NELSON Mandela is a great. Not only in South Africa, not only in Africa but in the entire world. His name has always been associated with statesmanship, his face with greatness, his words with maturity, his voice with leadership, and his age with wisdom.
Little wonder then that one writer, Ephraim Nyondo, used him as a beacon of some sort in his article ‘Can MCP progress without Tembo?’ in which he argued, convincingly, that MCP can, nay will, progress without Tembo.
He posed Mandela in total contrast to his neighbor and age mate Robert Gabriel Mugabe who, for thirty years plus, has sat at the helm of Zimbabwe; now, a sad story of some sort. A contradiction of her own past, Zimbabwe is. And in contrasting, he likened. It was a likening of two likes: John Zenus Ungapake Tembo and Robert Gabriel Mugabe, Comrade. They were being likened just as their ‘entities’ – Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Zimbabwe, respectively – were.
The two share something, and in sharing something, the two seem equal. The two politicians, if politicians, and entities, if entities that is, are twins. Identical twins if not Siamese.
Tembo and Mugabe, twins
Right, very right. There is a thin line, if it does exist, between the two. The two belong to the same conditions. Mugabe is believed, by many of course, to be the one behind Zimbabwe’s woes: a poor economy, a faltering democracy and a nauseating human rights record on the list of many unpleasant things.
And Tembo too has many voicing his resignation from politics for what they term MCP’s woes: dwindling support as evidenced by the drop in the number of MPs, failure to win the presidency in the two elections he has been at the helm, leadership wrangles and a lot more problems that seem to speak volumes of MCP’s pending death.
But, Mugabe and Tembo are just victims. Victims of the media, victims of circumstances. The idea to relocate land to the black population in Zimbabwe as championed by Mugabe is not entirely bad, even if we want it to look thus. The idea to continue leading MCP as propagated by Tembo, or his allies, is also not bad though many want to portray it thus.
The problem, the biggest, is that most of us have encountered these two ideas and personalities through the media. Not any other media but that which hates them. Most, if not all of us, have encountered Mugabe through BBC, CNN, France 24, Sky News and all that western media – a kind of media that will never portray anything good about Mugabe. And that, that western representation, has filled our eyes and saturated our brains to the point that we cannot see the truth nor can we think it.
And Tembo? His story is no different from Mugabe. The now generation encountered Tembo not as a minister of finance in the Kamuzu era, nor as chair of the University council nor as even the Governor of Reserve Bank.
Instead, the now generation has encountered him at a wrong time. A time he was filled with bitterness for votes he believe were rigged from him and thus, never gave a rest to Bingu’s government. A time he was being used by Muluzi to champion his (Muluzi’s) ideas: section 65 first and then budget.
And, they encountered him through the wrong place, the media of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation – an institution which every Malawian knows can never say anything good about Tembo or MCP. And that Media has defined for us how to look at and judge Tembo. No wonder then, that we all believe Tembo possesses no morality, no goodness, he is a failure and thus, he must go now. We believe that MCP will die if Tembo does not leave now. Not later but now.
But, Tembo and Mugabe possess one thing that all those calling for their resignation possess not: age. Age that, in them, gave birth to experience and experience to wisdom. Wisdom like that of the African beacon, Mandela.
Mandela’s wisdom the multitudes have missed
In building that rainbow nation, South Africa, from the tatters and ruins of apartheid, Nelson ‘Madiba’ Mandela never castigated those behind the problem of apartheid – the whites. Never. Mandela knew than anybody else that the whites, the minority, were the ones behind the problem of apartheid. The problem that made him ‘rot’ in prison for twenty-seven years.
Mandela, whom the entire world has heaped praises on for his wisdom, throughout the course of his fighting indicated that his was not a fight against the whites but apartheid. Intelligent wisdom this that many, calling for Tembo’s resignation or ‘overthrowing’, have missed.
Even after ascending to the top most post of presidency in 1994, Mandela never said a word against the whites or calling for their going. He, instead, worked with them for the building of a fair nation, a fair South Africa. And today we can all say without shame that South Africa, though lacking in terms of security, is one of the developed not only in Africa but the entire world. Thanks to Mandela wisdom. The wisdom many have missed.
And, the now generation of South Africa, in missing Mandela’s wisdom have almost plunged their nation into chaos. They have almost fanned the embers of hatred that Mandela fought hard to burry in the annals of history. They have missed, or rather ignored, the old age wisdom of Mandela and result? Catastrophe.
Not long ago, the African National Congress (ANC) embattled youth wing leader, Julius Malema, was in the news for wrong reasons. He sang, or rather liked (and still likes?) to sing, a violent song ‘Kill the Boer, kill the farmer’ a few days before the violent murder of a Boer farmer, Eugene Terre'Blanche. And, the whites believe the killing of Terre'Blanche was inspired by such singing, such racism, such hatred.
And Malema has said it more than once that he will not stop singing the song, the hatred. He learnt it while young and he just cannot stop it. After all, he seems to believe, there is some truth in his favorite song. He is acting contrary to Mandela's wisdom and very soon than he can think, if he continues with that and gets his way to rule, South Africa will be back to chaos. Reason? It is ignoring old age wisdom. Mandela’s wisdom.
It is not only Malema who has missed Mandela’s wisdom. There are many. Political scientists, commentators, ministers, experienced politicians and many have missed that wisdom. The wisdom that is responsible for South Africa’s prosperity. The wisdom that builds.
It is this wisdom we need if MCP is to be rebuilt. If it is to resurrect. If our democracy, as young and malnourished as it is, is to be saved. It is that wisdom that all those calling for Tembo’s removal have missed, and are still missing.
