Just when everything about 2020 was getting boring and most people could not even wait to see the back of it, boom! In comes what most have described as Malawi’s photograph of the year, depicting President Lazarus Chakwera and First Lady Monica being welcomed at the Mutharika Residence in Mangochi by none other than former president Peter Mutharika and his wife, Gertrude.
No one can claim to have seen this coming; going by the acrimonious and antagonised relationship that ensued between Chakwera and Mutharika in the run-up to the presidential election (in fact, make that after the contentious May 2019 elections). They would stand aloof on a podium and dress down each other, all in the hope of coaxing Malawians into giving them their vote to run the affairs of the State.
It came to a point where Mutharika would swear that “Chakwera will never run this country as long as I am alive” and Chakwera would reciprocate by branding Mutharika as “… that Tipp-ex President”. But, just like somebody once said; there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. With the spirit of the festive season still up in the air, there it was, unfolding before the very eyes of every Malawian; the two political foes getting together behind locked doors to wish each other compliments of the season.
What that picture tells us is that we— as party officials, followers and errand boys— need not be angry on behalf of our leaders or pretend to know what goes on in their minds. Other leaders have even said it openly that what you see on the political podiums is all but part of a game as, behind the curtains, the political ‘enemies’ get to meet and share a drink.
It is always disappointing to see some people getting too emotionally attached to political issues that have little or nothing to do with them, just so they can score a point over their rivals at a time when, in fact, their political masters have moved on from the subject. The recent meeting of Chakwera and Mutharika should serve as a timely reminder that all is vanity.
Nonetheless, this does not erase from the minds of every Malawian the shortcomings of Mutharika and his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) during the time they were in power. The looting and squandering that the former head of State tolerated, some allegedly involving those that had surrounded him in Cabinet, will still be denounced and those responsible must answer for their sins. Whether they (Mutharika and Chakwera) get to share a drink or a meal, that must not sway us from the fact that Malawi is work-in-progress and that, to clear all the rubble, we must rectify past mistakes while keeping clear of trouble as we face the future.
Otherwise, it was good that the two got together because we, as a peace-loving nation and people that value unity, must demonstrate that we are mature enough to move above petty politics. Differences in the political arena or at Capital Hill must never be taken for personal hatred; which, I believe, is the reason political stooges tend to get angry on behalf of their political masters.
In the spirit of reconciliation, we needed to see what happened happen. In fact, most of us await the day we would see all our former presidents and the current President coming together, mingling at a public event. I am quite certain Chakwera can pull this one off.
But, make no mistake, Malawians have shown in between 2019 and 2020 that, when the time comes to jealously defend and safeguard their democracy, they will always play ball. Mutharika and DPP found out the hard way as they literally had to be forced off the throne and we can only hope that, in this New Year, the Tonse Alliance-led administration will not fall into the same trap of getting too intoxicated with power and taking the citizenry for granted.
Otherwise, we can only hope that, while ‘recharging’ by the shores of Lake Malawi at Chikoko Bay in Mangochi, Chakwera will go back to the capital rejuvenated and ready to take the country to the next level so that we can no longer talk of nagging challenges to do with Affordable Inputs Programme, secondary education, job creation and healthcare services delivery in 2021.
Lest we forget, Covid-19 is still out there and biting hard; so, let us continue to observe all the preventive measures if at all we are to see out 2021. One thing is for sure, though; no one knows exactly what this new year has in store for us. So, let us all keep a positive outlook while hoping for the best in everything that we do.
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).