I have had a chance to peruse through manifestos of various political parties contesting the May 20 elections. They contain – I must admit – quite impressive ‘dreams’.

The DPP, for instance, has an interesting pledge to introduce a subsidy programme on building materials like cement and iron sheets “to empower the poor in Malawi to build and own decent houses.” This, I must say, is progressive, more progressive than the very expensive – but wasteful – farm-input subsidy programme. It will significantly complement Ama’s Mudzi Transformation Fund.

Both the UDF and DPP pledge to trim presidential powers with the DPP promising to remove powers of appointing heads of governance and watchdog bodies like RBM, the ACB and MBC from the presidency. The DPP goes further to promise that all cabinet appointees must be vetted and assessed by Parliament.

The MCP and DPP promise a cabinet of less than 20 members. Wow!

PP, UDF and Mafunde want compulsory primary school education for all school-age kids, which is great. This will defeat both child-labour and the attendant early marriages if implemented properly.

The oldest party in the land, the MCP, proposes radical separation of power from governing (I hate the erroneous term ‘ruling’) parties and government. Nowadays a ‘ruling’ party apparatchik can invade an MBC studio, say, in Mzuzu and shout at officers there as to why they are featuring opposition types on the public airwaves.

All these dreams denote transformational leadership if implemented. Reading the fine print one discovers that all the parties, in their manifestos, agree on a lot of policy issues which concretises the idea that Malawi does not have to have 54 different political parties. At most, Malawi should have only five parties.

But, as they say, the truth in the pudding is in the eating. If MCP wins, for instance, will we not have such mundane ministries as the ‘Ministry for the Preservation of the Four-Corner Stones’? What about the DPP? Will they not have a special ministry for the preservation of tribes?

Indeed if PP wins will we maintain such nondescript ministries like the ‘Ministry of Good Governance’ as if we are coming from a conflict situation?

What about an Atupele presidency? Will it not abuse chiefs contrary to the party’s pledge to have chiefs “less amenable to political abuse and manipulation”?

As I said, all party manifestos read well, but the truth in the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.

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