“Thamanga!” (meaning run!) I yelled looking behind me to see if my sister was behind me as we took off running for home. I cannot tell you how old I was. All I can remember is we raced down the road, did some zigzags around the houses in the neighborhood where we lived to make it home before them. The Malawi Youth Leaguers were at it again going door to door gathering people for the meeting. As kids we had set off from home in search of friends because we wanted to play. That was what we did best but the government had other plans for us. To the meeting place it was. A patch of grass in the middle of the neighborhood where kids used to go and play was today being used for the Malawi Congress Party gathering. We however had other plans. We too had mastered the runaway plan. We ran into the gate and into the house locking all the doors.
Once in the house, even on a hot day like this one we closed all the windows and shut all the curtains as well. Then off we ran to hide under the beds. I don’t remember if it was me or one my sisters who said “osapuma akumva” meaning “don’t breathe, they will hear you.” So we all kept quiet and tried not to breathe. It was a hot day in Africa and here we were in a house with no air-conditioning hiding under the bed. It was as if being a locked house was not enough. We were safe! Such was life under Kamuzu Banda’s reign. Fear factor!
Unfortunately story above is not made up. That was my childhood. There were times when we would walk all the way to the market to get vegetables or some fruits just to get there and notice that you forgot your card. Yes the MCP card. It was not an ID card but more like one pledging allegiance to the Malawi Congress Party except in this case it was a forced pledge. Till today I don’t know why we had to carry that card when really there was just one political party in the country anyway. I found an article, an Africa Watch Report Where Silence Rules (October 1990) Malawi Young Pioneers and Malawi Youth which states:
“…an MCP card is needed to be allowed into a market or board a bus and “it is the duty of … members of the Youth League … to see that everyone buys cards” (15). It goes on to describe the Malawi Young Pioneers as “a national paramilitary youth organization separate from, though overlapping with, the party Youth League” (Ibid.). In 1965, the Young Pioneers “were given powers of arrest and indemnified against any police action against them. Since then they have functioned as a combination of political militia and intelligence network.” (Ibid.)”
To the people they were a group of people being trained in different skills while in essence, the government was killing two birds with one stone. Equipped with tools of self empowerment they were also a Para-military wing for the government. It was no surprise then when lots of weapons were found at their bases, Operation Bwenzani during of transition to a multiparty system. One can argue that the weapons were needed for their work. I stumbled across the excerpt above and was surprised at the powers they had and like most people I thought they were at those bases to be taught skills they would take with them to their villages and in turn would teach others whilst changing their life for the better.
“The future is the past coming returning through another gate.”~ Arnold Glasgow
On July 20th Malawi had a countrywide demonstration where we lost 20 people. After handing over the petition to the president the Civil Society (CSO) announced that there would be a demonstration on the 17th of August should the president not respond to their demands. On August 5th there was news that the ruling party Democratic Peoples Party DPP was forming their own Para-military wing, DPP Cadets. The days of MYP and Malawi Youth League days were back with a new face. During Kamuzu’s time the MYP was mostly used for the intelligence while as the latter was to snitch on others to gain favor in the party.
“DPP cadets will be used to deal with anyone who dares criticize the president and his administration. According to an insider, the meeting also agreed to send cadets to attack and destroy property belonging to opposition and civil society leaders who are suspected to have been masterminds of the July 20 demonstrations.”
Right after this announcement the offices of Institute for Policy Interaction (IPI), Rev MacDonald Sembereka’s home and a number of markets and the offices of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi (ECM) were burnt down by arsonist. Some have alleged that it was these cadets who did it because the CSO leaders and the director of ECM criticized the governments’ inhumane and undemocratic ways. As for the markers we can only assume that they were torched down to get the vendors mad to create civil unrest n the cities. Instead of using such youth groups to mobilize and increase political participation among them it is obvious that the cadets are being used for evil. All incidents are now under investigation.
The current state of affairs in Malawi is a train wreck waiting to happen. Arson, beating up people and harassing them over the phone via text messages etc are some of the tactics the government is using to silence the people. Shoot to kill is the order of the day. Kamuzu days are back and this time in cyber world as well. I know some people genuinely care and would like nothing bad to happen to anyone against the ways of the current regime. I was told via Facebook that they (DPP) will find me and hopefully they will not hurt me. When I asked how I was told “you know their ways, drowning, ngozi (accident), or moto (fire). To that I say we all will have to die someday but detailing how one will be tortured or killed to me is not to be taken lightly.
“Customers are advised that the system can monitor and analyze telecommunications services including SMS and Internet in real time from the information contained within the CDRs. It is our understanding that the system has additional monitoring capabilities,” the operators warn in the statement
Big brother is watching. The government wants to unleash a machine that will basically spy on its own people but an injunction taken out against that action was granted so for now people can sleep easy right? Wrong! You don’t believe me? Call Malawi today and mention DPP see what happens. I got “ayambatu kumvetsela” meaning “they have started listening in on our conversations.” They have genuine cause to be worried. The DPP government officials are like the American republicans in that they do what they want so it wouldn’t surprise me at all that those machines are already in use.
There are those who have chosen to use their power at the election polls and that is okay and to be respected. However there are those of us who choose to speak out, educate the people of their rights so how can that be a wrong thing? Why does someone feel the need to tell me that what I write could be used against me in the court of law? I’m not advocating for the killing or harassment of people but for human rights. Unless you know your rights and duties under the constitution and stop being a passive citizen, you have no right to complain.
The millions of voices in Malawi have been silent due to lack of information, ignorance and illiteracy. Turning this trend around should be at the top of the list if we as a nation are to progress in the right direction. Unfortunately the government wants the 85% illiterate people in that state to manipulate them better. Dictators don’t like to be criticized, have no regard for human rights or laws. This is politics of poverty at its best. Give a man a t-shirt and a bag of fertilizer or maize in exchange for their vote. Whatever happened to teach a man how to fish than giving him a fish? We need more ways of empowering people economically so that they should not be used by these politicians. It‘s like giving a junkie a fix knowing they will be back for more since they rely on you to supply them the drugs. That mindset has to end now. While we are on the subject of poverty politics whatever happened to the building of a fertilizer factory so that we should produce our own and not import from abroad? It’s ok you can say it out loud with me…GREED!
Those using the internet as a tool to intimidate people I would suggest that you please watch the Matrix.