Everyone, for all those who know and accept the truth, knows that Tembo is the one behind MCP’s problems. The power struggle in the party was nothing but as a result of Tembo’s tenacious clinging to power, the dwindling number of MPs for MCP is all an outcome of Tembo’s belief that he can hold a party in one region, and all other problems that a person can point at in MCP are nothing but Tembo’s ‘children’.
But then, does that guarantee us a backing that Tembo can go and all the problems will be over?
No. Never. Not at all. Tembo can move out of MCP today but the party will never be healed. It will, as a matter of fact, be hurt a lot with Tembo’s departure now than ever. The young democracy of Malawi will be done a great injustice and fully defiled if Tembo exits the political stage, the MCP presidency, now.
Tembo created problems, that he knows and even MCP’s politburo that refused him to quit knows, and he must rectify them now. He must guide the party out of the woods he has dragged it into. Tembo must hold the party that has been forced back to its infancy by hand now, help it stand, help it walk and let it run. Not quitting it.
But Tembo, John Tembo, belongs to the past
Yes and no. Both are correct answers, very correct. That Tembo belongs to the past is true. The past that most Malawians want to forget. He belongs to the past and has that past, to quote Ephraim Nyondo, ‘to defend for it is not really very clear’ – not to reconstruct, for the past is never reconstructed.
But also, Tembo belongs to the present, the now. Tembo is the umbilical cord linking the past to the present. He is the one holding the keys to the survival of Malawi’s oldest party, MCP, and Malawi’s frightening and frightened multiparty democracy. That is why Tembo belongs to the present and somehow, future – of course, future not reaching 2013 or thereabouts.
Tembo, with his wisdom and experience from the past, needs to guide the party. Not guiding it to its doom but boom. Tembo inherited that party in its better state and he should not leave it in its pathetic state. He needs to reorganize that party so that once again it becomes a force to reckon with not only in Dedza but the whole of Malawi.
And removing him now or forcing him into resignation is to say the least, a search for an exit. An exit of the once mighty Malawi Congress Party (MCP) from the political platform. It is an insult to the souls of all those who formed the party and even those who did shed their blood for the democracy we possess now.
Tembo has said, time and again, that he will leave when the time comes. A good idea this. And going by MCP’s constitution, his time has not yet come. It will come in future, the near future. At least, this we know, that he is barred from contesting again on an MCP ticket as president come next elections for failing to hook the presidency seat twice unless otherwise. Then, we can lest be assured that Tembo will go someday, after renovating MCP and restoring her (MCP’s) old self.
The problem, as Tembo himself has said it, we are all in a rush. A rush for something we are not certain of. A rush to have Tembo out of office, and then? We have no idea. We are all blank. We just assure ourselves, falsely for that matter, that somebody will be found. From where? An astounding question that is and we are running away from it.
Tembo knows and rightly so that this is not a time to leave MCP. He is even justified to think so. He has said that he cannot leave the party to people who are not MCP. That is true. And he knows them. He knows those who will sell the party the very first day they are voted as president of the party, he knows those who will take it into a fake marriage the very hour they are voted into the office of MCP presidency and he even knows those who are more than prepared to kill the party the moment they are elected than they are to resurrect the party. That is why he cannot leave the party now.
Tembo said, and we all laughed, that the taskforce that was there at some point was made of power hungry individuals and frustrated souls. A few weeks later, we saw and heard it. They formed another taskforce out of the taskforce. And the two taskforces started blaming each other of being power hungry and jealous. They stopped their fight against Tembo. Result?
Tembo was proven, beyond reasonable doubt, right. What if he had succumbed to pressure and had quit; could MCP have been resurrected, could our democracy have been saved, could the power struggles have ended?
The answer is no, an absolute no. Tembo again could have been blamed if he had quit then and those unnecessary power struggles were being displayed in the ‘real’ MCP after his evacuation of office. Articles could have been written accusing his style of handing over power, of acquitting office.
And, can MCP progress without John Tembo?
Yes, it can but not now. Now, MCP and all democracy loving Malawians, need to implore and employ Mandela’s wisdom: that you use the one behind the problem for the rectification of the problem and not just an outsider.
That is the same wisdom Kamuzu Banda, the father and founder of this nation, used once for Malawi to move forward and the result was an economic prosperity for Malawi that has never been witnessed and probably, will never be witnessed.
His young ministers, just after getting independence, wanted an africanisation of all top posts in government for the mere fact that the whites, Britons, had been marginalizing Africans and they looked at that as a way of revenge. A way of punishing the creators of the problem.
Kamuzu said no. His was a slow africanisation process. He was still going to have the expatriates, the whites, the ones who were ill treating and marginalizing Malawians. Kamuzu knew that that is the only way of moving forward: incorporating the creators of the problem into the solution, not ignoring them or removing them.
And the end result? That period, from 1964 to 1977, when John Tembo was the governor of the Reserve Bank, has been dubbed as ‘the period of star performance’ in terms of economy. A period Muluzi never came close to during his ten year rule and Mutharika is yet to reach, if he will.
That wisdom is what MCP needs. Tembo must not go now or else that will be suicide for MCP, the once mighty. Tembo must stay in MCP, as president, help the party recover. Get it back on its feet and then quit after it is healed. Of course, he needs to speed up the healing process otherwise his face is not necessary on the next ballot as a presidential candidate.
All those who want MCP to recover, including the members of the task force – if their claims are genuine, must accept Tembo and work with him now for the building of the party. Ignore this and kill MCP, kill Malawi’s democracy.
*This article was written a long time ago when the calls for Tembo to resign were ''unbearable'' but it did not see the light of print due to the political climate then.