That is where things are going. After the death of Kamuzu Banda in 1997, Lucius Banda cut a powerful tribute for him, Mulandireni. It would take him eleven years to sing something positive about the former ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP). In 2008 he did a less influential song, Mgwirizano Moto, supporting MCP and the United Democratic Front (UDF) electoral alliance.
But that was a matter of convenience. Then he had an enduring support for former President Bakili Muluzi. Although he had made an unpopular decision, no matter what and where, Lucius Banda was still for Bakili Muluzi. He was barred from contesting by Malawi Electoral Commission, a decision that ended his political career. As a political engineer, the name he famously gave himself, he made sure his son, Atupele Muluzi, takes over the party’s leadership mantle after him.
It led to a mass exodus of some founding names. Atupele Muluzi was left free to operate alongside other loyal members like Lucius Banda, who had won a parliamentary seat. But his decision to join hands with ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) compromised the position of UDF in Malawi politics. Lucius Banda has openly been against it. He still belongs to the party by promoting its name, colors and agenda. But this will not last.
An accomplished musician he is, Lucius Banda has always used his music for political expression. Not shy of controversy, the man surprised many when he allowed to be hired to sing at MCP’s welcoming rally of Sidik Mia in Chikwawa, Ngabu, two months ago. He defended it that it was purely business. The moment came and left, leaving most people suspicious and wondering.
As if that was not enough, days ago, he was hired by MCP again to perform at Ulemu Msungama’s bid for Parliamentary seat in Lilongwe. The party will prominently be contesting against DPP, UDF’s political friend. Instead of arming his party’s bed fellow, he has chosen to go for the rival. It may seem like business, as Lucius Banda calls it, but reading between the lines, it is not.
Lucius Banda may be enjoying the support of his constituents as a UDF member, but he has no political home at present. He is also being looked upon as UDF’s chance for reformation, but there is no way he can penetrate in to lead the agenda. The system is against him, and so is the party. President Peter Mutharika openly criticized him in Balaka months ago. That acted like final moment he is welcome in UDF. He has not been associated with the party at the national level in any way for the past two years. On the other hand, MCP is always ready to have him in their gatherings.
MCP has gone through serious rebranding with big names opting for it. There are several youthful names in the party and it is being run on clear rules, devoid of any personalities. It is a beacon of intra-party democracy. If ever there is an opposition party showing signs of readiness to assume power, it is MCP. It is becoming too hard to ignore it.
The reason Lucius Banda went for UDF in 2003, and even before it, was that he had flirted too much with the party and President Bakili Muluzi in his music. Malawi politics had not yet fragmented. Besides UDF, other options were MCP and the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD). But AFORD was on its death bed, and he had been against MCP since 1997. UDF rose up to be where he could go when the snares of power came calling.
It is not that Lucius Banda is UDF at heart. He is simply an individual who is not ready to wander around as some politicians. Options led him to UDF and so is the present situation, options, once again, will lead him to MCP. His style of politics befits MCP. The party has remained independent and true to itself since 1994. This embodies his political qualities as well.
It is still business. But in a moment, especially with 2019 approaching, MCP will be too hard to ignore for him. It will be safe to say that come 2019 Lucius Banda will be contesting on the MCP ticket. By then UDF will have decided whether to run or go with DPP. But it will be too little and too late for them to hold on to him. It is not that he is a larger-than-life asset, but loyalty is rare in Malawi politics. In all sense, he is the man the party can trust. But UDF has chosen to go the other way and dine with the same people that casted it out of power in 2005. And Lucius Banda will never be part of that.