The United Transformation Movement, a new political entity (for lack of a better word since some claim it is not a party) has been formed. For those of us who believe in democracy, the emergence of a new force is ordinarily a good development for Malawi’s polity. It is also interesting to note that those behind this new entity recommend that this entity remains a movement and not a political party. In other words, it is a coalition of those who are disgruntled with the current political status and do not believe that the DPP, MCP, UDF, and the rest of the political parties in Malawi can be trusted to save the country from its present problems which to them are beyond APM or Chakwera’s abilities.
But the question still looms, is this UTM truly a vehicle for transformation as those behind it need us to believe? If the idea of it being transformational is at the core of its raison d’etre then the movement should not shy away from answering hard questions about its added value to the development of the country. For now, beyond the idea of a movement there has not been any indication yet that the movement is indeed transformational. There are questions that the movement will need to address as soon as possible, otherwise the movement will make no movement at all in Malawi’s politics.
Let us start with what the Vice President SKC stated the other day which I paraphrase as Malawi’s main problem is glorification of individuals. What a brilliant statement that look good on the eye but completely meaningless at close examination. The movement started by being called the “Chilima movement”, is that not personification of a movement? Is that the symptom of a people glorifying and individual? If the movement need to move away from the glorification of individuals then one would have expected that the use of the term “Chilima movement” or “SKC movement” be banned at all its gatherings. The social media was full of people with t-shirts branded SKC, cars with banners that read “SKC”! What a contradiction for a movement that prides itself in not glorifying individuals.
Kamlepo Kalua is famed for uttering the words to the effect that a hyena does not change its spots by moving from one mountain to another. If indeed the movement is transformation, how do we explain the presence of Hon Kaliati (former DPP Director of Women), Kalindo (former DPP Deputy Publicity Secretary), Masangwi (Former DPP MP), Chidanti (Former DPP MP) and Ngalande (former DPP Director of Youth) as the face of the movement? These are politicians that have cut their teeth in the current political set up and have excelled by mastering the tactics of the current politics, do they now become transformational leaders by simply moving from one political entity to another? If one listens to their campaign message, it is the same, full of political venom, foul mouth slogans, the only difference is that these are now targeted at APM and DPP instead of Chakwera and MCP, tell me, what is transformational about this? They are praise singers whose only transformation has been the change of the subject of their praises from APM to SKC. Is this the type of transformational leadership we need in Malawi?
Finally, the document that was released last week about the launch of the movement has two disturbing features in my opinion. These features give me the impression that things have not changed, that the movement is new but the people and the tactics are the same. Did you notice that the document has a face of the Vice President? Is he the leader of the movement? Or is he the founder of the movement? Does that not add to the glorification of individuals? Secondly, the document is signed by Dr Chidanti Malunga as “Publicity Secretary”. The question is when was he given that position. I would have understood if he used the word “interim” but no! He is already the publicity secretary without any elections? What is transformational about this. Is this not the old tactic of the current politics? One would have thought this is one off, no, the other day I noticed that Hon Kaliati was calling herself “Secretary General” of the movement. These are tough questions that should not be brushed aside if the UTM wants a different fate to the similar United Transport Malawi (UTM) Limited.
For some of us, unless the movement demonstrates otherwise, it is simply a movement of people who want political power but cannot find any space in DPP or MCP. It is a movement whose sole aim is to ensure that APM does win the 2019 elections due to the disagreements over power and positions in the DPP? For me, the idea is good but for it to succeed, the motives must be altruistic, not parochial, not selfish.
The country is tired of new movements that are simply used as vehicles for some people to remain relevant (we saw this with the transformation alliance of Mr Kunkuyu). Time will show us the the real character and political weight of the leaders of UTM for them to become transformational beyond the handsome faces and beautiful voices of already known recycled politicians.
SKC is a fine man and we now know that he has harboured presidential ambition and may be, this is the opportunity to kick start this ambition but without the movement being a political party, it will be very difficult for him to realise this ambition. He knows more than me that you need solid political structures across the nation and heavy financial chest to win the Presidency in the best of times. Now, these are not the best of times, so the odds are heavier. Now that the gloves are off, let us see the fight and may the best fighter win!