Written by RAPHAEL TENTHANI
So April promises to be yet another interesting month this year.
We all know that last April marked a paradigm shift for everything Malawian. April 2012 changed the course of our history…even destiny, some people would say.
You see, the State House tragedy during those three mad days in April changed - some would even say - confused everything.
Malawi, for instance, became the second country on the continent to have a female president. Owing to how eccentric and autocratic Bingu was becoming in the twilight of his life, Joyce Banda brought some breath of fresh air.
But her honeymoon – if she had any - was short-lived. The historic 49 per cent devaluation of the kwacha, though inevitable, made quite a few people quickly forget the Big Kahuna’s excesses of power. They started becoming nostalgic of him...
…But then we have had such discussions already.
April will mark the first anniversary of the death of the first Malawian president to die in office. And that is quite historic, if you ask me.
But April is also the month when two big parties in Malawi will hold conventions to select torch-bearers for 2014.
The former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) deliberately chose April to hold its indaba to coincide with the first anniversary of the passing of its founder and patriarch.
The main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) will also hold its convention in April, according to its leader John Tembo.
So April promises to be quite a busy month politically.
And April may make or break the two major parties in Malawi. In fact April may as well decide May 2014 for us all.
Let us first look at the DPP. This will be the first time for a party that has both democratic and progressive in its name to do something that resembles democracy and progress.
Look, the DPP has never had any elected official since Bingu founded it in February 2005 after selling the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF) a dummy. Bingu would just wake up one morning and make Bintony Kutsaira or Heatherwick Ntaba Secretary General, no qualms, the party was personal-to-holder for him.
So April will afford the party to at least attempt something democratic.
But I am using the word ‘attempt’ advisedly here for. If truth be told, many in the party are of the view that April is there just to rubber-stamp the candidature of the presumptive DPP 2014 candidate, Prof. Peter Arthur Mutharika.
No wonder therefore that the coming on the scene of Henry Chimunthu Banda seems to confuse an already prepared script. Although the Speaker is dithering about whether he would throw his hat in the ring or not, for all intents and purposes he has confirmed he wants to challenge the heir-apparent.
But knowing how Malawian political parties behave, however the vote will go in April, there is a danger that the party may split into two. There will be some – let me call them Binguists – who will see Kaka’s attempt to challenge an anointed heir as an affront on Bingu’s legacy.
These Binguists will therefore do – and they have already started doing – all they can to make the Peter Project go without scruples. They will do all they can to put ‘speed bumps’ in Chimunthu’s way.
Chimunthu, himself not a kid in politics, fully understands this. I know that although he is kind of coy about his candidature, he is networking with his potential supporters.
The Nkhota Kota North MP knows in terms of political experience Peter pales in his shadow. He knows Peter’s major – if not only – qualification to lead the party is that he is his brother’s brother.
So inevitably both camps are going to the April convention with one result in mind: a win.
Whichever camp loses may therefore likely not take defeat lying down. We are likely to see a split DPP cruising towards 2014.
As for the MCP…well, someone just has to tell JZU that his time is up. Pushing well past 80, he is not getting any younger.
But who will ‘bell the cat’, as it were? Those who have tried before have ended up with a political black-eye; ask Ishmael Chafukira and Chris Daza.
But if the MCP has to be relevant someone has to tell the old man that a song, any song – however melodic, has to end at some point. John Tembo will be 82 next year; surely Malawians will be accused of ‘violence against the elderly’ if they are to plant an octogenarian in State House in this twitter and facebook age.
So the April convention for the MCP will have similar twists and turns as the DPP’s. John Tembo may present himself as candidate yet again to face the likes of Chris Daza and Edwin Banda. (Chris Chaima Banda, as he always does, may come out of the woodwork in the run up to April).
But if Tembo really stands – which is against his party’s own constitution, by the way - the younger ones may form a splinter party or protest from within.
By the end of the day, on the larger national picture, scenarios in both the DPP and the MCP may play in the hands of the ruling People’s Party (PP).
I must hasten to add, however, that 2014 is for DPP, MCP, PP and UDF to lose; all the four major political parties have a fair chance to claim the ultimate prize.
But how the DPP and MCP conduct themselves in April may well determine how 2014 will pan out.
Malawi, beware the Ides of April?