Early this week, I questioned the relevance of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president, Dr Lazarus Chakwera’s political rallies in the current political environment, especially with regard to the challenges facing the nation. I asserted that Chakwera was misguided in insisting on political rallies that simply massage the MCP ego instead of sharing the MCP political vision for Malawi. As leader of opposition and president for a party that considers itself a government in waiting, I observed, he needs to be enunciating his visions and policies for a better Malawi, if he has any. I wondered what MCP as a party makes of the fact that each time they go to the south, the attendance at their party’s rallies resemble the funeral of a homeless person. For these comments, I got personally attacked and castigated, and many MCP followers quickly declared- even without considering what I had said- that I am blind and stupid. I noted in the comments coming from the MCP social media army a dangerous spirit of political intolerance. I am convinced that this MCP intolerance, a historical stain on the MCP as a party, is a more important subject to discuss than Chakwera’s misguidedness and direction-less leadership. After hearing one MCP die-hard fan accuse me of being a frustrated man; that I am only making these observations because I was expecting Chakwera to give me a position in the MCP, I have decided that the levels of blind loyalty and political intolerance in MCP are indeed reaching unsafe levels. I must therefore, as a matter of serious urgency, discuss this in this article. I shall deal with Chakwera’s misguided leadership and his unfitness for leading Malawi in a future article.
From a cloud of academic witnesses, my own experience in political governance and from following political thought around the world, it is clear to me that ideology is the source of all organized activity; that there is no possibility of organized social activity without an internalized morality or ideology to legitimatise it. Indeed, ideology is supposed to be the transcendent phenomenon of everyday life, not as the causal or motivating factor in social activity, but as the link between organized mental activity and the organized social world. Philosophically, ideology serves to legitimate realistic social activity, focus heterogeneous cognitive, moral, and wishful ambitions on the completion of social tasks, and define the range of appropriate behaviours in terms of those tasks. Ideology is the most important variable in the explanation of social stability and social change.
Considering this, the question bothering me is this: why then does the MCP behave and conduct their party as a religion or a church rather than an ideological grouping for socio-political change?
I am genuinely concerned. Any criticism of the MCP is met not with ideological responses, but only with intolerance befitting criticism of religious belief and doctrine. Critics are denigrated, disparaged and vilified, and loyalists everywhere try to whip up the nation not to consider the relevance of the issues presented, but to consider only their Unity, Loyalty Obedience and Discipline to MCP. This is nothing but a sure sign that MCP has failed to make any real political progress from the its dark history of intolerance and prejudice. In the pre-multiparty democracy years, MCP had no desire to change its ideology. Instead, MCP relied on intimidation of critics, politics of fear, and incitement of hatred of critics when their party and its activities were challenged. I believe it is fair to say that the biggest political intolerance in Malawi was Malawi Congress Party’s one party state. The very imposition of one minority party and race group over the majority – its interests, will, dominance and outlook – could only be accomplished through fear and intimidation and severe political intolerance.
What should be cause for alarm for every Malawian is that this same MCP attitude is being exhibited now, 20 years after it was overthrown for this very reason. While as we would have expected that after 20 years of being in opposition, MCP would have learned the bitter lesson and this political intolerance in MCP would no longer exist; and that MCP would be a Party with an ideology and not a religion, this has not been the case. Much as the multiparty movement of the 90s fought furiously against it, intolerance, it seems, is so ingrained in the MCP political DNA in many negative ways, requiring that we do not take it for granted that democracy on its own, by its mere establishment has transformed the MCP into a party that can rule the country with equality and equity.
In the eagerness of MCP supporters to attack anyone who dares to voice an opinion not too flattering to the MCP leadership, we see a party failing to mature into the current democratic dispensation; a party simply tolerating the multipartyism of the times because it has no choice, and a party which, as soon as it is given the reigns of power, will descend again into the dark roads of intolerance, bigotry, narrow-mindedness and levels of patronage worse than those that are even now already ravaging the nation. This is the inevitable MCP DNA, which, it seems to me, it cannot shed or escape. As a watchman on the walls of Zion, I consider it my duty to remind Malawians that maturity in democracy means tolerance of opposing views. It means following political ideology, not worshipping a leader and picking up arms against anyone who observes deficiencies in him. Fanaticism and blind loyalty are dangerous in a multiparty democracy.
MCP’s failure to adapt to prevailing political thought is seen in the way its former leader, John Tembo, manipulated the MCP church like system to usher in Dr Chakwera into the leadership position, and in the dictatorial ways in which Dr Chakwera has been running the MCP. A case in point is that there is a case in court about DR Chakwera flouting MCP’s constitutional provisions in the making of some appointments.
The kind of intolerance celebrated in the MCP is dangerous for the future of Malawian democracy and our posterity as a nation. The question Malawians must pursue is whether we can really trust Malawi to the leadership of a party leader who flouts his own party’s constitution, or let people who defend such a leader be taken seriously as having the interests of defending the Malawian constitution in their minds. If Chakwera flouts the country’s constitution, MCP supporters will blindly support and cheer just like they are doing now as he wantonly flouts the MCP constitution. MCP is a religion, and not a political party. This is not simply because Chakwera as a former Reverend tries to run the party as a church, but because of the blind loyalty system that forms its structure, and especially because of the intolerance ingrained in it. Not until this party begins to exhibit signs of having a political ideology and not simply operating under some kind of secret society loyalty to leader and fellow members can Malawians truly believe that it is ready to step up to lead the country.
I would like to appeal to all Malawians, especially those that worship at the MCP altar, to consider my article with a sober mind. I do not have any personal hatred against anyone in MCP, or any politician for that matter. I just love Malawi more. Perhaps a true change in the MCP will come with a change of leadership. I maintain that MCP needs to be led by someone younger, innovative and more open-minded- someone with a mind-set devoid of the old, intolerant MCP. I would propose that anyone whose mind is polluted by the old one party totalitarianism of MCP thinking is unfit to change the MCP from a religion to a political party that those who love Malawi can welcome with open arms as a party with the promise of bringing progress and prosperity to the country.
Indeed for Malawi to move forward, the old, dictatorial, intolerant and totalitarian minds of the Chakweras, the Chapondas and the Mutharikas must not cling to power, but pass on the baton to a younger generation of Malawians that think progressively and inclusively.