A Lesson On Political Musturbation in Malawi

A Lesson On Political Musturbation in Malawi

In this entry, columnist Mallick Mnela looks at the conduct of some DPP leaders in Lilongwe on Saturday. They “invaded” the infamous Msundwe, brought several hundreds of people, dressed them in blue T-shirts and paraded them as defectors from the Malawi Congress Party (MCP).

The inducement was, allegedly, a promise for loans. But when it all became apparent that they were being used as political pawns for a media parade in a loan scheme that never existed, the victims stood up to spill the beans. The writer wonders, is this politically profitable or its mere political musturbation with nothing consequential at the ballot? Read on!

Loan Lie Caught

Some 20 years ago, I got in trouble for writing something considered vulgar and too explicit for my then young age.

Today, I dare lift the ban. I am now of age and I believe saying it will have greater good than not saying it at all.

In Secondary School, a Mrs. Mvula was my mother’s friend and my teacher. The disciplinarian taught me English and I was her best student she often told me.

One day, I touched her raw nerve after translating “kudzichita n’chala” as “musturbation” in my English essay. She was really pissed. She accused me of going wayward because of the new company I was keeping.

In my defense, I insisted on a better translation of “kudzichita n’chala“. Instead of feeding my innocent developing brain with an answer, she escalated the matter to my mother.

My mother silenced me with a “shut up, go remove your uniform and go sell these fritters. And don’t ever misbehave in school”.

I obliged. But I kept wondering if framers of the MSCE syllabus were daft to insert something to be considered vulgar by my too moralistic elders.

Since then, I never had the opportunity to use the phrase, “kudzichita n’chala“.

After a ban in secondary school over 20 years ago, I found an appropriate situation requiring some illustration that cannot be better done by any other phrase than this one.

As most of you would know, in Chichewa, “kudzichita n’chala” means doing something that temporarily gives you a good after-effect but will remain inconsequential. A futility.

Combining my Biology and Chichewa lessons, I thought I could be a little creative with language mechanics borrowed from other disciplines. Pardon me, but I felt justified by Biology and the wisdom of our forefathers that assert that: some acts, such as childbirth, required man and woman to be together: not woman with her own finger. Such an inconsequential act is the true definition of futility of affairs in our politics!

Without necessarily resuscitating the debate on my correctness, backed by the wisdom of the Chewa fore-fathers and scientists overseas, or the violation of my academic freedom rights back then, let the sensitivity of this subject raise your alertness to my message. Do not be judgemental.

On Saturday morning, the DPP or agents purporting to belong to the party sent lorries to Msundwe. Their mission, reportedly, was to bring in as many people as can fit in the assigned trucks.

It is alleged that those who ferried the people apparently lied to them that they were being taken to Lilongwe to have their details captured for a loan distribution exercise.

Of course, this was later to be corroborated, albeit in sharp contrast to the narrative gathered at CIVO. A DPP official told the Masintha rally that some 300 MCP supporters had defected to the governing party.

The “victims” allege that they were surprised that when they arrived at CIVO, they were told to put on DPP T-Shirts. Feeling under duress, they wore the T-Shirts. But after realizing the partisan baloney coming out of the mouths of the hosts, the people were enraged, took off the party regalia and revealed the whole scheme, as honest as they could, to whoever was passing by CIVO.

By looking at the statements made by the victims and the DPP official, it is apparent that to those spearheading the exercise, their objective seem to have been: dress Msundwe citizens blue, parade them on national TV and shout: Msundwe conquered!

The cheat sheet they looked at is archaic, outdated and politically ineffective.

If anything, the strategies employed only work in augmenting mistrust, instead of building trust. Such conduct shows desperation and crookedness. This is contrary to the values of the DPP – at least as intended by the founders.

It smacks of an entrenched culture of turning voters into mere kingmakers driven by promises, not anything tangible. It insults their intelligence and overates their desperation. Furthermore, it sows seeds of grudges that could affect the well-intended future actions.

It is a deplorable culture of feeding on an insatiable tendency to let the villagers do the donkey’s work of making leaders while the leaders and their surrogates feed them promises that are never delivered.

My interest is not to laugh at those behind the scheme. Of course, it’s laughable. But I am more interested in pointing out the danger of their outdated plots and politicking.

One friend of mine who is an ardent follower of the DPP and avid reader of this column asked why was I in praise of Dr. Saulos Chilima’s 50 kg carrying manoeuvre but seemingly against the DPP loan baloney.

He even had the pleasure to remind me of maize trucks on the campaign trail during Bakili Muluzi’s days. This, he said, is politics.

“No!”, I retorted. “It’s cheating,” I added.

