I will not lie, I am very unqualified to do this but the since Bible says ‘just like iron sharpens iron, man should learn from another’ and that ‘no one is without sin’ hence the motif: to err is human, I will risk it. In this article I will use George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Nineteen-Eighty-Four to tear apart President Mutharika, who to me, stands for the axis of evil in Malawi.
Man is a political animal by nature, said Aristotle and even if we try to defy this assertion, decisions of politicians will soon impact on our lives. Take DRC: politicians disagree and war ensues, the politicians hide and the civilians bear the blunt. I hope you now see why indifference is costly, it’s better to be part of the decision that to hear of it.
“Nineteen-Eighty-Four” is a dystopian novel revolving around one Winston Smith an editor of a state controlled paper in the Ministry of Truth. The country is under the rule of Big Brother and mind control, police rule and a hardship are the rule of the day. I will not summarise the book here, I just need a few analogies.
To me Mutharika is Big Brother, slowly turning the nation into a police state. This, as manifested by the interrogation of Chancellor Colleges’ Political Science lecturer, Blessings Chinsinga, the shoot to kill order, the bill giving police more powers and yes the brutality of the police and their swiftness at handling opponents of Mutharika like in the case of Reverend Levi Nyondo and Lonjezo Sithole. How I wish they were this swift when our homes are being robbed.
Malawi is now divided into three castes: the inner party of DPP big wigs and their Big Brother; the outer party made of the presidential tribesmen, the Lhomwes and then the Proles that is the rest of Malawians- we agreed that we would be equal but it seems they changed the pact to “some people are more equal than others.”
I will not say of the contracts, appointments and favours that seem to increasingly fall only on the president’s tribesmen because it is not my focus here, nor will I mention how party officials get all the favours and rip the country of resources and still walk scot-free, that is for later.
Before I continue with my rant, I should bring up Animal Farm, a novella by Orwell in which animals revolt against man and then develop their own oppressive caste system that calumniates into another revolution.
Big Brother is like Napoleon in Animal Farm: they both have scapegoats; spin-doctor’s and successfully psychologically conditions the population to accept their propaganda.
Mutharika uses Vuwa Kaunda and Hetherwick Ntaba to defend Mutharika’s every move, they don’t surprise me, Animal Farm’s Squealer and 984’s Winston Smith did that too. Recall when Boxer was being sent away to be slaughtered after he got injured, Squealer came and said he was going to the hospital and that the words “horse slaughterer” on the van were there because the ambulance had been bought from a slaughterer.
Then Boxer’s death was reported to have occurred ‘at the hands of the best medical care’ by squealer. Watching Malawi Broadcasting Corporation TV, one only smiles at the steady flow of words from the too familiar Ntaba, “the president never said that...it’s the work of enemies of democracy... they have personal issues...,” everything is in history and literature, really, Josef Goebbels pioneered that in Hitler’s time.
Mutharika is the founder and the mentor of every idea, every project and every highway even when it is a donation from the Japanese government. Mutharika is responsible even for the good rains-his visionary and able leadership.
As a diversion, I also see a lot of Khmer Rouge in Mutharika. The Khmer Rouge are the guys that ruled Cambodia in the last half of the 1970’s. When they assumed power they changed the country’s name, they hated intellectuals -in fact they killed over a million of the country’s educated folk, they said the country was too endowed to depend on imports. They said everyone should go to the country and start farming...I will stop there.
Mutharika came to power and started changing names of hospitals, districts (Chikwawa) and stadia, then the flag was changed, passports, vehicle license plates and the fact that Malawi can stand on its own was raised. Still don’t see a link?
Well, intellectuals were suddenly his enemies and donors from Norway, Denmark and Britain were promoting bad things in the country and as an icing the British high Commissioner was deported- though Squealer Ntaba insists , he wasn’t deported.
The changes above are not copied from Khmer Rouge; they are prescribed by an ancient Italian guy called Nicollo Machiavelli. He advised that everyone seeking to maintain power should erase history that reminds people of the past regimes.
Machiavelli did not only say that, unfortunately. He said that a leader should be feared, that opponents should be eliminated, that pawns should be used. That is where the police come in; they have instilled fear into the populace such that clergymen have been arrested for criticising the president or forming dissenting groups. The idea is to make people fear Mutharika, told you, it’s not new.
Of course Mutharika has failed to successfully use Machiavelli and it seems he has been reading notes from his contemporary, Robert Mugabe. Mugabe believes that everybody opposing him is a British puppet and that donors are there to exploit Zimbabwe, this is good philosophy, even Dambisa Moyo of the Dongo Republic theory would advise so, but is the timing and pacing right?
All I see is an Okonkwo in Mutharika worse still an Okonkwo without Obierika to offer advice, everybody that was supposed to play Obierika is singing praises. Take David Mphande, the guy was my professor in my Mzuzu University days, he was critical of politicians and he knows enough philosophy by heart to run a country on but look at him? Are there any signs that he is a reverend, Doctor, and Professor apart from being a minister?
Or take Ken Lipenga, I spent my childhood worshiping his story he did about a suicidal tailor or Professor Mwanza, the guy used to run a University and he cannot tell Mutharika that he is now officially a Malawian Idi Amin? The set up reminds me of Ayi Kwei Armah's Beautyful Ones are Not Yet Born, where corruption could even be seen in railings of a building’s stairs and yet the only person seeing it was “The Man.” Can we not find a “The Man” in Mutharika’s Inner Party?
Instead you will hear people crowning Mutharika as the neo-Ngwazi, the conqueror of hunger and you will hear people inviting Mutharika over to shower him with accolades and nobody to whisper into his ear saying, “I hear you are one hell of an autocrat where you are from?”
Staying with Armah, Mutharika came like Kwame Nkrumah, he was a messiah and as dubbed by musician Nkasa, he was “another Moses,” and just like Nkrumah he has closed his ears to advice and let corruption run the country.
Mutharika is not alone in this rotten Malawi, he is with Malawians. Despite the work of MBC, Ntaba and Vuwa, there is no reason to still be a passive nation which behaves like the sheep or the cat in Animal Farm. There are some Malawians who happen to see the corruption and decline of Malawi as a democracy but just like Benjamin in Animal Farm, they remain silent.
Surely we are not becoming like residents of Airstrip One where even orgasm will be robbed from us and absolute loyalty to Big Brother demanded, already we have spies and police roaming among us and yes a bill is being drafted to introduce a Malawian version of the Gestapo. Is there nobody among us that can behave like Animal Farm’s hens and destroy the eggs instead of giving them to the pigs?
Is there no Obierika that can act as the proverbial mouse that put a bell around the cat’s neck? Do we accept the mind control that so-called journalists purvey at MBC? Are we going to be like Boxer who works hard and believes that Napoleon is always right even when he is selling him off to the glue maker?
What we should know is that Mutharika is 77 years old and by the time we want to hold him responsible, people will be shouting 2mercy on the old man, please!” by then we will be the ones without ARV’s, with closed colleges, with no aid partners, with only a Chinese Embassy open where we cannot go to complain unless we have to offer land or something commercially viable.
Livingstonia Synod said it, Catholics echoed, militants like Harry Mkandawire and Kamplepo Kalua said it, civil society seconded it, University lecturers said it, university students shouted it, opposition parties say it daily, donors and foreigners said it: Mutharika is dictating - they cannot all be wrong. He must be wrong, contrary to the Josef’s, Squealers and Smiths we see on TV!
It’s up to us; are we going to be the generation that was bullied or are we going to be Malawians that jealously guarded their democracy- it’s up to us, as for the Animals of Animal Farm, well they got their equality and freedom back.