Animal Farm: Reflection of Malawi politics?

At the peak of his singing career, deputy lands Minister, dubbed ‘Minister of the Poor” sang two songs. They were a hit to the ears of the majority of Malawians tired already of the UDF administration’s mismanagement of the country’s economy. One song was “Osauka alibe mawu” while the other was “Agalatiya.”
George Orwell animal farm, is a powerful political piece that the Communists never wanted anybody to read, just like dictators in Africa would not like to anybody to see how equality during the struggle quickly turns into enmity once power is taken.
In the two pieces of art by Billy Kaunda now a full time politician and George Orwell’s book clearly have one underlining denominator- that those that go into power through a promise of change, rarely do they stick to their initial proclamations.
The power basically is now associated with ones financial muscle. The new decision maker in so called democratic parties other than the majority voices who are supposedly owners of the party.
At the peak of Malawi Congress Party, buses with a black cock and national colours and a flying national flag were part of daily traffic. Mbumba, as the party’s the Life President was called, were flown, had new houses and dressed all by their Nkhoswe number one.
Despite annual conventions-cynically dubbed parliament number one- nobody was ever elected at the convention. The hiring and firing of party officials was done by His Excellency the Life President Ngwazi Dr. H. Kamuzu Banda.
Up they went, down they came faster.
Late Aleke Banda, Gwanda Chakuamba, Bakili Muluzi, late Muwalo Ngumayo and many greats who tested power under appointment, came down faster than they went up. Their loyalty was to the President and not the party followers who did not matter in a single party system.
Come 1993, a new slogan was in town, power to the people. Even the Malawi Congress Party, tried to change the conventions. The sacred posts of Vice President and Secretary General were suddenly filled.
Vice Presidency, as Kamuzu Banda might have rightly avoided it, would become one of the most controversial posts in all political parties for the first two decade of multiparty politics.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) and the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) came into light and along with them came a mixture of old and new politicians, all of them promising Malawians to be democrats to the core. To the nearest was the United Front for Multiparty Democracy (UFMD) of Edmond Jika and Willie Chokani, and Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) of Unandi Banda, Shirley Kondowe and Kamlepo Kalua.
They were all democrats, just like animals who professed equality before the revolution at Manor farm owned by Mr. Jones. The farm in this case was Malawi and Jones was the MCP one party system that needed to be uprooted.
None in the system had too much money, nor too much power as all the new parties were cautious of giving excess power to an individual, a decision that in 1964 and repeated in 1971, would cost over 10,000 Malawians lives according to Amnesty International and thousands jailed, exiled or tortured.
The future tax payer, had to cough millions for the reckless decisions in compensation through lawsuits and the National Compensation Tribunal.
In UDF, Patrick Mbewe, late James Makhumula, Harry Thomson, Ziliro Chibambo, Sam Mpasu, lawyer Collins Chizumira, Edward Bwanali and silent businessmen Mpaweni and Sauzande, were known to be among the early financiers of the party.
A democratic convention was held in December 1993, and Bakili Muluzi contesting against then unknown Richard Chisala, won. The Vice Presidency went to Aleke Banda and Justin Malewezi.
Anybody could be a President. The Cabinet in May 1994 formed by Muluzi was an all powerful A team which included Bwanali, Aleke, Brown Mpinganjira and Al Haji Shaibu Itimu among other prominent personalities.
That was the last democratic election in UDF. A decade later a rubber stumping convention at Comesa Hall saw Mutharika assume position, followed by Malewezi who would months later quit the party all together.
Muluzi’s presidential powers came with them wealth and authority. While the majority of strong cabinet names like Chizumila, Wenham Nakanga, Itimu, Bwanali, Alufeyo Chilivumbo and others passed away, their replacement used to be weak politicians. Trumpet singers were rewarded.
By 1999 only Makhumula Mpasu, Mpinganjira, Aleke, Patrick Mbewe, Dumbo Lemani and Harry Thomson were remaining in the party. New vibrant like Cassim Chilumpha had also emerged in bye-elections while Uladi Mussa was still in obscurity.
Apart from Lemani and Mbewe who were close friends of Muluzi, the rest were suspected of ‘harbouring ambitions’ as Mpinganjira would tell Parliament on 18 December 2001, months after being fired fro m Cabinet alongside Chilumpha and Tchupa.
The story of the powerful Aford did not differ with the UDF. Its leader Chakufwa Chihana who came as a champion of democracy, suddenly was at loggerheads with Speaker of Parliament late Rodwell Munyenyembe and so too other equally influential characters in the party who included Frank Mayinga Mkandawire, Dennis Simphawaka Nkhwazi, Mapopa Chipeta and Matembo Nzunda.
Aford lost all its powerful cream as Chihana accepted Vice Presidency, increasing in his financial and political muscle to maneuver. The party would never recover in subsequent 2004 and 2009 general elections.
In MCP, the battle was between party President Gwanda Chakuamba and his deputy John Tembo. The split reached comical levels in 2001 with each camp holding a convention and claiming legitimacy of the process. It had to take the High Court to bring back sanity.
At stake was money generated from many MCP buildings across the country. Power is only a relative term for an opposition party.
Just like at the animal farm, at each stage in MCP, UDF and Aford there was internal opposition to the leadership and apart from MCP under Chakuamba before 2000, the UDF and Aford opted to deal with them ruthlessly.
Snowball - the pig who challenges leader Napoleon for control of Animal Farm after the Rebellion. Snowball is intelligent, passionate, eloquent, and less subtle and devious than his counterpart, Napoleon. Snowball seems to win the loyalty of the other animals and cement his power.

