THE MALAWI Congress Party (MCP) needs to grow up and get a life! At over 50 years old, this is an institution that should be demonstrating political maturity and providing the much-needed leadership in strengthening our political parties. Instead, the MCP has once again showed us that it is not capable of living up to its reputation as the oldest political establishment in Malawi.
This is regrettable.
It is undeniable that the party is a strong part of the history of this nation and has its own legacy. However, in the last fifty years, the party has gone through so much transformation that has culminated, unfortunately, in a severely weakened structure, an unclear vision and a dwindling support base, whose evidence is the dismal performances in the last few elections, notwithstanding 2014.
Most episodes of factional battles that have occurred in the party have been circus-like more than they have been tragic. Through all of this, we have been exposed to rather frivolous and dangerous trends in our politics that have seen broken relationships, missed opportunities, the stifling of genuine and robust debate and the conspicuous lack of a sense of goodwill within and between political parties.
At over 50 fifty years, do we even know how MCP rates itself? If asked to give an honest assessment today, what will the party tell us about itself and its plan on re-capturing state power, say in 2019? And if we were to bring founding member, Orton Edgar Ching’oli Chirwa back to life just for today only, would his vision for this party when he formed it be in tandem with the position the MCP finds itself in today? And perhaps more importantly, what inheritance is the MCP giving to the next generation?
Given its history, the MCP has no choice but to confront the latter question. In 2016, what is needed are parties that are in-touch with the needs of the people they claim to represent and parties that contribute to the flourishing of vibrant democratic culture in Malawi. If parties exist to capture state power via elections, then obviously those that fail to win elections are doing something very wrong. Only critical self-reflection will aid them in become viable options for disaffected masses.
What every other party that wants to be taken seriously by the people whose votes it seeks is that you cannot keep on looking at the past with a keen sense of nostalgia for at some point, you need to articulate your vision for the future and convince people to rally behind you even if the challenges that stand before you are stern and seem insurmountable. Otherwise it is of no use making parties that have no clear sense of the future part of our political discourse.
At our age as a country, we should be able to consider our relationships with parties that offer no ideological value beyond images of their leaders. Malawians need to be wary of being used to endorse political initiatives that just seek to abuse them, only to be flushed out of the governing agenda like used condoms when they are not needed. In this context, it would help a great deal if we did not get too excited with anything that is thrown our way without first interrogating its possible impact – positive or otherwise – on our lives as a sane people with a decent amount of dignity to maintain.
This is the realm in which the MCP was playing within when it presided over a leadership transition that brought current president, Lazarus Chakwera to the helm. At the time, the new president quite eloquently and substantively about his vision for the party and he wished to see happen. Unity of purpose was one of those things.
Recent events, however, speak to the contrary. While the MCP should be allowed to see through its intra-party dynamics, repeated expulsions of senior party members is not a positive trend. For this reason, the party must also consider the external impact of its decisions. This might appear to be an unnecessary burden on MCP but for its history and position in Malawi, the party has to bear the responsibility of leading by example.
The current confusion rocking the MCP is not unprecedented, to be sure. However, the rate at which these contestations are happening, at a very senior level, indicate structural weaknesses that will have a negative impact on our attempts at democratisation as a nation. If we are to have a robust democratic culture in Malawi, then we need strong parties. MCP is no exception.