Banda, Chakwera, Muluzi, Mutharika qualify but prevailing political cultures should set them apart

It is no secret that Dr Joyce Banda (PP), Dr Lazarus Chakwera (MCP), Professor Peter Mutharika(DPP) and Mr. Atupele Muluzi (UDF) are the four top contenders in the forthcoming tripartite elections with realistic chances to form the next administration. This does not mean that the other eight contestants are non-entities. No. They are bonafide and patriotic citizens that have shown the desire to serve. You cannot ignore them. They will help shape policy and broker power. They may spoil or boost chances of the Top 4 contenders depending on the policy arguments they may put on the table. But it is the top four with no clear ranking that will have a shot at the goal and possibly score.

THE CANDIDATES ARE CAPABLE!

BUT we need one candidate to win the election, not only for his or her political party, friends, or families, but for the entire nation. After winning the election, the President Elect will be Citizen Number 1 for the whole country, so they say.

While MEC has certified Banda, Chakwera, Mutharika and Muluzi as eligible to run for the high office of the President of the Warm Heart of Africa, they possess attributes that are unique, specific and exciting.

  1. Banda is an achiever in many aspects, small and big. From NGO work that is basically charity, she joined politics and has occupied various positions ranging from being a Member of Parliament, a Minister, a Vice President and now a Stand-in President after the demise of Bingu wa Mutharika.
  2. Chakwera is no joke as well. After gracing the corridors of Chancellor College, he chose an unusual path among fresh graduates of his time. He chose to work with the Church as a Pastor. He rose through the leadership ranks to become one of the long serving Presidents of the Malawi Assemblies of God. In fact, at the end of every term, he had to go through re-elections that are democratic unlike in other religious communities. Noticing his potential, different governments appointed him to serve as Chairperson in various Parastatal Boards. Like Banda, Chakwera has a deeper understanding of civil society work as the Church actively participates in public affairs. He once brokered the negotiations over Budget Impasse saga during Bingu’s First Term when he had a minority government after ditching mother UDF. He defied people’s expectations when won against eleven other contestants at the MCP convention and was crowned the tilte of a game changer. Is he still one?
  3. On the other hand, Mutharika is no stranger. He is an accomplished scholar, professor of law and well travelled. He appeared on the political scene as an Advisor to his late Brother Bingu. He moved on to serve in different Ministerial positions in Bingu’s Government and became a clear successor even before Bingu died, a situation that gave birth to breakaway PP.
  4. Muluzi is no kid on the political block. He has served as a Member of Parliament now for 10 years. He became aggressive towards the end of DPP second term. He moved on to become the Chairperson of UDF and later endorsed as its 2014 torch bearer. He had a short stint with a ministerial position and presided over the development of the Economic Recovery Plan while serving Banda’s administration.

PREVAILING POLITICAL CULTURES SETTING THEM APART

Looking at their impressive individual records, they all appear to be fit to govern Malawi and lead us all to prosperity. They are promising great things and change. They have weaknesses as individuals but at this stage it may be too late for these weaknesses to matter most. They command a following. They are looking good but they are different. It is not just the name of a party, tribe, region or wealth that makes them different. ONE most important difference marking them is the POLITICAL CULTURE surrounding and pushing them. They are sailing through PP/MCP/DPP/UDF political cultures that define their agendas. These could be political cultures of service, sacrifice, corruption, exclusion, takes-it-all, abuse, nepotism, discrimination, handouts, and many more. These are the cultures that separate Banda from Chakwera, Mutharika from Muluzi vice-versa.

But who cultivates the cultures in political parties? It is the individuals, the members that form political parties. Political cultures are largely defined by the key political players within the party. These leaders that occupy political offices, the sponsors that are normally called well-wishers and the external political environment all help define political culture. For example, Bingu is said to have performed very well during his first term but things started to fall apart a few months after the landslide victory in 2009. What changed? It was the external political environment that changed where opposition was now in minority and a blank cheque handed over to him. It is the teams that surround the President that cultivate the cultures and sometimes dictate or ill-advise him/her on what to do. Such teams can terrorise the President and may hold the real power-wand.

