Thursday, July 14, 2011

(NYASATIMES) Atupele, Malema sing ‘change’ song

Atupele, Malema sing ‘change’ song
By Nyasa Times
Published: July 14, 2011

A wind of change is sweeping across Southern Africa. The stage is set it appears for a revolution. This is not the famous orange revolution, though. It is its own kind of change, possibly a generational take over. The youth are now loudly demanding political space, claiming time has come for them to take a leading role in initiating change on the political arena.

The change agenda is fast becoming a fashion statement and may lead to the rebirth of politics in Malawi and across the border. In a society where the demand for more jobs and access to better education for the ever increasing youth population remains an issue, the message is more than appealing to many.

Atupele: Generation take over

In Malawi 80% of the population is under the age of 40, the majority of whom will be first time voters come the 2014 general elections. This population segment is a sleeping giant.

The crop of the old time politicians in Africa has failed to give hope and inspire young people, except for a few rare examples of African leaders led by the South African political icon and former president, Nelson Mandela.

United Democratic Front (UDF) deputy leader in parliament, Atupele Muluzi, has not hidden his belief and resolve to fight this battle. He makes mention of it at any opportunity, saying the youth deserve better and need to be given a chance.

”The world is changing, Africa is changing and Malawi must change as well,” he told parliament recently in response to President Bingu Wa Mutharika’s 2011-2012 budget opening speech. Very unusual for him, he went further to warn, ”If you resist change, you must expect to be pushed aside.”

Although he normally avoids use of strong language preferring to be moderate, not common in Malawi politics, the Machinga North East legislator sounds upbeat about leading this change.

”My generation is prepared to mobilise politically in order to push for the change,” said Atupele.

Further, he told Nyasa Times that ”Every day that comes brings its own challenges and we must be steadfast in coming up with new ways of dealing with the new challenges. We cannot continue to do more of the same but move with the changing times if we are to achieve success as a nation.”

The son of former president Bakili Muluzi, added: ”We must change our ways of thinking and accommodate new ideas in order for us to achieve maximum development for our country.”

Atupele continues to reveal his philosophies through the social communication network. He recently wrote on his Facebook wall that Malawi should move away from a system where the presidency presides over an extensive patronage network through powers to appoint.

He suggested, for example, that power to appoint the public University Council should be shared with the legislature.

His proposal might have been ignited by events taking place at the University of Malawi in relation to the academic freedom saga.

The ‘younganisation’ concept, as Chancellor College associate professor Blessings Chinsinga calls it in one of his columns in the Sunday Times is fast becoming widespread.

The controversial leader of the African National Congress Youth League, Julius Malema, has joined the fray. At an ANC party youth conference held recently Malema was blunt.

In the presence of President Jacob Zuma, Malema led the onslaught warning that the Youth of the ANC will take full control of the proceedings at the party’s next congress.

Young Muluzi and Malema are not one of a kind in terms of their approach to political issues. Malema is reknown for his militancy style while Atupele has chosen to be moderate, a character than has made him win the hearts of many regardless of age. However, the two have found themselves singing a common song.

Perhaps Atupele has been advised him that character is critical in political leadership and he has perfectly followed that to the letter. The song Atupele and Malema are singing is not a praise song. It is not the controversial one. It is a song that resonates well with the generation of the 21st century. This is about the change the two and their peers are yearning for.

They are asking the old guard to pave way for a new breed of leadership and politics.

In South Africa, Zuma 68 is serving his first term and the next elections will take place in 2015. It is not clear, though, whether he will have a challenger at the party National Congress scheduled for 2014.

In the UDF, the concept is facing strong resistance from old guards. Former diplomat and party’s National Executive member, Ziliro Chibambo, told Capital Radio’s Straight Talk programme recently, “Atupele must grow with the party first and seek nominations in the elections after 2014.”

His sentiments are a sequel to what other, considerably older, gurus in the party have said before. They include Secretary General Kennedy Makwangwala and founding member, Sam Mpasu.

But as if responding to these assertions, the young Muluzi says, ”It’s not about me but the future of the people of this country.”

He is never short of answers purposefully designed to advance his new ideas and reveal his hunger to fight the battle for change. There are all indications on the ground that the demand for new ideas is a new fashion trend. Young people are desperately looking for one of their own to lead a new Malawi. Whoever mobilises this group in the population will be a force to reckon with and it is a political miscalculation to underestimate such a person.

Atupele’s speeches in Parliament are appealing. He does not load them with political bombast or ‘Dausi-tic’ to create unnecessary tension in the House. His admirers say he has proved to be a man of his own as opposed to be his father’s political parrot as certain quarters had feared.

If it is a political strategy, then it seems to be working well for him. This has earned him high respect across the political divide. The demand for change has left no sector of life untouched — including the business sector and even the religious.

Looking at the British politics of today as an example, one could conclude that it is a renaissance. In the language of Atupele, the youth will drive the change in the2014 elections. However, he has only promised to make his position as regards his political future in a month’s time.

Will this be the time he will announce his intention to compete as presidential candidate at his party’s next convention? Malawians are waiting with bated breath. Only time will tell.—Nyasa Times

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