Government hides the truth

If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Here we go again! During the struggle to establish a democratic, multi-party regime to replace the dictatorial regime of Dr. Banda and the MCP, those of us who were active in promoting change were constantly asking: "How did we allow it to happen? We must never allow it to happen again."

It was our Parliament and the docility of our people that allowed it to happen. At least, the parliamentarians of the time had an excuse of sorts. There was only one political party allowed. Dr. Banda had the final say in selecting the candidate for each constituency. Continuing employment as a member of Parliament meant that the MP had to vote YES on all government matters. Those who might have been tempted to take an independent line were prevented by the thought of what happened to dissidents - years locked away in Dzeleka or Mpwepwe or in one of Malawi's regular prisons. The merest hint of disagreement could be fatal. The ever-popular Dick matenje and three others were brutally murdered by a Police officer at Thambani, a remote spot in Mwanza District.

And when Bakili Muluzi took over the reins of power those around him who had had been saying "Never again" became complicit in allowing things to drift back again towards those darker days. Although never as bad as before, was there ever a day when a UDF parliamentarian escaped the government whip? Well, yes. Joe Manduwa and Jan Jaap Sonke did. They were immediately taken into 'protective custody'. There were threats on their safety. On the first night of his release I went to Sonke's house with my shotgun and listened while 'rent-a-mob' made threatening noises. Fortunately, nothing happened. And while Joe Manduwa was still in custody, Shuma Mwase and I went to his house in Blantyre to prevent the CID from 'fishing' and lodged complaints at the Southern Region Police Headquarters. That was a real lesson for would-be dissident MPs.

And now we have another President with a massive majority in Parliament. Laws that erode or even negate our fundamental rights and liberties have been passed without a murmer of dissent. The MPs have noticed what has happened to anyone who has shown that they have ideas of their own. Just look at what has happened to our Vice President and others - immediate removal from the ranks of the 'ruling' party and the end of their political careers.

Already the President has assented to a law that will allow government to muzzle the press. Already a law has been passed that gives the Police powers to prevent demonstrations. In this session another law will be passed - unless our parliamentarians display uncharacteristic bravery - that will prevent an aggrieved party frokm obtaining an ex-parte injunction from the High Court.

So there we have it! If the Government or those it wishes to protect from scrutiny decides to do something contrary to the public interest or that may harm individuals the press will not be able to write about it, we will not be able to demonstrate against it and the High Court, unless they do the right thing and rule it all unconstitutional, will not be able to prevent it or rectify it without delays and expensive litigation!


Here we go again!

This President has been a little more clever than his predecessor. He lulled us into a false sense of security with the good things that he did in his first term. When we responded and voted him in again, we discovered a man that we had suspected had been lurking behind a facade but had been unwilling to admit to ourselves.

While many bills of great importance to the nation have been mouldering for years due, so government says, to a lack of capacity in drafting or time in the legislature, measures to deprive the people of their liberties and rights have been rushed through and passed with undue haste and without effective debate or opposition. To add insult to injury this legislative programme did not form part of the DPP's manifesto at the time of campaign. While the President received an overwhelming vote in the 2009 elections, he cannot claim that people voted him in to introduce repressive measures. These were his secrets!

We can only blame ourselves. We do not cry out until it is too late. Government must seriously observe from what is happening in Tunisia, Egypt, Alegeria, Jordan and elsewhere when people cry "TOO MUCH!" The choice we have is to make ourselves heard now. As Churchill says as I qouted above:

"There may even be a worse case: you may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

What is happening now benefits only the elite, the cronies and the untouchables who we are now, once again, beginning to fear to reveal. The nation as a whole can only benefit when it is run in accordance with its Constitution. The rule of law must prevail. Without it there will be no meaningful development.

I call upon our MPs of all persuasions to resist these impositions. For once, do something for the benefit of those who elected you and not just to please your masters. It was the people who elected you. You are answerable to us.

And to those who think that they will be in gavoured positions for ever, let history guide them to the truth. "Palibe chosatha!"

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