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An algebra election

“I’m surprised none of you has not discussed the role of the Northern Region in these elections.”

Everyone become quite briefly.

“The North, yes.”

“But we have only 1.1 million votes here.”

“Which is why the North will be a decider in these elections for whoever gets, say, 400,000 here will bag these elections.”

“How do you mean?”

“It’s about one (the North) to the Power of Two (the South and the Centre)”

“I failed my algebra.”

“Then don’t attempt to solve this.”

The opaque stuff was flowing and obviously people were losing their heads little by little. Some guy joined the group with a Helen Sigh t-shirt.

“Kodi amayiwa akuti ndi abusa?” somebody inquired after Sigh’s pastorhood. “She, too, thinks she can win?”

“She has mfundo, mwene,” said the new-comer. “She can’t allow cashgate.”

“Talking about good policies I think Mark Katsonga makes sense but he can’t win.”

“If Mark can’t win, who will?”

“Tate Peter!”




“Which abusa? Remember we have two in these elections!”

Then the deejay slot in Joseph Mkasa new campaign song. I left the place as the imbibers were debating which one was a hit, this one or the other one…you know which one!

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Unmuted voices

Raphael  Tenthani“Vox populi,

vox Dei”

Alcuin to Charlemagn

That Latin quotation above is extracted from a 798 letter scholar Alcuin of York wrote Charlemagne, also known as Charles the Great - the King of the Franks.

It simply translates as, “the voice of the people (is) the voice of God.”

A couple of years ago we did an experiment on this column which was such a hit that other columnists copied it. We did not do anything out of this world. What we did was just to go to some places where ordinary folks gather like in beer halls or at funerals.

In between the imbibing or the mourning, people do enter into idle talk on issues of the day, especially politics.

So as we celebrate the risen Chris today, let us sit back and relax and follow the Muckraker at some drinking joint in the outskirts of the City of Blantyre.

So, incognito, I perched myself on an empty crate of the opaque stuff. As it turned out, a heated argument was on-going.

Here we go:

“You’re lying! I maintain she’s a coward to chicken out of the debates!” a young man spotting a Rooney t-shirt said matter-of-factly.

It did not take me time to figure out who the ‘coward’ was.

Amwene, Joyce Banda ndi shasha!” joined another. “She can’t waste time on debates where people will just parrot empty dreams.”

“Me, I don’t understand why she is pulling out. I mean, she has been in this game for years, she’s a good public speaker.”

“I think she’s afraid that when the issue of cashgate comes up she’ll be booed.”

“But she has a perfect line for cashgate, trust me! The fact that it broke on her watch means she is fighting corrupting and wouldn’t allow the looting to continue. Truth be told, the looting begun during the Muluzi time and was perfected by Bingu only to be killed by JB.”

A young man, spotting a mohawk hairstyle probably ‘out of bounds’ from the nearby secondary school, chirped in: “I am with my president on this one. How can you have a debate of 12 people? If they give each candidate two minutes, it will mean one question will last a whole half hour! And that’s minus the opening remarks and the moderator. This thing will be boring. By the time we reach the sixth candidate people will be dozing.”

I fought the urge to agree with the young man’s observation. How can you have a debate of 12? Malawian parties, lacking ideologies as they are, all the candidates will be saying the same things albeit using different words.

Somebody called for a round of the opaque stuff and included me. There is still love in this world, me, a stranger having a freebie here where nobody knows me?

I mumbled my gratitude.

Eti madala?” the benefactor prompted me. As they say, there is no free lunch; this guy wanted me to say something, thanks to the stuff he bought me. “Debate ya anthu anthu 12?”

I wanted to say something but the lady who was serving us changed the subject. 

Koma akulu akulu, jelasi down, basi ya a Katsonga imandiwaza,” she said admiring the PPM campaign bus.

“That guy is a joker,” somebody said flippantly. “He thinks he can win the national vote? He should have been fighting to win back the seat he lost to that old lady.”

“I don’t understand politicians,” the school boy said. “One family, two presidential candidates? And Davies celebrates when PPM members defect to his Chipani cha…what does he call it again? If they can’t agree as a family how do they hope to unite the country?”

“Look, guys,” somebody who had been quite all this time, attracted our attention. “For me, I don’t have a problem with any of the candidates winning but Peter? Peter yekha ndiye bola amai abere ndithu.”

“What’s wrong with Peter?” somebody, obviously a DPP supporter, asked angrily.

