A lot has been said about Dr. Bakili Muluzi bouncing back in 2009. Different advocates have given different views and reasons why Muluzi must bounce back or not. Those supporting his ‘idea’ to come back, like Gwanda Chakwamba, are advocating for the resurrection of Muluzi into power and rule the country because, as they assert, ‘only Muluzi can flatten the tyre he himself pumped. Muluzi is the ‘only’ person from the opposition that can ‘manage’ to bring down Bingu and ‘take back the bicycle’ since it is Muluzi who borrowed it to Bingu. Gwanda is reported to have told the rally that Bingu can only be removed from the presidency by the door he used. According to him, Muluzi is the door. “The door Mutharika used to get into statehouse is the same door he is going to use to exit. He used Muluzi to get into power so it is the same Muluzi that will bring him down…We are advocating that solidarity among opposition so that we conduct our functions with one voice”.
On the other hand, advocates who are fighting tooth and nail so that Muluzi does not bounce back, have also one important argument they are raising. They assert that ‘Muluzi has successfully ruled this country for the maximum of ‘two consecutive terms’. Referring to the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi, these advocates argue that Muluzi has no mandate to bounce back, because a president ought to rule only for two terms.
Having presented these two extremist important views, this article does not aim to take any side. This is so because most people in Malawi pursue ideas to get lid of other personalities. Those supporting Muluzi are fighting personal war to bring out Bingu. Party politics is playing the divide and rule game and dirty politicians are its players. They don’t have any good ideology why Bingu must be removed from office. Whether, Bingu would have good ideologies than the opposition in 2009, it does not matter for them. What matters is for Bingu to live the state house.
On the other hand, those against Muluzi’s idea to resurrect into office are doing so because they are personalizing the fighting. Their war is Muluzi oriented. However, by the end of this article Malawians must be able to see what path to take so that such mistakes of allowing retired presidents who have served maximum of two terms are not repeated.
What Does The Constitution Asserts About Retired Presidents Who Have Served Two Maximum Terms but Want To Bounce Back?
Since the Constitution is the supreme law, it is wise therefore to refer to it in the idea of allowing Muluzi to come back. In the first place, the Constitution in Section 83 (3) asserts that “The President, the First Vice-President and the Second Vice-President may serve in their respective capacities a maximum of two consecutive terms…” Here, the words ‘may’ and ‘consecutive’ must be underlined. On the first place, because of the word may, it means that maximum terms are subject to change since the word ‘may’ is conditional.
On the second place, the Constitution, in my opinion, just emphasizes on two consecutive terms. This follows that any president has the capacity to rule the country with many terms as they wish as long as the terms are not consecutive. Muluzi’s coming back means a third term for him, but it should not be compared to the Third Term Bill which was dealt with in 2002, since the terms don’t qualify in any capacity to be consecutive to those two terms. This means that, since Muluzi’s coming back is not consecutive to his ‘first’ two terms, it follows that Muluzi has all the capacity to bounce back in 2009. After all, it is his right to do so at present unless...
Maybe Muluzi has learned from his mistakes. After all, we have a saying that means that sometimes we learn the mistake after being substituted. May be Muluzi has learnt mistakes he was making while in office, so he wants to clear his image which turned from good to worst during his second term.
In short, the constitution does not limit terms which are not consecutive. This gives Muluzi the capacity to bounce back. Presently, it is his legal right to bounce back. But something must be done so that we have rotating leaders. Democratically, we should not be ruled by the same blood. This leads into authoritarian system of government which is an enemy of democracy.
Is there Any Democratic Principle being Broken or Followed?
If we have to follow democratic principles, then we should look beyond Muluzi’s idea to bounce back in 2009. The problem that we are having is that we are only focusing on one person. What if Muluzi came into open to say that he would not come back (unfortunately, he has already shown the colors that he is coming in 2009), then it means we would wait for another person to have served two terms and then show the interest of coming back for a third term after going through a break. Now is the time to solve the problem. Muluzi and his proponents have given Malawians a law-deal that the constitution needs great scrutiny. This only makes me asses Muluzi to be the political engineer as he claims. The problem is that we are pursuing a personal war.
Do UDF gurus support Muluzi’s Idea to Bounce Back?
