“Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. —Matthew 7:6
It is official: Malawi has five major political parties, competing for the presidency, parliamentary and council seats. The Malawi Electoral Commission Chair accepted presidential candidate papers at the COMESA Hall, where political parties and supporters converged to cheer on their respective parties. It was indeed great to witness this democratic process of candidates present their papers with relative ease.
It would be great if the aftermath of the pageantry were as smart and superb, if political zealots or supporters were as calmly laid back as their leaders were at COMESA.
The superbly laid out pageantry of one party per day that started on Monday with Malawi Congress Party (MCP), followed on Tuesday by People’s Party (PP), Wednesday by United Transformation Party (UTM), Thursday by United democratic Party (UDF), and on Friday by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
The MCP, through its President Dr. Lazarus Chakwera flanked by his running mate Sidik Mia, informed Malawians of the High 5’s, which is a powerful list of values, and reminder of the previous four corner stones. Then on Tuesday, came the PP, which is to be commended for achieving 50-50 ratio in its highest position with nomination of Dr. Jerry Jana to be running mate to former president Dr. Joyce Banda.
Apart from highlighting a 12-point agenda for Malawians to expect from the UTM leading team, Dr. Saulos Chilima and running mate Dr. Michael Usi, also showed that they put much thought and planning to the presentation of their papers: after presenting their papers, and brief statement, and picture with MEC Chair, Justice Dr. Ansah, Chilima and his running mate left the venue in a tractor, with numerous campaign slogans.
On Thursday it was UDF’s Atupele Muluzi and running mate Frank Mwenefumbo, presented their paper. As the political party that ushered in democracy and the first to rule democratic Malawi, Muluzi promises creating a “sound, vivid and conducive environment for investors from within our own vicinity…”
The last major political party, the incumbent ruling party of the DPP, presented on Friday. Unveiling his running mate, President Mutharika also unveiled a series of promises that appeared to come from a run-on from previous campaign promises.
Now that the political players have come out and it is officially official, the five presidential hopefuls and their running mates are in top gear racing to clinch the coveted presidency, parliamentarians and councilors their seats. The circus, so it seems, has also come to town.
On the circus repertoire is violence. This is becoming complicated because there are reports of people impersonating opposite parties by wearing party cloths and causing violence.
Another form of circus plank is by ruling party, in conjunction the police, goes out and organize a political rally close to a venue of an opposition party rally. This scheme almost always leads to supporters fighting.
These are the two most common violent acts and they cause harm to innocent people, the same people that political parties expect will on election day leave their homes and cast votes. The leaders of the five political parties, must hem in the zealots, cadets or die-hards, who are the perpetrators of these strategies.
UTM President, VP Saulos Chilima is to be commended for taking the bull by the horn and distancing himself from the fracas that ensued in which a MEC reporter was beaten by UTM supporters.
The third circus that is taking place is the practice of bribing reporters to write articles that tarnish the image of an opponent; this is coupled with the rise of fake, untrue and highly salacious information mushrooming at alarming speed on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp in print, audio and video formats.
Sadly, the issue of the politician paying journalists is reducing journalistic professional standards of our country, and it eclipses the media ability to play its role as the fourth estate, with the responsibility of making our governors accountable.
Social media platforms have changed the way exchange of information is carried out. With all the numerous platforms, information travels fast and far. Sadly, with the good that social media has afforded millions of users, it has also reared its ugly head: people use it to spread untrue or created information of one’s opponents.
This is affecting Malawi campaign because both the wise and the simple are spending sleepless nights, long hours creating salacious and scandalous information. These zealots, with little or nothing better to do, and probably not paid for their hard work, are cheating 17 million Malawians of the improved livelihood that their political masters are promising Malawians.
Most Malawians do not know how to read or write, many are live in poor and squalid conditions, and many go to sleep on an empty stomach. The fake information running through Malawi’s social media is not helping these Malawians anywhere near living the decent lives the political leaders are promising.
In other word, all the political party zealots that are feeding Malawi’s social media with untrue, unverifiable information about their party opponents, are cancelling their leaders’ messages of hope; they are exerting their energies in ventures that are misleading and cause apathy among the people who are expected to cast votes.
A smart use of social media would surely be one in which party zealots create positive information about their party, its platform, highlight speeches made by their leaders, PM hopefuls in their parties.
It would be exciting, even for people that are sponsoring the political parties to see highlights of shadow MPs; it is more interesting to watch a video clip of a rural area and hear about its development needs.
A call to all candidates: please, advise your supporters to find positive and creative ways of using social media and media platforms, ways that highlight the party candidates.
Janet Zeenat Karim
Author of Women & Leadership: Women are the Change you Seek
…..but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15