“It’s too soon to have another Mutharika in State House. If God didn’t take him when he did, Bingu could have ruined this country. So do we want more of the same?”

M’mimba ndi m’chipala amwene,” somebody said. “Peter can’t be the same as Bingu.”

“By the way, guys, who’s gonna win these elections?”





I could not resist this and decided to put on my journalist cap.

“Why do you think Atupele will win?”

“There will be a lot of first time voters in these elections who are, obviously, the youth. So their choice is obvious.”

“But if you’re talking about the youth vote, then Ama will win because she has Sosten Gwengwe as running mate – a youth.”

“But why should the youth vote for No. 2 when there’s a No. 1 on the ballot? This game is for Atupele to lose.”

“Continue deluding yourself, folks, Ama will win because we have three powerful opposition leaders who will divide the anti-Joyce vote amongst themselves, leaving JB to win easily.”

“But I think Chakwera will win because, while all the other three serious candidates will share the Southern Region vote, the MCP has no real opposition in the Central Region. Of course Ntcheu is always fickle and the northern part of Kasungu may not be as conservative. But still Chakwera has the Central Region block vote to rely on.”

“But the incumbency factor will favour Ama,” somebody reasoned. “People in towns may dispute her cow and goat campaign but these things mean a lot for the villager. Joyce Banda is not stupid; she knows her game.”

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Art of diplomacy

Raphael Tenthani“Running a government
serious business”

Bakili Muluzi


Before we go into issues of diplomacy, let us hold a session of ‘Politics 101’ with one Austin Atupele Muluzi. 

In politics always get it right the first time; any attempts to clarify a gaffe later do not wash. A caveat to this lesson is: always be clear what your message is. Ask yourself what you want to communicate on the political podium; do not leave anything to doubt, conjecture or speculation lest you risk communicating stuff you do not intend to.  

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Read more: Art of diplomacy

Muckaracking Extra:Cost of Chabuka’s folly

Malawi PoliticianGranted, the so-called Tisintha Alliance cannot have any impact on the outcome of the May 20 elections. But do you know the cost of the decision by its vice presidential running mate Sylvester Chabuka to pull out mid-stream? 

Officials from the Malawi Electoral Commission (Mec) and other stakeholders were supposed to fly to South Africa to oversee the printing of ballots at least by today. But the whole process has been put on ice so that the implications of Chabuka’s actions must be debated and analysed.  

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Read more: Muckaracking Extra:Cost of Chabuka’s folly

Remembering Bingu

For some reason whenever I met him Bingu called me ‘my first son’. I never found the occasion to ask him why.

Suffice to say I was evidently not particularly complimentary about his presidency. I found him rather arrogant and self-centred and I never shied away from saying so.

But, save for threats from a few of his overzealous apologists, somehow Bingu still called me ‘my first son’ whenever we crossed paths.

I think Bingu was a nice guy but he was in a wrong job at a wrong time. He obviously thought highly of himself. He once told friends Malawi was too small for him.

But I think he could have done well as a village chief where nobody was supposed to challenge his authority. He abhorred opposition. Remember how he prorogued Parliament when John Tembo and the gang pitted Section 65 over the national budget?

Those who say Bingu should have come immediately after Kamuzu are not wrong. Bingu should have been among the likes of Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyerere and Kamuzu Banda when the leader was supposed to ‘rule’ without opposition.

If truth be told, Bingu was a perfect example of a ‘Mr. Know-it-All’. Remember that time when we had to devalue the artificially strong kwacha? Everyone in his economic advisory team told him it was time to devalue. Guess what the Big Kahuna told the Chikaondas of this world: “Go rinse your brain in OMO!”

That was Bingu for you!

One positive attribute about Bingu was that when he believed in something he was prepared to defend it at whatever cost. Remember the incident about that British diplomat? Everyone knew it was crazy to expel Her Majesty’s top envoy whatever his indiscretions. But Bingu wanted him out regardless.

He had an advisory council headed by his own brother, Peter, with the likes of Rev. Fr. Boniface Tamani, Dr. Ken Lipenga and Prof. Mathews Chikaonda as members.

This group of wise men agreed it was suicidal to send Fergus Cochrane-Dyet packing. It agreed to send Peter to ‘talk nicely’ to his brother.

But it was too late. Bingu had already despatched Etta Banda, then Foreign Minister, to deliver the marching orders to the ‘wayward’ diplomat.

That was Bingu for you!

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