So what is the prevailing culture surrounding Banda, Chakwera, Mutharika and Muluzi? They may be good on their own as individuals but the cultures pushing them are reflected through the TEAMs bankrolling their campaign may be hazardous or supportive. Such teams have their own interests that may be quite different from that of the President and the entire party. What are these Teams?

TEAM BANDA:

Pres. Banda

Pres. Banda

When Banda just formed the People’s Party (PP) while Vice President, she had a small team of sympathisers and the binding factor was frustrations from the power struggle with Mutharika of DPP. When she ascended to power in April 2012, the Team ballooned in no time and many people wanted to be associated with the outcast Banda and Kachali. They walked from all walks of political life. They came from DPP, UDF, MCP and many more. Some had migrated with Banda from UDF, then to DPP and then to PP. So PP became the city center of political cultures from different directions. In fact, some think PP is the final home of all recycled politicians that have changed political parties since 1994. Apart from bringing experience, the Team surrounding Banda brought the culture of Corruption, vengeance, nepotism and handouts. When Banda ascended to power, many were happy. But what changed? Some think things started to fall apart when PP swallowed the recycled politicians with personal agendas. Some think CASHGATE was time bomb that exploded when inherent culture of corruption reached a boiling point. The team is nervous of getting out of government if Banda loses. It will support Banda to the end. Can Banda manage to shed this team and culture off when she wins? That possibility should determine whether she deserves a win or not.

TEAM CHAKWERA:

Chakwera: MCP president

Chakwera: MCP president

MCP is probably the most evolved or polished party going into this elections. For the past 20 years. MCP has been losing some of key members to other parties. Gwanda, Ntaba, Kutsaira, Daza, Chiponda, Dausi, Kalebe, Gwengwe are all gone searching greener pastures elsewhere. Only those that were dissatisfied or never reached the level of a big fish to be poached remained and kept the party going. Today, over 50 % of the Team Chakwera could be new. The campaign is being driven by the members and sympathisers.  The Team is full of volunteers giving to the party and not relying on handouts. The individuals supporting the Chakwera have different interests and are bringing along cultures that are hard to define. This uncertainty gives Chakwera an opportunity to transform Malawi politics and bring new culture that delivers change. But some may have personal interests, they may be making investments to terrorise Chakwera when he wins. The MCP culture in democratic era is has not been fully defined because of 20 years out of government. Then, it may be Chakwera shaping the Team to some extent as the prevailing culture appears young.

TEAM MUTHARIKA:

Mutharika : DPP leader

Mutharika : DPP leader

The team is full of political remnants after the political earthquake following the sudden death of Bingu. It shares common characteristics with Team Banda such as corruption. Some think DPP laid the foundations of CASHGATE. But Team Mutharika may have unique ones; executive arrogance, nepotism, vengeance and imposing leadership. It is a team full of bitterness feeling robbed of government when Banda took over. It feels persecuted by the Banda administration through arrests and dismissals from key positions. The team comes fighting to wrestle power back. Probably, Team Banda is very afraid of this team because of the TIT-FOR-TAT culture DPP is famous of. But the team may be given the benefit of doubt. New team members have joined while it lost most of its key members to PP including Banda herself. It may have learned a few things and open a new page. Will Mutharika manage to calm down the anger of the team members and introduce a new page?

TEAM MULUZI:

Atupele  Muluzi: UDF leader

Atupele Muluzi: UDF leader

This is another team that has evolved during the 10 years of wilderness after being ditched by Bingu. UDF lost most of its key members to DPP and PP. A good percentage of Team Muluzi are new guys on the political block. But the Team Muluzi may be full of anger as Team Mutharika. They still feel duped by the Bingu administration and pushed into opposition. The Team may still have some elements of corruption, carelessness, nepotism and imposing leadership which may be a disadvantage. Does Muluzi have enough power to ignore such culture if it attempts to resurface when he wins? Shall he be his own man and drive Malawi to a new phase?

At the end of the day, it is not only about Banda, Chakwera, Mutharika and Muluzi. As individuals, they may mean well and be visionary. But they cannot govern the country alone. It is the teams that will define the agenda and culture through which the President elect will swim through, try to change or get swallowed.

Let the BEST TEAM Win the elections for Malawians. Let the potential President understands his/her team NOW! If you want to get the best candidate, then PEEP into the teams that are defining the prevailing culture in these parties.

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