When a fire breaks out inside the enemy’s camp, respond with an immediate attack from the outside”, so advises Sun Tzu in his old classic military strategy book “The Art of War”.
With a severe fire raging in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the form of a bitter argument between the past (incumbent president Peter Mutharika) and the future (youthful vice president Saulos Chilima), I would have thought that opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) leader Lazarus Chakwera would immediately see the opportunity and attack where the enemy is weakest.
Make no mistake about it folks. The feud raging in the DPP is not simply about individuals or personalities. It is not simply whether the party should field incumbent president Peter Mutharika or Vice President Saulosi Chilima. These are simply the representative elements of a bigger philosophical battle. It is a battle of whether the country is better off being led by old people or the youth. It is a battle between the elderly and the youthful, between the ancient and the modern, between the recycled and the fresh. The actors, the faces of the struggle are simply caught in the crossfire of this philosophical battle, a battle that the country has needed for so long.
If, therefore, the country agrees with the conventional wisdom that the strength of youth is to be preferred in this country’s leadership over the frailness and senility of age, then all those that wish Malawi well must question why Peter Mutharika has somehow managed to find for himself hordes of supporters in this struggle who, surprisingly, seem prepared even to resort to violence to protect him and keep him power. Let’s face it. Those clamouring for Peter Mutharika to continue leading this country are not doing so because they believe he has done this country any good in this past five years. As a matter of fact, we must question even more the worrying fact that most of those that are defending Mutharika are actually the youth!
The curious thing, though, is that while this battle between the recycled and the fresh is raging in the DPP, and quite against the promises of change and reformation that he made in various debates and speeches upon entering the political scene, MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera decided to call for a convention where for some inexplicable reason a recycled politician in the form of Sidik Mia was elected as vice president.
In one video clip that has been circulating on social media, Chakwera responds to a debate question by stating categorically that recycled politicians will not be welcome in the MCP. Never!
Maybe there is a need for a word or two here about the trouble with recycled politicians.
Recycled politicians are individuals who always show up in every administration. Recycled politicians could have been sacked from one government only to get a new job a few months later. Recycled politicians are opportunists who switch party allegiances in order to stay in power. It is thought that the population of these so-called ‘recycled politicians’ in Africa is three times larger than the rest of the world. This is because an average African politician believes that political power must last forever. Governance experts have pointed out that this is one of the factors creating economic and social problems and underdevelopment for the continent.
In Malawi, more than half of the members of the present DPP administration are incompetent characters who served in the UDF administration and who know nothing more than corruption. Some of them even served the MCP administration of the 90’s. This, my fellow Malawians, is why we are one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
The other day I heard Sidik Mia speaking. His claim as to why he wants to be in politics again after being involved with DPP and Joyce Banda’s PP, but this time with MCP is that he wants to serve the country. Sidik Mia’s explanation is exactly the problem with recycled politicians. The vast majority of African politicians that keep recycling in the political system want us to believe that the only way to serve one’s country is to be involved in politics for life. This is not only wrong, but deceitful as well. You only need to look at former South African president, late Nelson Mandela to find a distinguished example of how a retired politician with an excellent or an unblemished political career can serve his or her country outside of politics.
Recycled politicians are opportunists who would do anything to stay or keep hold of their power and influence. Most of them have failed in the past to do anything significant to improve the people’s well-being. Try to make a new car using old parts; it will only work for a short period of time. What we need is fresh new blood, not those corrupted dinosaurs that are just good for the political trash heep.
Now I would have thought that MCP president Lazarus Chakwera knew these things and that he actually meant what he said in all those pronouncements he made against recycled politicians. I am surprised that he could fail to seize the opportunity of the fight between an old recycled old man and youthful new blood to position the MCP as the viable alternative that indeed will shun recycled politicians with their recycled ideas and forge forward with youth and freshness.
It makes me wonder. Could it be that that despite the wind of change that has swept Africa over the years, politicians of yester years still appear to dictate the scene simply because politics is a very expensive exercise and goes hand-in-glove with money?
Is it the need for Mia’s money that has compromised Chakwera and MCP’s ideals and promised aspirations?
Clearly then, the politicians of yesterday, who have amassed wealth find it easy to lord it over the electorate who are in most cases desperate for cash handouts. In the final analysis, the question comes back to the same governance framework issue that I have spoken about so many times: are there institutional frameworks to guard against abuse of power and wanton corruption of the political space by so-called recycled politicians?
It is a missed opportunity for Chakwera and MCP. An opportunity to demonstrate a deviation from the trap of recycled politicians in contrast to the state of affairs in the DPP, and establish itself as a true emissary of change has been allowed to go begging.
In my uncommon sense, both the DPP and MCP need to do more to understand what Malawi needs at this point in time. Instead of reading the signs of the times, they both are presenting to us recycled old men claiming to have fingers on the future when young men abound who ARE the future of this country.