WITH MABVUTO JOBANI BANDA:
I usually have different political views from my boss George Kasakula and workmate Brian Banda. So whenever an issue arises, we debate and get angry with each other before we get on air to share our opinions with our audience. But on vice president Saulos Chilima, we seem to agree that his indecisiveness is not helping him. Chilima is fast losing the momentum. On two occasions, he has failed to seize the opportunity and tell Malawians what he really wants. In my attempt to understand what’s happening to Chilima, the other day I caught up with former president Bakili Muluzi. I asked him to explain how he managed the opportunity that came his way when Malawians wanted change. “I saw an opportunity and took it Mabvuto,” he answered.
“I did not hesitate, I was ready to die for the cause because I knew the risk I was taking, but I had to leave my comfort zone and put Malawi first,” Muluzi said.
History has so many who examples of people made full use of such opportunities. On March 15, 44 BC, the famous Marc Anthony, saw an opportunity when Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated by Roman Senators. A sympathiser of Caesar, who was spared by the Senators, Marc Anthony, asked for an opportunity to speak. He had realised that the only one way to avenge the death of Caesar and overthrow the conspirators was by asking for an opportunity to speak. They gave him that chance to speak and when he did, the people of Rome decided to revolt. He managed to win the hearts and minds of the people. The masses turned against Caesar’s killers, rioted in anger and destroyed homes and property of the murderers of Caesar. All Marc Anthony needed was an opportunity to give a speech when all citizens were ready to listen.
That’s how he become Emperor of Rome. Fast forward to 1992. Fredrick Chiluba, a unionist in Zambia, saw an opportunity and took it. An orator that he was, Chiluba did exactly what Muluzi did. Riding a popular wave of change fuelled by a tanking economy, all Chiluba needed was a platform to speak. When he spoke, his speeches resonated with the people. He became Zambian president and the rest is history.
Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chavez requested to have a press conference on television as a condition for his surrender to the coup d’état against President Carlos Andrés Pérez on February 4, 1992.
Just like Marc Anthony, Muluzi and Chiluba, Hugo Chavez knew very well and calculated that since there had been a coup attempt, the whole country would be very interested to listen to what he was about to say.
He was allowed to address the nation, but that was the speech that changed his fate and the history of his country.
His speech gave him power. It succeeded where the coup had failed. He had become so famous that during campaign towards elections that followed 2 years after his imprisonment, all presidential candidates had included in their manifestos that if they are voted into power, they would release Chavez from prison. He had become so important, such that promising to release him would make someone president.
The lesson for Saulos Chilima is that the above mentioned leaders took advantage of the opportunities that came before them. On June 6, Malawians listened to Chilima. He had Malawi’s undivided attention. Anyway, he told us that he was going to leave the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and that he would announce his next plan of action. Of course, this is not what people wanted to hear. But Malawians, being a very patient people, gave him the benefit of doubt and waited. This week, another opportunity presented itself. Again Chilima failed to strike. He still has not resigned from DPP and still asked Malawians for more time. Muluzi acted as a politician when an opportunity presented itself. He made sure he grabbed it and held on to it. Chavez and Anthony also did the same. They were decisive and made the moment count.
I regret to say that his momentum is slowing down. His admirers, supporters and those undecided voters are looking elsewhere now. Chilima needs to act now or he is out completely.