I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
stand in the desert. . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
—PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY— ‘Ozymandias’
Before the Cashgate that was revealed in 2013, associating with the People’s Party (PP) was all one needed to have every good thing that life—by Malawian standards—would offer.
Once you professed allegiance to the orange side of town, you surely had all you wished to have: the law, on you, was suspended, the police could freeze on you while a cough, or even a sneeze was surety for one to get all they needed in banks and everywhere.
Before Joyce Banda—JB as she is fondly known— was unceremoniously booted out of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for a petty reason of expressing her desire to succeed Bingu wa Mutharika, there was no such a thing as PP and one wouldn’t even think that one day this country would be painted orange. I was a cab reporter when sympathisers of the PP camped at the Registrar General’s offices to press for the registration of the then small grouping that threatened to grow huge and shake the political foundations of this country.
It so happened that, eventually, the PP was registered and, just months later, Bingu wa Mutharika decided to leave the stage leaving the then estranged deputy, JB with all the mess to clear. Thanks to our messy constitution, JB’s PP ended up becoming the ruling party even before it had contested in any election.
After the departure of Bingu, the PP became the ruling party and it was all well as it appeared as one big happy family. Those days, even the once-upon-a-time vocal civil society organisations recoiled and shut up to give a chance to JB and her PP to run affairs. But we all know how it ended.
If there is one political party that—if not careful—will forever row in regret then it is the PP. Despite losing the 2014 tripartite elections, the PP still had a bit of goodwill from some people who believed the party was not given enough time to impress Malawians. The PP came third in the tripartite polls despite having been around only for four years while the UDF came a distant fourth when it had been around for over two decades.
Since losing the polls, the PP has taken a serious downward spiral and it appears that the party has no ideas to redeem itself from the madhouse that it has become. During the tabling of the contentious Electoral Reforms Amendment Bills, the PP was clearly a divided house with some members sneaking out for an unsanctioned ephemeral dalliance with the DPP that was only meant to shoot down the bills. It was then that the cracks in the party became too huge for anyone to hide.
What followed was the firing of the party’s acting president Uladi Mussa and vice president for the Eastern Region Ralph Jooma. What is clear about the firing of these stalwarts is that within the PP, there are some moles that have no business in the party other than destabilise it. And then, the PP, has just made itself harm with the decision of appointing JB’s son vice president for the Eastern Region.
Word in town—as echoed in the book of Uladi—JB had all along been planning to handover the PP sceptre to her son. Of course it is somehow difficult to believe what Uladi Mussa has said particularly when you come to think that this is a guy who has just been fired from the party and would, as it is common, say or do anything out of frustrations and anger.
But the bigger picture is that the PP is steadily falling apart and if not careful, it will perform badly than it did in the 2014 elections. The ugly truth that most PP followers will rave at is that the party has not been around long enough to make firm its foundations.
What is happening in the PP is simply a statement of a party’s pilgrimage to oblivion and if the party will not put its house in order it will go down in history as one of the tales that start with once upon a time