Another fact that is eating democratic principles is the ‘top-down approach followed in our political parties. Party leaders are just handpicked for positions by party ‘owners’. Who can show me a political party that has leaders elected on convention and through a true ‘free and fair’ ballot? My foot; democratic Malawi without democratic political parties and leaders. Then why do we expect democratic principles to be followed when such political parties are voted into office? No mango tree can bear lemon fruits. In UDF, taking into account how undemocratic political parties in Malawi are, no-one in UDF can be against Muluzi’s wish to stand as its presidential candidate. He is the economic backbone of UDF. Possible opponents will possibly face what AKB, BJ, Sonke and others within UDF faced during the third term and open term bills in 2002. Many Malawians were young democrated in full view of the ‘non partisan’ police. There was a lot of blood shed. But that belongs in the past which is for us to learn from.
However, Malawians should now be more careful that history does not repeat itself, since a lot of people within UDF (especially presidential aspirants except Bakili Muluzi himself) have already started talking and suffering in whispers. This follows that, Muluzi being the soul donor of UDF and UDF being his personal property as we are told to believe, no person has the guts to oppose his idea of coming back. They are waiting for others to fight the battle since they know that Muluzi if forging a loosing war. Only then, they think they will be hand picked as it happened with Bingu wa Mutharika. This is making them to be silent at present.
It also follows that if they don’t support Muluzi at this time, when the plan hits a snag, they will loose support from the Atcheya and they will not be handpicked for the positions in UDF. Political parties hold conventions to blackmail people. How Mutharika was voted as UDF presidential candidate prior to 2004 elections, is a witness to this.
Muluzi has been handpicked by himself. Those supporting him are doing so for appeasement. After all, Malawi is ruled by commercial politicians and andale aganyu. They venture into politics to attain commercial benefits overnight. This is why MPs are afraid for the ‘recall provision’ and demand a lot of payments when most of them are not representing anyone apart from their parties.
Muluzi will Come Back: What is His Stand?
Muluzi is not a person who runs at saying something he wants to do. His actions speak for him. During his third term, he let people campaign for him. During that time, when advocates demanded him to come at the open, all he did was allow his proponents, during his rallies, to say that ‘Malawians’ were in need of him to go for the third term. He went a step further to abuse MBC and TVM, public institutions, by making sure that his proponents are heard castigating the opponents of the bill.
Now, he is playing the same game. He is allowing people to campaign for him. This is supplemented with what he said on his arrival from UK that it’s up to the grassroots to decide but “he might decide on coming back”. The question that must be asked is “does UDF have the grassroots that can oppose the views of Atcheya?”
Using his tone, Muluzi has ‘constructively’ shown his interest to come again in 2009. Indirectly, Muluzi revealed that Kaya wina afune kaya asafune, Muluzi ayimanso (whether one likes it or not, Muluzi has destined himself for a third term). As already asserted, action speaks louder than words for Muluzi. This is his game. He did it during the third term, open term, impeachment bills just to mention a few. Muluzi is a person who, I can confidently say that, does not truly believes in what he says. This might be one reason why people he castigated inside out, are now his pawns this time. These people include Gwanda Chakwamba, Brown Mpinganjira, etc, who he told the nation that are killers and bad people. After all they are not doing that on voluntary basis, they are gaining something. If you don’t believe, let them cross pass with each other, and you’ll believe.
He has also clearly said that “I am a man of of the people and that is how I attract throngs of people wherever I go”. This is to indicate that he is determined to come back, since he knows clearly tha the UDF ‘grassroots’ will vote him in. All in all, at the time being, Muluzi is playing his game very well. He is the political engineer, he knows his game, and plays his cards well and he is currently packing his belonging to the state house in 2009, unless…
Constitutional Rights and How to Chase Muluzi
Presently, as it has already been outlined that Muluzi has all the rights to bounce back. Muluzi can therefore be elected as a Presidential candidate for UDF, even if the convention that would do so would just be a rubber convention to black mail people. Muluzi would still have one block to get rid of. This block is all Malawians and their votes. People have all the supreme power by voting him as the state president or not. Since Section 6 asserts that “…the authority to govern derives from the people of Malawi as expressed through universal and equal suffrage in elections…” Since Muluzi, just like any other presidential candidate, will have to face the ballots, the opponents should not have to panic. However, this is not the best way because it would still be based on personal basis. It would not level the ground for the repetition of such thing for those who would want presidents to rule only for more two terms.
Additionally, this would also not level the ground since Malawian politics is regulated, not by ideologies, but by the areas/regions where the candidates come from. Why did UDF not choose AKB, or why do DDP gurus not want Goodall Gondwe for the vice president. The only sore reason is the areas from where these people come from.
