Thursday, July 13, 2006


The impeachment of President Bingu wa Mutharika is again gathering pace through manipulation of parliamentary numbers to make a legislative coup plotted by corrupt and discredited politicians in the face of a public judgment. This is a challenge for democracy and the rule of the people to which all those with the slightest form of political decency should join hands to warn the opposition impeachniks about the dangers of this misleading political time bomb.

One word of strategic advice to the impeachniks is: Stop! The situation at hand is too serious for impeachment. “Looming hunger,and poverty levels” are at best incidental to the major case against Mutharika, and “impeachment” talk drives us further from every plausible goal, in almost every plausible set of circumstances. It is almost comprehensively anti-strategic.Let’s agree that Mutharika is bad, but how bad is bad enough? It’s an important question. Somebody has to be worst, and worst isn’t necessarily bad enough to justify jumping democracy’s routine feedback cycle.

One of the respected analyst of Malawian politics Dr. John Lwanda, once said: “Hate him or love him, Dr. Mutharika will go down in Malawian history as the most transparent and tolerant President.” He was right indeed because in 1965 Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda had this to say while trying to warn those who were plotting to unseat him: “If a person even just thinks about it, the forcible overthrow of the government and speaks aloud and somebody hears about it, that is treason.”Testament to this was events that followed suit which resulted into considerable number of people who were exiled as well as killed for simply expressing themselves. In the post single-party era, we had Bakili Muluzi who took the third term loss as a personal blow to the extent that he denounced and ridiculed whoever showed signs of not buying into his agenda.

Some judges nearly got impeached, opponents were boxed right within Parliament compounds with some being imprisoned. Journalists were severely beaten for asking the right questions while other supporters had their business contracts cancelled. Hon. Justin Malewezi risked his life after government decided to remove his medical benefits all because he expressed his opinion. To date none of the above is happening.When discussing impeachment it is important to ask ourselves pertinent questions starting with our past and provide objective answers to the following questions: “How bad is Bingu?” “How bad is bad enough?” “And what do we do if Bingu is bad enough?”

Make these questions — and not your immediate answers — the core topic of our national conversation, and we may get somewhere.In political civility, difference and diversity are acknowledged, but they do not prevent the hegemony of the common interest as the ultimate goal of all party politics. Political civility means more than just a style of government or an altruistic way of life: ‘It assumes a relationship of obligation and recognition which governs the contest between the interests and parties in a political association.’Such positive pluralism has yet to be introduced to the political ideology of both MCP and UDF. Their defining character has often been the politics of threat — with, in many cases, the threat of political violence used to gain political ground.

The MCP used MYP, the youth League and the Special Branch while the UDF used the Young Democrats and NIB to advance and consolidate their power.The politics of threat efficiently prevents the birth of political civility — indeed; creating its opposite, incivility, destroying the unity of the political entity. The current political trend as is being championed by Mutharika has rendered obsolete these devilish means of power consolidation.“Friend” and “enemy” are quite strong words to people accustomed to a consensus-based ideal of politics. But the distinction is particularly useful in analysing politics in Malawi, especially between UDF and MCP, where these divisions are more visible and perhaps more important than in many other political parties.

It is quite surprising to note that John Tembo whom many were regarding in high esteem can be seduced by the UDF and demean himself by hatching a plot to unseat the President through their impeachment plans without a valid case being made. MCP was the most victimised party during Muluzi’s reign.In fact, Muluzi vowed never ever to work with MCP dubbing them as a party of death and darkness. Their meetings were constantly disturbed, property torched and bundled, vehicles set ablaze in broad daylight by UDF operatives.He further tore MCP apart by tapping into many of their otherwise loyal MPs not least imprisoned Tembo for flimsy and cooked up charges and at worse spent almost a year in jail simply because the UDF didn’t even want him to be an MP.

Today, the UDF wants to work with MCP not because they have changed their policy over MCP but because they are the only ones foolish enough to help them stop Mutharika from transforming the country through his war on graft and corruption and Tembo wants to be used as a pawn in the battle against corruption.For the first time in our country’s history, we are now experiencing a dramatic shift in our political field. Bodies which are often associated with anti-government sentiments are now forming the first line of defence defending the government. The Malawi Law Society along with the Law Commission have all voiced their dismay on the current impeachment talk.

Bright MacEverson Malopa,

The article was published in Malawi's local press on 26 October 2005

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