government allowed systems to operate as designed, no-one would have cried about rising cases of corruption. But because government has tamed some sacred cows, there is blatant flouting of rules and procedures as a chosen few get away with murder.

The governing DPP’s cry-baby tantrums started when the party told a press conference in Lilongwe that Pac had sidelined it on the indaba. Realising that it had made itself look vulnerable, the party said it would still make itself available in the conference hall. This begs a question as to how a governing party would plan to be chaotic as to bulge into a high level conference that it was not supposed to be party to. Then the party claimed that Pac had organised hoodlums from Ndirande Township to invade the conference hall and demand regime change.

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This is an insult to the residents of the legendary Ndirande Township as the DPP’s statement perpetuates the stigma that Ndirande is a hood of thuggery and lawlessness. To the contrary, Ndirande is one of the most secure townships where one can walk throughout the night without being harmed. And one hopes that the DPP should quickly realise that Ndirande Township is the bedrock of Malawi politics.

Perhaps the biggest blunder the DPP committed in its confused state was to allow the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) to drag the name of Catholic Archbishop Thomas Msusa into a black propaganda campaign. The DPP sanctioned MBC to portray the head of the Catholic Church in Malawi, by virtue of being chairperson of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi, as endorsing everything that President Peter Mutharika is doing.

MBC has been getting away with slander against individuals because it mainly targets politicians. Malawian politicians have largely accepted this unfortunate development as being part of the game and they have themselves to blame for suffering such slander. But for the government to take aim at Archbishop Msusa is to put itself on a collision course with close to five million Catholic faithful in the country. Msusa’s warning that, one day, the power of the gun will be subdued by the power of the will should not be taken lightly. Even the Bible damns anybody who puts his trust in horses (military might) or the flesh (strategists).

It might be helpful to remember that the term propaganda was coined and its practice developed by the church before armies adopted it. The Catholic Church has solid structures and its social teachings bind its faithful. Catholics believe that their leaders are sitting in for Christ and cannot mislead His flock. What would happen in 2019 if the bishops decide to use social teachings as well as the pulpit to enlighten their followers on the ills committed by the government? The DPP should just ask its vice president for the Centre, Heatherwick Ntaba, and government spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, about how much powers the bishops can wield.

Perhaps just to remind the DPP that most priests in the Blantyre Archdiocese come from the Lhomwe belt. This is due to a number of historical factors. Men of the collar always close their ranks. An attack on any of them is deemed an attack on all of them. The attack on Archbishop Msusa can trigger a snowball reaction. The priests and their relatives may have an attachment in the disagreement while the faithful will feel compelled by the Church doctrine to defend their faith and leaders.

The DPP propaganda has misfired on this Pac conference. The governing party would have taken advantage of the conference to position itself as a champion of participatory democracy, instead of spreading rumours that the indaba had been called off.

This is the dilemma political parties find themselves in: they rely on recycled politicians to come up with contemporary strategies. Can these analogue-bred old-timers tick in this digital era?

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