Brown Mpinganjira, Chilumpha and others might have been the many might have been Snowballs of UDF, just like Sam Kandodo Banda, Dan Msowoya and Egbert Chibambo might have been to Aford.

The latter MCP snowball’s might include Chakuamba, Stanely Masauli and later Kate Kainja Kaluluma, Bintony Kutsaira and Ted Kalebe. They would be joined by Ishmael Chafukira, Beston Majoni, Abele Kayembe and Boniface Kadzamira among others.

Muluzi, for UDF by 2002 was UDF and the party meant him. He was the sole financier, hence the sole decision maker. Praise singers wailed louder and their voices led by Davis Kapito could not be contradicted.

The script was written somewhere in 2001 and its execution started in 2002. By July 4, 2002 the country was in tension, either Muluzi would get a second term or all dissent would be finished. The UDF declared. Napoleon in the new animal farm called Malawi was Muluzi.

With wealth and power, the Muluzi’s ears were closed, young democrats wreaked havoc, Chiefs and MBC were in the forefront declaring that people had spoken. Sympathetic newspapers were born, critical papers were intimidated and businesses were crippled.

Muluzi, assisted by an all powerful Aford Czar Chakufwa Chihana lost the bid by three votes. The rest as it is said is history. Gwanda Chakuamba, Hetherwick Ntaba, Green Mwamondwe, Jimmy Mponda Mkandawire and many others stood to fight for the majority voice of Malawians on July 4, 2002 which was suppressed on public media.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was born out of politicians and intellectuals frustrated by continued politicking by UDF napoleon. Even its leader Professor Bingu wa Mutharika confessed that the Chichewa translation of politics ‘ndale’ was just as bad giving the game a very bad name.

DPP just like the animal farm revolution started on with battles, which many of them Malawians sympathized with the leadership. Just like Boxer the cart-horse, on the famous farm, Malawians remained loyal and followed the new leaders call to hardwork.

Amid politicking and a tough opposition, Uladi Mussa, Chakuamba, Henry Phoya, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma, Joyce Banda, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Henry Mussa, Ken Lipenga, Goodall Gondwe, Khumbo Kachali, Anna Kachikho, Henry Chimunthu Banda and Davis Katsonga fought like the Moscow winter hitting at Napoleon army.

Louis Chimango a long time loyalist of MCP now Speaker was seen as a thorn on the flesh on his leader, and parliament was a battleground between the President and the opposition.

From “agalu inu” quotes to total swear unprintable words; Malawians got enough and rallied behind a minority Government. Undule Mwakasungura and company organized car honking and night vigils to pray for sanity in national budgeting process.

Come 2009, MCP now controlled by Tembo as a sole financier, UDF giving in to its leader to stand against clear constitutional barriers and the rest of opposition went with them.

From the death of Rodwell Munyenyembe, impeachment attempts to sheer arrogance, the Napoleons in MCP and UDF were given their marching orders by all Malawians.

Two decades later, MCP vehicles have completely faded, UDF yellow vehicles are either pounced or parked in garages. The colour is now blue on the street.

After 2009, everybody thought the job was done. It was time to look forward to the next five years of changing Malawi forever. At the ballot, Malawians had spoken, and not other squealer, a propaganda pig for napoleon, was ever needed.

A year later, just like in the animal farm, looking closely at the political scene, the same people that wore faces of democrats sound like dictators. Squealers are shouting louder as if the election is about to come.

People are hired and fired-both in the party and in public service- under the prerogative.

Those shouting for reason are now sell outs, those who fought are under investigation, those with ambition are ridiculed and more importantly, the silence enforced by those near the leader. Merry making is a domain of the few.

Those that yesterday were on the battle front, who the stood with the leader when the gun powder was filling the nostrils, are haunted by the dogs, raised quietly by Napoleon. The newspapers and the NGO’s, the churches and all reasoning has disappeared from the manor farm of today sending everybody’s tail between their legs.

The script is not far from the third term of Muluzi. Chiefs speaking, party officials endorsing and the radio and TV propagating that all Malawians support third term for Muluzi. The reason is the same, our leader knows best, we need continuity. What has changed are just names.

Comparing closely at the face of a dictator to that of a self-confessed democrat, from a pig to man in the animal farm, nobody can tell you which is which is which, or who is who. That is the powerful tale of modern animal farms called political parties.


Dr. Sue Makin said…
Kondwani, I am interested in conversing with you about cancer of the cervix as a public health threat in Malawi. I worked as an obstetrican/gynecologist at Mulanje Mission Hospital for eleven years.
Dr. Sue Makin
Unknown said…
any time Dr. just email on

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