Colleagues, I personally feel equally let down. From the beginning, I was against the idea of meeting the President, particularly when such a meeting is requested for by us, and so was Fiskani Nkhoma. Mr Kajoloweka here is my witness. We had a lengthy brainstorming meeting in Mzuzu in which I emphasized to him how much I wanted to be in Zomba and lead the demos. I also told him my view that if the President did not respond to our concerns, we should declare Thursday every week “FeesMustFall” day. At the UMSU meeting of last Saturday, where Fiskani was absent, I strongly opposed the idea of seeking an audience with APM, coz of the power of demos as a negotiating tool for the downtrodden in society, and also knowing the arrogant and tricky character of Malawian politicians. I strongly advised the guys that we should focus on mobilising the demonstrations so that if it is any dialogue, it must be the President or any of his henchmen calling us, and not the other way round. Unfortunately, everyone there opposed me and I was once again called ‘osamva za anzanga’.
I reluctantly became part of the idea just by virtue of the fact that I couldn’t do anything on my own in a group of many. On Wednesday, having made up my mind to be in Zomba leading the demos, some friends advised me to go and attend the meeting for two reasons: that if I didn’t I attend it would show division in UMSU and that the other party would find a loophole to argue that I did not want dialogue because I knew I had no better arguments. I even talked to my brother here, Kajoloweka, about the same as a way of consulting. The UMSU President, Mr Sikwese, specifically called me on Wedslnesday night, after he had heard that I was not going to attend the meeting as I opposed to the whole arrangement. He pleaded with me to attend. I asked him to make a statement supporting the demos and encouraging people to go on, but he did not do this.
Yesterday, before departure for the meeting, at KCN, I told the team that the trip was a waste of opportunity to win the battle. It was our nail to the coffin. Unfortunately, and very unfortunately, only Fiskani and one guy from LUANAR (but not the President) looked to understand my reasoning. The rest were so excited about meeting the state President at the State house. I knew right away that we were done, but I was just a person among people. I hoped against hope that we came back with the agenda alive, at least, because I knew victory was unthinkable.
During the deliberations, I took a strong stance against anything more than 300, 000 for generic students and 600, 000 for mature entry students. Surprisingly, the HE himself, who chaired the meeting, angrily told me not to speak again. â€˜You are dominating the meeting, let others speak, you have spoken enough and you are not the only person I need to listen to.â€™ He said. He also said in his statement that â€˜some of you are doing all this for your selfish political interestâ€™. Honestly, I knew he was referring to me because of the context of the whole set of events. I stayed silent thereon as it was now impossible for me to speak.
Towards the end, when the President suggested rigidly a 50,000 kwacha across-the-board reduction, I thought Sikwese was going to say “let us consult our people first before we can agree or disagree.” I thought that would be our best exit statement from the mediation hook. Unfortunately, even before I passed a note to him to say something like that, he had already said “thank you” after the HE had told him to submit proposed figures for mature entry students.
I almost cried there and then, and I wept and burned with anger inside me. For once, I wished I was the UMSU President. But that was too late. Everything else was now water under the bridge.
That’s how we lost the battle colleagues. I make this statement not to damage anyone’s opinion in your eyes and minds, but for you to appreciate where some of us stand in the whole picture. In my view, and I say this with my full conscience, we lost the battle due to lack of political calculation in our leadership.
The idea to seek audience with the President was highly naive and the timing itself was a handball in the our own goal area. I warned UMSU against this but I was dismissed. I told them that we were winning the fight on all fronts because almost all sections of our society were for us, and there was no need to call for the york again onto our neck when it was already off, but I was seen as a radical, perhaps. All I saw in UMSU leadership was sheer excitement about meeting the State President. They thought our achievement would be defined in terms of who we met in the process, and not what we achieved.
I don’t know what to say today, but it PAINS me that we have now all lost together despite some of us making all efforts to punch sense into the leadership. For me as Ayuba, life can’t be more painful. I laid my life bare for this cause, resisted all sorts of financial temptations, sacrificed all good relations with different individuals, spent personal resources and sunk deep into the dung of debt, and, above all, stood by the principle… But only to end like this. My children will hate to hear this story. I apologise to everyone of you colleagues for our failures as UMSU. Our story needs rewriting or at least editing, if generations are to be inspired any bit by it.
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