George Chaponda’s response to The State of the National Address was predictably very defensive. He came across as a whine, not DPP’s leader trying to offer a constructive and sound response to President Joyce Banda’s address.
The focus of Chaponda’s statement was the creation by President Banda of various commissions of inquiry into perceived injustices that took place during the Late Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration, which Chaponda was a senior member.
Chaponda has argued that these inquiries are “divisive” and could lead to “which-hunting and retribution.” Instead, he believes Malawi needs Peace and Reconciliation Committee, in the mould of South Africa’s post apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Committee.
There are two prominent inquiries: one investigating the death of Polytechnic engineering student, Robert Chosawa and another that will look into events that took place in the immediate aftermath of Mutharika’s death. There is no question that these issues are of national importance.
Surely Chaponda is not arguing that the failure to investigate Chasowa’s death by his government was to avoid “witch-hunting”? Neither can he say the bizarre appearance of the so-called mid-night six on national television attempting to stop peaceful and constitutional succession must go un-investigated? Are we to leave the fate of our history only to Chaponda’s interpretation that these ministers were on national TV to seek constitutional interpretation?
I am sure Chaponda thought this through – he was simply playing politics – the Malawi way. In Malawi it is expected and sadly acceptable that when there is a change of government, heads will roll; corruption cases will follow and folks may be prosecuted. Most Malawians expected this after President Banda’s ascension on 7th April. Social media networks, online and offline media are awash with unsubstantiated allegations of sackings and re-deployment of perceived DPP hardliners.
For instance, Suzgo Khunga, a Lilongwe-based journalist, reflected on this on her twitter timeline:
The whole thing results from Malawi’s culture of political cronyism, politics of impunity and abuse of power for those in the ruling party – this was the gist of Chaponda’s statement. Ruling party’s Leader of the House in Parliament, Henry Phoya argued that Chaponda’s calling for reconciliation commission must be seen as admission that things went wrong. Phoya is right, but the issue is that Chaponda said nothing at the time and he would still be quiet if DPP were still in power.
Chaponda has fears if not outright expectation that these inquiries will lead to prosecution of some of his party colleagues. And history indicates that his fears are not without substance. This says more of what people do while in power than about their successor trying to stamp their authority. Until we get rid of culture of impunity, cronyism and impunity, Malawi will continue moving in circles, a journey that can only you where you started.