The Constitution is clear: President has to serve a maximum of two consecutive five year terms in office. After coming into power with the promise of democracy, President Muluzi Bakili intentionally started abandoning the covenant. Memories of how brutal it was to gain democracy were still fresh in most people’s minds and they could not watch one man destroying their hard earned democracy.
Politicians, religious leaders, musicians and the general public, all ganged up to fight for the status quo. It had to go down to the wire minding the power and influence President Muluzi had over his political critics through media monopoly, handouts and political benefits.
Malawi music decided the fate of President Muluzi to an extent. For the first five years a democracy, music in Malawi was politically in an identity crisis. Sometimes it could celebrate the demise of the quondam ruling party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), but often it was sobbing over the social changes multiparty democracy had brought to Malawi, a political system that was associated with President Muluzi and his then ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).
President Muluzi had suffocated the system to the extent that Malawi had no clear future of life after him. Thus when his terms in office were coming to an end in 2014, after proposing for a Third term and an Open term bill, two years earlier, for some, it was a matter that seriously had to be thought about. President Muluzi was the only man to lead Malawi, until music stepped in.
Billy Kaunda sounded politically neutral in his first three albums. It was only in 2001 with Dandaulo Limveke that he abandoned his sheepish sound, appearance and begun to hit hard on politics. In Nzosiirana, for example, Billy Kaunda blew a warning for politicians, that just as power is in the hands of people, they will decide their fate. Although it was for politicians in general, but when he sang about other politicians not allowed to conduct public rallies, it was directed at UDF.
A year later, Billy Kaunda released his fifth album, Mwataya Chipangano, a work that was entirely directed at President Muluzi and his ruling party. More prominent is the title track which critiqued the President for abandoning his promise of democracy. Understanding how notorious UDF’s youth party wing was, the Young Democrats, Billy Kaunda had to clearly state it that he was not afraid of death. It rose up as a theme for those against President Muluzi’s Third term and Open term bids. Above everything, it asked the President, probably, the biggest question in his entire presidency: “Mr. President, are you sure you are the only wise man who can lead Malawi?”
Billy Kaunda later on performed at the convention for National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a pressure group that was formed by former President Muluzi henchman, Brown Mpinganjira, to oppose President Muluzi’s political ambitions. The President was unpopular at the moment and Billy Kaunda simply provided that killer punch to make sure he was gone, for good. And it happened.
The unique legacy of Fuggie Kasipa was that he went as he came. He is the Lover man of Malawi music, building his entire career on love music. But when he was at his peak, and when Third term and Open term bids were trending, Fuggie Kasipa came up with a satire song, Ayimanso (He Will Contest Again).
In the song, Fuggie deviated from his usual sound and lyrics. He sang from a Christian point of view, that his Lord Jesus Christ will contest again in his life’s elections. This is a usual stand by any Christian, wanting Jesus Christ to eternally be in their life. But the word Ayimanso was synonymous with President Muluzi’s political attempts. His supporters used to chant Atcheya ayimanso! (The Chair will stand again). Fuggie simply tapped from that chant and threw a shade at the President and his supporters.
He was laughing at the President. It made no sense for him to overstay his welcome. The country was failing economically and some people had even started becoming nostalgic of the MCP leadership. In their mind, democracy had brought some radical changes and it was hard for a conservative society like that of Malawi to adapt to such changes. Worse enough, the changes were not working for the good of the country.
Seen as promoting the idea that President Muluzi should stay on in power, Fuggie Kasipa actually fought against the Chair from the inside. Ayimanso!
There was never a time Lucius Banda gave a personal criticism to President Muluzi. Lucius Banda has been flirting with politics for his entire career. Mabala, a song from his maiden album, Son of the Poor Man in 1993, was revolutionary in how it metaphorically escorted MCP to two decades in the political doldrums.
But soon afterwards, from 1996, Lucius Banda abandoned taking on MCP and started going against democracy. His Marxist ideas carefully weighed in on the present democratic system while at the same time reminded Malawi how brutal it was under MCP.
Although he was not in favor of the status quo, he was more against politicians and the system, and not the man at the top, even when he was desperately trying to extent his stay. Just like Billy Kaunda who had an album titled after a song against President Muluzi, Lucius Banda also had the same, in 2001, How Long?
But the question was not directed at the President. Lucius Banda was addressing it to people who surrounded the President. For him, it was not President Muluzi who had decided to stay on but his supporters. It went:
Dr. Bakili is respected worldwide for his stand on human rights
Please, don’t take away his honor
The honor of a Malawian by forcing him to stand for a third term
Why should a hero be turned into a zero?
Why should a friend of Mandela, Nyerere, Masire and Rawlings become a friend of Mobutu, Chiluba, Mugabe, Moi and Museveni?
President Muluzi was being forced. That was how Lucius Banda looked at the situation. But looking at how the President was assuming airs through party purges after he had publicly made his intentions clear, he was not being forced. It was his idea and tried all he could, by using even public resources, to make his continual stay possible.
But what can be taken out from Lucius Banda’s song is that although he was not against President Muluzi, he was against the Third and Open term bids. That indirectly showed how he was not for the President as well. 2002 – 2003 was a period Malawi politics fragmented from the trio tussle for power among UDF, MCP and the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD). The party system opened up.
It happened fast and one cannot help it but understand the political identity crisis that engulfed most people, including Lucius Banda. Unlike Billy Kaunda, he chose to step in wisely, dwelt on the system and not personalities. Three years later, he also vied for a political seat as a Member of Parliament under the UDF ticket. He stayed true to supporting President Muluzi by never giving him a personal criticism even when the President was an easy target.