We should not allow ourselves to fail to see the forest for the trees. Although it is hard to comment on the recent by-elections while the country is gripped in the shock of the bloodsucker violence that has accompanied them, this is for me, the more material, if not immediate issue to be analyzed.
I am mindful, however, of the seriousness of the bloodsucker violence sweeping through Malawi, especially in the southern region of the country. For that reason, considering that I discussed the bloodsucker issue last week, I will still deal with it as a by-line this week.
The bloodsucker problem in our hands now, is a product of failed leadership and failed education policies. For those who think I am making a sweeping statement here, ask yourselves why these stories only come around when our economy is on its knees, as it was during the latter part of the Muluzi years, and as it is now. It is my conviction that bloodsucker stories are simply nothing but robbery scams for the desperate, for no one has reported to the police that their blood has been sucked.
The only evidence of is the violence and the killing of innocent “suspects.”
Fellow Malawians, any competent national security framework should be able to deal with the perpetrators of such violence in a summary, and swift manner.
It is failure in such elementary matters that always casts a dark shadow of doubt over Peter Mutharika’s competencies and abilities as a leader.
Which brings me back to the issue of the by-elections, as there are many political commentators, especially those of the Malawi Congress Party disposition, who have been quick to point fingers at the failing Peter Mutharika administration and declaring that had it been MCP and Dr Lazarus Chakwera in power, the bloodsucker issue would not even happen.
I think our political partisanship is reaching disgusting levels and may very well be the reason the country is failing to deal with even basic development issues.
I do not believe that there was ever any doubt in the mind of any critical observer that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was going to be crushed and humiliated in the recent by-elections, nor that the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was going to carry the day. The excitements accompanying the MCP victory on the one hand, and the DPP despair on the other, however, are emotional responses.
If the two parties want these results to truly mean anything, then they will need to look at the broader implications and meanings of these results, and not be carried away by the euphoria and despair.
Happening at a time when the mood in the country is chaotic and tensions are high because of the bloodsucker stories, there are also in these election results, important points to consider for every Malawian that still harbours the hope that this country can move forward to true independence and economic development.
I submit that the patriotic Malawian will be concerned and wary of politicians on both sides of this election divide who got so buried in by-election bickering that they forgot, or were oblivious of the more important national crisis— the bloodsucker crisis — that they behaved as though it just does not exist.
Our obsession with making sure it is the individual or party we support that is leading the nation, without considering the establishment of a framework necessary for good governance, is an obsession that will keep only a portion of the country happy and rich at any given time, at the expense of all other members of the voters.
Nevertheless, there are lessons for both the DPP and the MCP that need to be learned from the recent by-elections.
For the DPP, learn the lesson. The DPP must use this opportunity (yes, there is opportunity in defeat) to reflect on what just happened. Did you lose the election because you have been unresponsive to the needs and expectations of Malawians as far as your leadership is concerned, or were your tactics poor? What do Malawians expect that you have failed to meet, and that you can address between now and 2019? Have you and your team been delivering such poor leadership service that people in these constituencies have had enough of you? What are you going to do to change their opinions?
Take away from your defeat a lesson: address the issues we have been pointing out to you all these years, and try to keep this kind of defeat from happening in the future.
Some of the best political ideas, have come as a result of defeat or failure in a by-election. Look for your opportunity when you are defeated; it could be worth millions. Keep your eye on the prize. Setting goals, is an excellent way to overcome defeat. Knowing that you will experience setbacks, roadblocks and a few bumps along the way will help you see past them, and allow you to focus on your goals.
Peter Mutharika as leader, and the DPP as a party, must take responsibility and not blame others. The only person to blame when you are defeated is you. It is not the economy, the competition, a teammate or the electorate. It is you. But that means that you are in control of your destiny and no one else. Take the hit squarely, learn and move on.
For the MCP, there is always the one big problem associated with success. All too often it is followed by complacency. Complacency almost always, comes from a sense of victory long after the success that created it is gone.
Complacency becomes the silent killer when it slips to decay and ruin.
Complacency is highly destructive because it is immune to innovation and fails to recognize either new opportunities or potential hazards.
In the fast-moving environment of politics, predominated with risk, uncertainty, and the unknown, history books show us that this attitude is the perfect recipe for disaster.
One of the greatest dangers of complacency is that it creates blind spots in people towards the areas that need growth and change. Blind spots are those critical areas that need to be addressed but they are not visible to people who refuse to knowledge them.
The MCP must continue to look for vulnerabilities. Success in one or two southern constituencies is far from taking the whole southern region, or any significant part of it.
If you become complacent, you will no longer think strategically about the future. You will become too comfortable with this current success and your thinking will become short-term, inward, and narrow in focus.
As a party, the MCP cannot afford to become so enamored with this performance that it fails to see new threats coming its way from a wounded foe.
A complacent political party and party leader soon become internally focused on themselves instead of externally focused on others or the situation around them. They work at an old constant pace, even when circumstances demand fast action.
But For Malawians in general, my appeal remains the same old cry: Are we really sure that the desperate state of our country, the poverty and the economic decay, are all the fault of individuals and not the political framework and governance system that has made it possible for these individuals (in power) to wreck the country? Do we really wholeheartedly believe that all this country needs to recover from the deathbed it is on is a new MP or a new president?
The by-elections may have revealed the state of the disapproval of the DPP administration in the country, but I believe the bloodsucker violence going in tandem with it highlights that our problems are not going to be solved simply by putting our faith in politicians and the change of political parties.