“We must use time wisely
And forever realise
is always ripe to do right”
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
First things first…so Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is gone. It seems surreal to have a world without Madiba. He seems to have always been there.
Most of us grew up with Madiba very much around, albeit in prison. In fact most of us reading this today, including the Muckraker himself, were born when Mandela was already years behind bars.
And yet all of us identify somehow with the icon. In 1990, when the gates of Robben Island vomited him out, some of us were becoming young men either in high school or starting or finishing college. So every one of us has a piece of Mandela in us.
There was a survey some group conducted the other year. There were only two names in the whole wide world that were known everywhere from Mongolia to Belize, Kiribati to Malawi, Somalia to Venezuela…the two names were, no prizes for guessing, Michael Joe Jackson and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela!
Mandela, who finally permanently went to sleep peacefully at home in the leafy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, was 95. In the words of Mozambican former president Joaquim Chissano, “we expected this to happen sooner or later but that does not make it easy.”
But South Africans got the drift right. Instead of wailing loudly, dusting themselves in ash while rolling on the ground, they gave the icon a fitting Madiba send-off: they broke into song and dance celebrating, and not mourning, a life well, and fully, lived.
I know the whole world is writing about Madiba today and whatever is to be written has been written a trillion times over.
But if you ask me of my enduring Madiba moment, it was when the then South African president was on an official visit to Washington during the time President Bill Clinton had that small matter with that White House intern Monica Samille Lewinsky.
The 42nd US president was facing possible impeachment and the media was ga-ga against him. President Mandela held President Clinton by hand and said these words that reduced the most powerful man in the world to tears: “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
Need I say more?
Back to the muckraking business of the day…
So Speaker Henry Chimunthu Banda will not be seeking a return to Parliament, a chamber he has graced for 15 years of his life, five of which at its helm.
But is the Nkhotakota North legislator really calling it a day, quitting for good perhaps to try his hands on the ganja business his district is famed for?
Or is this a stunt? Is he testing the waters for something big?
From the time Chimunthu challenged the anointed DPP presidential candidate Arthur Peter Mutharika with a spirited campaign, complete with a cheeky song done by none other than the artist who propped up his challenger’s big brother, the odds were stuck against him in the party.
He was considered a traitor out to confuse a well-laid-out plan of passing the mantle in the family. This was compounded by his reluctance to evoke the dreaded Section 65 when an accident of fate dramatically changed DPP’s fortunes during those three mad days in April.
If Chimunthu had evoked Section 65 the lame-duck PP administration could have effectively collapsed.
If truth be told, Chimunthu cannot challenge Peter and drop out of the picture barely a year later to write books and read for a PhD.
Chimunthu’s five years as Speaker afforded him a chance to study the political landscape from a vantage point. From where he is standing (or sitting) he sees an election wide open.
Joyce Banda, despite the crisis of confidence in her government, thanks to the cashgate imbroglio, cannot completely be ruled out of 2014. Peter, too, despite the albatross around his neck that is his big brother’s soiled legacy, cannot be counted out completely. The same with Atupele, whose youth and dad’s not-so-rosy economic record, are not death knell for his presidential ambitions.
The new kid on the political bloc, that guy who traded the pulpit for the political podium, is also in the pole position to grab the ultimate May 2014 prize.
But for these three men and one woman to cross the ‘River Jordan’ they need a strategic No. 2 guy. Save for Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, the rest of the main candidates have their bases in the populous, but fractured, South. They, therefore, need a strong presence in the second populous region, the Centre.
At the drop of the hat, a few names pop up, two prominent ones being Mathews Chikaonda and Christopher Daza.
But both Chikaonda and Daza have not exactly proved their prowess as politicians. So, save for Kaka Cassim Chilumpha and Uladi ‘Chenji Golo’ Mussa, Chimunthu is the only tried and tested political hand in the region.
If truth be told, Chimunthu cannot only appeal to the Central Region vote. A substantial chunk of the North can also identify with him. In fact Peter Mutharika did some free marketing for Chimunthu when, on an open mic, the DPP anointed successor dismissed Chimunthu as a Tonga.
So Chimunthu must have calculated that, having challenged Peter, he might not be considered for the No. 2 slot in the DPP. In fact, by having the temerity of challenging the anointed successor, DPP might even frustrate his chances for a return to Parliament.
So Chimunthu read his maths well and decided not to soil his political CV by fighting a dirty war within the DPP. He publicly opted out of politics while cognizant of the fact that chiefs and party apparatchik still want him to hang on.
By saying he was opting out but will still engage with the traditional leaders who still want him in the game, Chimunthu is playing the game of ‘come, come and get me!’
So we might have not heard the last from Chimunthu. Like in a chess game, he has played his pawn but he has held on to his Queen. Trust me, we ain’t heard the last from the Speaker.
Forgive the pun, but watch this space!