With George Kasakula:
May 21 Tripartite Elections will be one of the tightest in the history of Malawi. The tension preceding the decisive polls is there for all to see and seek ways of ensuring that peace prevails beyond the elections.
In a nation that has enjoyed relative peace over the years, it is incumbent upon those with some influence to ensure May 21 polls are peaceful.
Above all, those aspiring for political positions, especially the presidency, must commit to ensuring there is peace before, during and after the polls.
Such commitments allow Malawians to review the aspirants’ conduct in relation with the elections and whether they can be taken to task for failing to fulfil what they promised.
That is why Public Affairs Committee (Pac), the influential quasi-religious institution that is fighting to ensure this year’s polls are peaceful, organised prayers where those vying for political positions were expected to sign a peace declaration.
Such an opportunity cannot be left to pass by a careful aspirant who believes in peace and tranquillity, especially regarding elections.
Perhaps, there was some politics in the way the prayers were arranged but that assumption is even harder to back because all presidential aspirants, except President Peter Mutharika, turned up and signed the peace declaration.
Mutharika’s running mate Everton Chimulirenji attended the prayers. His boss was somewhere canvassing for votes ahead of the elections.
Of course, the presence of Chimulirenji could be taken as the President’s commitment to taking part in processes that seek a peaceful election.
But then, we know that the President was well aware of who had been invited to the event and who was supposed to sign the peace declaration.
The information we got from Pac was that Mutharika, through those that speak on his behalf, had confirmed that he would attend the peace prayers.
He later changed his mind and went ahead on his campaign trail.
While it is difficult to force someone to commit to a peaceful election, their noncommittal stance raises questions on what their position is.
Malawians could be justified for concluding that Mutharika is not committed to peace before, during and after elections.
On the other hand, it may be that he just does not care about such tenets. In his assessment, they may not be very important, after all.
But for those who care about religion and its influence on people’s lives, prayers matter.
In fact, it could be the reason Mutharika ‘accepted’ that prayers should be held where he stays. In other words, the President was more comfortable with prayers held where he had total control than a neutral place where every aspirant would be free to take part.
That is, perhaps, why other aspirants—those who had attended the Pac prayers—did not turn up for the Kamuzu Place event.
It is difficult to imagine that those who had organised the prayers were contented that they had fulfilled what should have been the real essence of the event.
Well, it could be that they had deliberately decided to hold the event at the palace to systematically thrust others out of the process and they just achieved that.
We cannot deny that there is untold greed among our religious leaders, those who claim their calling is to provide direction to humanity on how to live good lives.
They will do everything within their powers to gain favour from those they feel they will benefit something. Thus, even politicians themselves take advantage of such religious leaders to advance their own agendas including arranging ‘prayers’ that will ‘favour’ them.
There should be no politics in prayers. Prayers must be genuine. They must not be arranged in favour of a particular politician because if they do, they are useless.
The State House prayers that some religious leaders organised could have been simply for Mutharika. It seemed useless that the organisers even had the audacity of inviting other presidential aspirants when they should have known that the venue was too political for comfort.
For some reason, Mutharika does not seem to like Pac. But the moment the quasi-religious institution organised prayers where presidential aspirants signed the peace declaration, he should have parried away all the resentment he has towards the institution and attend the prayers, to make a virtue of necessity.
Beyond the actual prayers, there was also a peace declaration sub-event which the President should not have missed.
By snubbing the whole event and sending Chimulirenji who could not sign the peace declaration on behalf of his boss, Mutharika missed it.
Or it could be that he does not really care about the prayers. After all, they seem to be full of politics.