Leveling the Ground for All Presidents
Before, presenting how the ground can be leveled, it would be good to clear some other mist. The idea to level the ground is not based on what some people have branded Muluzi. Some have argued that Muluzi should not be allowed to come back because he is the real problem. They say Muluzi is the root cause of divisions, confusions and political tensions which chase donors in the country with reference to impeachment bills that have been raised. Politically, it is true that Muluzi has honorably failed to assume the backseat (kukhala pakariyala) but he wants the driver’s seat where he can be ringing the bell not from the passengers’ seat. It is evident, as some have reveled, Muluzi has failed to control things from behind and he rightly knows that. This is one reason why some critics assert that, just like many other African leaders, Muluzi finds it hard to find something meaningful after his terms. According to his deeds, it’s not wrong therefore to justify that Muluzi, wrongly, thinks that the only way for him to contribute to the nation, positively or not, is for him to be the state president. This contradicts what many expect out of him like not to be involved in partisan politics as a retired head of state.
History is now repeating itself. Here is another ‘third term’ of its first kind, which at first gaze does not appear to be one. But because Muluzi has used new strategies, it is not recommended to send him away. Something must be done so that not only Muluzi, but other greedy politicians do not pursue what Muluzi is doing. What if Muluzi has been successfully persuaded of why he should not stand, then Bingu (or any other future president who would have served the ‘two consecutive terms’) does not want to listen? This would mean every Malawian would be the loser. A lot of resources meant for development would be used for campaigns. This is one reason why things must be cleared now for the benefit of the whole nation, not only for us now but also for the next generation in the future.
Strategies For Leveling The Ground
· Universal suffrage: If retired president have been voted as Presidential candidates by their respective parties, Malawians can use Section 6 of the Constitution which gives power to Malawians to choose the state President. Malawians have all powers not to vote people who have served their two maximum terms. However, as outlined that politics in Malawi is locked in the horns of regionalism, then it would mean the ground has not been fully leveled.
· Constitution Amendment
Since the constitution is supreme law, it follows that if the level has to be leveled then it is the Constitution that must be leveled. According to section 12(vi) which reads that “all institutions and persons shall observe and uphold the Constitution and the rule of Law and no institution or person shall stand above the law”, no-one would have the guts to bounce back having served two terms, even if his/her party vote him. This follows that there is a need to amend the constitution to allow only two terms. A provision on the tenure of office must be amended to mean “Presidents must serve two terms only, consecutively or not.
The ground would be cleared such that any president would not be eligible to bounce back. A lot of resources would be served from campaigns and buying of people for development. Additionally, lives would also be served because ‘third terms’ bring a lot of blood shed. The provision would give justifiable limitations to people like Muluzi on their lawful rights for the well governance of an open and democratic society (Section 12/v). This would also be inline with what Muluzi outlined that the grassroots have to decide on the presidential candidate other that him. It would also give other aspirants with great potential to develop the country the chance to rule the country and deliver. Mutharika is an example having impressed donors and many Malawians. If it were not for the failure of open and third term bills, Mutharika could be rotting somewhere.
It is now my plea to all advocates that we should not be fighting a war to deal with certain persons. I argue them that time is not too late, lets fight the real problem. The problem here is not Muluzi, but our constitution allows him to bounce back. Let’s therefore clear our constitution that any president to have served two terms is not eligible to bounce back. I therefore urge all friends of democracy in Malawi to advocate for the amendment of Section 83.
I also recommend that the Malawi Law Commission, the Constitution Review Committee, all Malawians, and any other well wishers to hold hands together and level the ground for any president. This can only be achieved when Section 83 is amended to limit presidential terms into two, consecutively or not. This would prove that the war being pursued is not aimed at bringing Bakili Muluzi down by not allowing him for the ‘third term’, but at making democracy in Malawi mature. It is never too late, our democracy is young, and we are in the route of learning.
It should also be outline clearly that the idea for Muluzi to bounce back is endangering development of the nation. This is becase a lot of political confrotation has risen.There is great is now great focus in issues to do with politics not development. Focus of our leaders has been removed dramatically from development. Each day, there great rivarly between our leaders is reported, in such that the rift valley between Muluzi and Bingu keeps enlarging. Invetably, donors and invetors are chased with these political confrotation because Malawi is not at peace even in the absence of war
It, therefore, follows that Malawians who the republic constitution asserts that have the supreme power are losers. They are used as pawns. Something must be done to clear up the mess now or never…