The Art Of Compromise

“You mustn’t compromise your principles, but you mustn’t humiliate the opposition. No one is more dangerous than one who is humiliated.” – Nelson Mandela

During the last Sunday’s rally, Honorable Kondwani Nankhumwa declared his interest and willingness to sit down and talk with Opposition parties on behalf of Mutharika’s administration. I don’t know how the Opposition have responded towards his gesture, but I am very thrilled by the young Minister.

Nankhumwa’s willingness to embrace Opposition leaders and dine with them in the interest of political stability and progress of our country reminded me about Africa’s greatest political leader of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela. Out of many years of dealing with a strong enemy within and outside prison, Mandela had learned the art of compromise as a political strategy.

Most people think that compromise is a sign of weakness and fear. As a result, most political leaders prefer to confront and threaten their opponents in times of crises to prove their strength and boldness. That is what Mandela believed as well when he led the armed struggle, violent protests and sabotage crusades against the apartheid regime since his youth. But confrontation and threats mostly escalate crises at the expense of political, social and economic stability. And in worst cases, property and human lives that could have been saved, are lost.

Mandela had figured that in order to win the war against apartheid, he had to master the art of compromise by sitting at the same table with his enemies. For four years, Mandela sat down with the leader of the Apartheid regime, F.W de Clerk to bring peace. Many South Africans in the ANC Youth League, his own wife Winnie and many others criticized Mandela for choosing to negotiate with de Clerk and the apartheid leadership.

But Mandela had embraced a political vision that the foundation of a free and stable South African would start with the abolition of the apartheid which would give his people political rights. He was ready to achieve this without shedding any more blood of the poor black South Africans. And as a leader he knew that you cannot always have your followers agree with you, and that sometimes your own trusted aides, friends and wife might be more interested in confrontation and stand in the way of your mission of dialogue and compromise. As a result, in most cases, Mandela held negotiations behind the backs of the ANC leaders that he knew did not want to give dialogue and compromise a chance.

As far as I am concerned, Nankhumwa has embarked on the right path that great men like Mandela once walked and came out of it as great leaders and statesmen. The art of compromise requires that in the end, everyone must give up something to get something. No one must walk out from the round table with empty hands. Of course, this is why many hate compromise because they do not want to give. They want to win and win it all for themselves. But when there is a crisis and security of property and lives and political and economic stability are compromised, shrewd and brilliant politicians count the cost of humiliating the enemy with empty hands because a humiliated enemy who has nothing to lose anymore, is very dangerous.

I am sure that if Nankhumwa would pursue negotiations with the needed mastery of the art of compromise, he would come out of this like Mandela. We may not know what the Opposition especially MCP, and maybe UTM would want in the deal, but I would advise Nankhumwa that an excellent compromise would require that he does not give the Opposition too much that would risk DPP’s grip on power and neither should he give them too little that would humiliate them into noncompliance. I see a successful compromise just somewhere there in between.

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