It saddened me that a man so educated could not see the distinction. He insisted that the  “lies strategies” can be effective depending on how they are framed. I disputed. Not lies. Lies only work when recipients don’t know. But when they uncover the lie, the damage can be irrepairable.

And because former President Bakili Muluzi or anyone before him deployed such tactics to earn votes; and got away with it doesn’t make it right.

I also took time to explain to him. Chilima’s bag carrying move is to make his team’s promise sink in. It’s also to declare his transparency and accountability on the same. It’s giving credence to the narrative. His openness is a key ingredient.

How can he blatantly lie after putting himself on the spot for such a long period? It builds believability, trust and benchmarks for accountability when people entrust them with the power to govern.

People will be more open to ask him to account for his public promises in the event of his team being ushered into power. And as far as I can tell, the promise is to all, not only those in their stable.

On the other hand, promising material things or loans and attaching their delivery upon voting for the governing party is premised on faulty reasoning.

It is bound to backfire as it did. When those being used or being abused realise before the intended benefits are accrued by the party (before voting), then the principal party is bound to suffer detriment (defection or no vote). There is futility in their scheme.

Habitual Winners: DPP/UDF Claim

DPP should embrace a revival approach. Lies upon lies will not help. Promises will not help. Beating people will not help. Restoration of trust.

The culture of making announcements of defections is sexy. At least all parties engage in this exercise, once in a while.

It’s pursued because people often want to be associated with the winning team. There are some who prefer following the crowd.

This works, sometimes. But it’s not a guarantee to succeed each and every time. And most of the times it’s a paid for stunt than an honest migration.

It is, often, just for the sake of caressing the partisan egos of those at the apex and help them enjoy the bliss that comes with the political musturbation. Yet I am seen as a bearer of unfavourable news when I say this is only short lived and a waste of time.

The DPP is facing attack on the fronts of mistrust, failure to deliver, nepotism and corruption.

It must, therefore, move away from the illusion that parading alleged Msundwe defectors on TV will increase the numbers on polling day.

It’s strategy for this election must be demonstrating trustworthiness, ability, equality and all things positive.

Even if it were true, how can you attach loan distribution to a particular party colour? Isn’t this further evidence of us-against-them attitude that goes against the tenets of our constitution and national cohesion principles?

I know the DPP will hate me for keeping on pointing at their political gaffes. I also know the Tonse guys will hate me for tipping their opponents on strategy.

I am a fair person. I believe in fair competition. Of course, I can be uncharitable sometimes. Scathing, once in a while. But medicine is often bitter, isn’t it?

Overall, I believe in clean politics that seek to genuinely address the plight of the people, not to use and dump them; continuing the cycle until the end of the world.

Politics is a marketplace of ideas – real, genuine ideas that must be implemented. Campaign promises are a trust of human-to-human, before God.

Actually, those who campaign fully aware they cannot honestly deliver on the needs of all Malawians should never be allowed to lead.

Lies and promises of goodies, staged events for feel-good optics and the ‘you’ll-get-loans-if-you-turn-blue’ are all as worse as any kind of favouritism it be nepotism, religionalism, regionalism, tribalism and many other isms.

So, what should be the take home message today? Well, let me turn to marketing, my second passion.

The goal of the DPP (or indeed, any other party), should be to convert as many of the 6.8 million voters to vote for them.

The key word is conversation. You can’t convert based on lies or false promises.

Conversion should be based on true conviction. And true conviction is built on how the politicians contextualize their message for believability, trustworthiness and setting benchmarks for accountability to guarantee their promises are indeed up for execution.

Take for example, the Tonse promise for three meals a day. Or that of cheap fertilizer. The promises are SMARTSpecific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timed! Isn’t three meals a day not Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or implementable in the shortest period possible? It’s not in the theoretical interpretation but the applicability!

The DPP could, or should have started acting. I personally feel the party is underutilising the incumbency.

By the way, where are we on the K 35, 000 monthly e-Transfer schemes to cushion the COVID-19 after-effects? You see how these people miss out on opportunities waiting for the opposition to press them into action? So reactive!

They jump to poke into the neighbor’s nose instead of devising workable strategies to rattle the neighbor’s stable.

Key Candidates: No Lies Will Help

Sometimes our politicians try too hard. Instead of framing promises on people’s genuine needs and wants, they work around their fears.

For the incumbents, it should be less promises and more demonstrations and if at all promises come into the picture, then they should be about up-scaling initiatives. That’s not the case!

Otherwise, it’s all political musturbation. Sweet and good now, no gain in growing the movement in the long run! Dear political strategists, people are now enlightened. You should refrain from taking them for a ride: a short-timed and inconsequential ride.


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