By Fanizo Chauma
Despite the dismal show of the People’s Party (PP) in the just ended 20 May 2014 Tripartite election, the PP is a party that should matter most on Malawians if the country is to sustain its democracy. The PP is in its 4 years of existence as both an opposition party and a ruling party, had demonstrated values that are very critical to the growth of democracy. Unlike the DPP which cannot justify to Malawi why they are back to power and convince the country that they did not rig the elections, the PP has a record that is worthy emulating minus the dent which is yet to be cleared on the issue of cashgate.
PP has a national identity
While the rest of country looks at PP as having lost, the May 20 elections has demonstrated that the PP had grown tremendously for a party that has been only around four years of which two as an opposition party while the other two in government, was during most difficult times Malawi had ever seen. Within the short of period of time, the PP has managed to have 26 Members of Parliament from all the three region of Malawi which is not mean achievement for most parties as they cannot manage a single MP and Councilors outside their region of strong hold. The national identity of the PP government is a plus in its quest to rebuild Malawi.
The party has values that are very core to the sustainability of democracy. These values, some have been expressed but to larger extent through its performance in the time the party has been in existence in the political arena of the country. Some of the expressed and visible values include the following;
Human Rights and Civil Liberties
The PP led government had demonstrated a greater promotion of Human rights and civil liberties for all Malawians by among other things ensuring that Malawians enjoy utmost freedoms that were otherwise being eroded in the past governments. Freedom of expression and association were visibly present in the PP led government where citizens were free to express themselves. The PP led government allowed the media both print or electronic as well as social media to publish and write anything without facing an arrest or being harassed. This was in contrast to the past government where journalist were being harassed for writing and publishing dissenting views.
The PP led government reversed punitive laws that would have affected the civil liberties of Malawi including the police act which was to remove the need for the police to search houses without a warrant.
The PP led government ensured that positions in government were given to people on merit and not looking at where they were coming from. In a country where appointments and government contracts are given to people based on tribalistic and nepotism. The PP led government had an inclusive approach to positions in government and even awarding contracts to business sector in doing business with the government
The PP led government promoted the value of equity and fairness even in the way they approached the development agenda of Malawi. Many programmes started by the PP government hard a national face rather than where the PP leadership was coming from. Programmes were carried out national wide as compared to previously where development were spread based on the region where the party hard a strong hold.
The PP led government made sure that no one in Malawi looks more Malawian than the other. No single region or tribe during the PP government would have claimed to be treated unfairly. Unlike in the past where programmes and policies like the Quota System were used to punish a region or a section of the society, the PP ensured that all Malawians live as one in harmony and with one purpose
The PP led government ensured that dissenting views were tolerated and all other players were given a platform to be heard. The civil society and even church society were free to criticize the government without facing and reprisal from the government as was the case in the past where opposition and CSO leaders were being arrested and even have their properties destroyed just for being critical of the government.
The PP led government took a bold step which in itself became its undoing by exposing and fighting corruption. The previous governments were busy creating millionaires and billionaires through state resources as a mean of enriching themselves. This was in sharp contrast with the PP which fought vigorously against corruption and allowed its exposure which gave birth to the greatest corruption exposure of Malawi. While the other political parties tried convinced Malawians and the world over that cashgate was a baby of People’s Party rule, evidence on the ground shows that the DPP is in the thick of things. The question that I ask myself now that the PP and Joyce Banda are out of government is why then is the current administration failing to make fresh arrests on the ‘purportedly’ hidden big names in the Bakar Tilly report? Should we assume then that even the DPP is also within the same report and making arrests will expose their involvement? Or should we assume that Joyce Banda is innocent and the current government only feels that pursing the cashgate will vindicate the innocence of Joyce Banda after all and propel her to much greater heights?
Unique Macro and Micro Policies (Economic, Foreign and development)
The PP government adopted policies in foreign, development and economic which helped to steer Malawi forward. The economic policies helped Malawi to be able to change the worsening forex and fuel shortages which left Malawi on the brink of collapse. The same policies helped Malawi to grow towards a 6% growth rate and have a three month import cover from only a merely two weeks when they assumed office
The foreign policies of the PP led government helped Malawi to have good relations with its neigbors and also development partners. Further the policies ensured that Malawi contributes effectively to the global village. In contrast today we hear the talk of war with Tanzania over a lake boarder dispute and as if that’s not enough we have the whole president meeting clandestinely with one faction in the Mozambique troubles.
The development policies of PP were unique in a sense that grassroots promoted was allowed and for the first time in Malawi we had a people centered development where the traditional leaders had a distinct defined role in development. This model is synonymous with the success of the safe motherhood programme as well as other programmes like the Mudzi Transformation programmes.
PP Must Continue
Today as the People’s Party have started a new role as an opposition party, there is a serious need that it must continue to exist and provide alternative leadership to Malawi. Unlike other parties, the PP has demonstrated unique leadership which is very valuable to the growth and sustainability of democracy. The values and actions of the PP within the 2 years in government has demonstrated statesmanship and civilized politics which is very rare to the African politics.
The PP government if wanted to do, could have made it necessary at whatever cost to remain in power. The machinery had everything to manipulate the electoral system for them to be in power. Previous government and indeed many African leaders countries do anything to stay in power. The PP led government let the people of Malawi exercise its freedom of choice by allowing proper structure in place. For instance, the PP appointed people into governance structures on merit including Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) the Human Rights Commission (MHRC) and other institutions like National Initiatives for Civic Education (NICE) the NGO Board of Malawi which previous regime appointed people whom they would have manipulated.
The PP had the ability to unleash terror on the people to stay in power but chose to let the people of Malawi the freedom to choose their next government which is a big plus for Malawi as we are moving into the next 50 years. Truth be told late Bingu wa Mutharika stated the road to 2014 which was characterized with terror and we can only fear the worst if the man was still in power until 2014. The question on each and every Malawian mind is that if the occupant of State House was not Joyce Banda, say Bingu wa Muntharika or Bakili Muluzi, would we have been to where we are with what happened from 20 to 30 may 2014? Would this country still be at peace?
It is with this background and everything else, that Malawi democracy depends on very much the existence of the PP. The PP policies and values is an alternative way of doing business in Malawi whereas past leaders used terror, dictatorship and coercion to stay in power. With time, Malawi shall come to judge the role of PP in the growth and development of Malawi.
With DPP nepotism being practiced in the open and for all to see, the PP is the only chance Malawi has for decent democracy and politics. Unless the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) will move from beyond being a party for chewas which in its own is very much nepotism at highest order and United Democratic Front (UDF) moves from being the party of the Muluzi’s then the only chance for Malawi’s democracy and future is with the People’s Party. The DPP is a failing government in making and I have strong conviction that the current president is clueless on how to run the government.
Late Bingu wa Muntharika apart from his own problems was a genius in managing the matters of the state which cannot be said for his younger brother Peter. This assertion has been verified by his response made towards a question on the preparedness of Malawi to deal with Ebola which he answered that he has not yet met the Minister of Health since returning from the USA. Really? You mean three weeks could go without the president knowing the countries ability to deal with the worst threat being posed on his own country?
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article are those of the author writing in his own capacity and not necessarily those of Banthu Times