The election of Lazarus Chakwera as Malawi Congress Party leader has been welcomed with handclapping and ululation from many quarters. Some analysts have described his election as a move which has changed the political landscape.
I am not surprised that others are calling Chakwera as game changer. Few months ago, some had difficulties in identifying alternative leadership. But with Chakwera’s entry into the political scene, the fear of being asked to choose between a corpse and a dead body during 2014 presidential elections is no longer there.
People who were disillusioned with filthy politics of witch-hunting, insults, denigration, slander and character assassination, have now a choice of voting for a leader who believes in issue-based politics.
Kick-starting his campaign in Kasungu last Sunday, Chakwera never wasted his time ridiculing his political rivals as is fashionable with some politicians. All he did was to outline his vision for the nation and strategies for developing the country. Perhaps that explains why some call him a game changer in Malawi politics.
If he maintains the approach he took in Kasungu of dwelling on issues, Chakwera is likely to rake in votes from Malawians who are disenchanted by the politicians who make politics look like a dirty game.
Someone two days ago asked me: Is Chakwera Malawi’s next president? My honest answer was: “I am not sure.”
Indeed, I am not sure because the good reverend has chances just as is the case with PPM leader Mark Katsonga Phiri, DPP president Peter Mutharika, PP leader Joyce Banda, UDF’s Atupele Muluzi and others who will be gunning for the presidency. In the absence of a credible opinion poll, every presidential candidate has the chance of outwitting the other and make it to the State House.
What Chakwera has at the moment is abundant goodwill mostly from the urbanites and some rural districts which are the strongholds of MCP in central region. Other party leaders lost their goodwill because of various reasons.
If voters were only urbanites and members of the Facebook generation, Chakwera, in my view would have gone to the State House with landslide victory. But winning presidential elections is not only dependent on votes from urbanites and those on facebook but also from rural areas. Winning an election is a multiple of many factors.
Despite having a huge goodwill, Chakwera and the new MCP leadership have a daunting task of marketingthe party in all areas of the country where MCP has been inactive for 20 years. MCP leadership should go to Mtonda in Ntcheu and revive its branches so that the people know that it is still vibrant. It needs to go to Ndamera in Nsanje and revive its structures so that its followers appreciate its new approach.
Make no mistake, in some rural areas, MCP only exists on paper but its structures are flabby. The new MCP leadership has a huge task of reviving the party and breathing political life into its structures in areas, which the previous leadership ignored for many years.
Every political party should not be fooled by its so-called strategists who make useless lies mistaking them for accurate predictions of the outcome of 2014 polls. It is empty lies for People’s Party to cheat itself that it will win 2014 elections just because its leader is the incumbent president. Zambia’s Rupiah Banda lost elections when he was an incumbent president.
MCP will also be cheating itself that Chakwera will sweep into power because he has huge goodwill from urbanites. Zimbabwe’s Morgan Tsvangirai had similar goodwill and support from urbanites but lost elections miserably to Robert Mugabe. Even hypothesis that Chakwera will win because votes in Southern Region will split amongst Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika and Atupele, while Chakwera’s undivided central region votes will see him sail through, are nothing but contemptible political forecasts.
Likewise, Peter Mutharika and Atupele Muluzi should not deceive themselves that they will win elections because they are relations to former presidents, so in the name of brand association, they have high chances. It is not automatic that relations of former presidents will win the elections. Winning elections is more than being a brother and a son of a former president.
I hear a certain party has assembled political thieves who once stole elections sometime back believing that they will rig 2014 polls. Oh! My foot! Poor souls, they have forgotten that with new technology where the public will be tweeting, face-booking the results of elections, the traditional thieving strategy of tapping and jamming fax lines from DCs, then doctoring the results before re-channelling them to the official tally centre will not work.
Winning an election is more than being fooled by lies and euphoria of the incumbency, political brand association, goodwill and assumptions. Winning elections requires a proper strategy of wooing votes from the rural folks and the urban masses.
In Zimbabwe Mugabe used a powerful strategy to win the elections. While Tsvangirai and his top lieutenants were busy enjoying the trappings of ministerial positions in the city, Mugabe’s right-hand politicians were camping in the villages campaigning day and night marketing their party.
MCP, like DPP, PP, UDF, PPM and any other party, needs a viable strategy, including campaigning in all parts of the country and having strong monitors who can stop alterations of results at polling centres. MCP needs to turn the goodwill into votes, as it turns its weak structures in the South and the North into vibrant ones.
* The article appeared in the Daily Times newspaper.
Brian Ligomeka is currently working as the managing editor of Times Group in Malawi. Previously he served the group as editor of The Sunday Times andThe Daily Times. An avid commentator on politics and social issues, Ligomeka runs a column in The Daily Times called The Twister.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :