At the Mulhako wa Alhomwe annual cultural festival a few days ago, I bet the code was ‘anything goes’…nothing was off the table; from herbs to traditional foods, dances to politics; everyone had their dose.
Most people have this tendency of beating about the bush whenever they have a not-so-pleasant or candid message or advice to deliver to a friend, relative, an acquaintance or indeed the entire nation. It is because of such behaviour that some friendships have been torn or are placed on the rocks after one feels let down or ‘betrayed’ by the other for not speaking out when it mattered.
But in some instances, the opposite has happened; we have seen or heard about friendships being cemented just because one decided to speak when it mattered or indeed took action that helped save a country or indeed friendship.
Take, for example, the speech delivered at the Mulhako wa Alhomwe annual cultural festival on Sunday by none other than Malawi’s former president Bakili Muluzi on the problems (or is it challenges?) that have rocked Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leadership. When Atcheya started by saying people are not happy with how things are going, many must have thought he was about to take shots at the government over the tough economic times being experienced, but they had another thing coming.
Muluzi decided to grab the bull by its horns and told DPP president and former Malawi leader Peter Mutharika in the face that it is high time he did something about the wrangles since he is the leader of the party.
“You as president of the party, munthu amene mumakhulupilira kuti mumasunga mwana aliyense muno mmalawi, take the leadership to ensure that there is unity in DPP…nyumba imene imakhala yogawikana, mudzawina chisankho inu, mungadzawine chisankho mutagawikana? Your Excellency, you’re the president of the party… take the leadership to ensure kuti mukhale umodzi mu chipani of DPP,” Muluzi said in his address, which attracted wild applause from those who had gathered at Chonde Village in Phalombe District.
Though some people might view Muluzi’s speech as ill-timed, I am of the contrary view; this was timely and it was a long time coming. It was just a matter of time before somebody influential would pick the issue and raise it publicly as Atcheya has done. DPP cannot and must not continue to pretend that all is well in the party, which to an extent might end up having implications on its relationship with the United Democratic Front (UDF) whose chairperson is the senior Muluzi (By the way, is the chairmanship for life?)
When an elder statesman like the senior Muluzi comes out with such a message, you do not just shoot your mouth off in response but you first have to weigh the message carefully and reflect. Wary of this, Mutharika threw a lighter moment in his address after Muluzi had spoken, perhaps digesting the message and letting it sink home.
“Now, it is never easy to deliver a speech after Atcheya has spoken,” Mutharika said, before telling all and sundry that he is the president of DPP until 2023 hence if anyone holds a contrary view, he or she is free to leave the former ruling party.
Perhaps where Mutharika went off key is when he started mumbling something about standing in an election, should the DPP’s bid in court about nullifying the June 23 2020 court-ordered fresh election on the premise that the Mec team of commissioners that declared the winner was not legally constituted. As a matter that is before the courts, the wise and prudent move would have been to bypass that subject and concentrate on the issue at hand; that of fostering unity n DPP.
By zoning in on the subject of standing in an election, he might have just ruffled more feathers within the top ranks in the party where those responsible for the recent scenario are housed. You do not put out a fire by pouring kerosene on it. But then, may be that is exactly what those that have been canvassing for the top seat in DPP needed to hear. Mutharika has been too aloof as a leader and it is good that Atcheya shook him back to reality. A party as big as DPP claims to be cannot do with an absent leader.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).