In search of Daza’s replacement: Free advice to MCP

Understandably, Dr Lazarus Chakwera and the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are shaken over the sudden departure of their secretary general, Dr. Christopher Theophilus Daza, who has gravitated to orange pastures.

While this is expected in team formation – if our study of group dynamics is anything to go by, it can destabilize the crystalization of even the most formidable of teams /parties.

It is in this regard that we, at the Nyasa Times as custodians of democracy in Malawi, have decided to weigh in with free advice.

The past, as they say, is for reference and not for residence. And hence the party leadership and the membership should look to the future.

There are a few elements that the MCP should take into account as they try to fill the void created by Angoni’s departure.

For a start, Dr Christopher Daza has been the party’s Secretary General since 2008. He was re-elected at the party’s convention last August when he failed to win the presidency.

During that highly contested convention at the Natural Resources, Daza came third, amassing 90 votes while Chakwera won with 287 with Retired Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo coming second with 169 votes.

Since that August 11 convention, we had neither heard nor reported of any bad blood between Daza and his boss until this week when reports that the 2009 MCP Ntcheu Central MP contestant had thrown in the towel.

Within 24 hours, Daza was ‘unveiled’ as fully orange at a function in Dowa alongside veterans Gwanda Chakuamba and Katola Phiri.

Now, with elections a mere five months away, and with new leadership ushered in late, there is need for the MCP to carefully select its the new Secretary General, who runs the engine room of the party.

Against this background, we offer our unsolicited advice to the MCP in general and Dr Chakwera in particular.

First and foremost, with Dr Chakwera’s solid background as a Pentecostal Christian, the party stands to lose by replacing Daza with another Pentecostal Christian. Replacing Daza with another ‘born again’ Christian will reinforce voices saying that the new MCP leadership is turning MCP into MEP i.e. “Malawi Evangelical Party”.

With Dr Chakwera – a Pastor at heart – as party president, there is need to bring in, for example, a Catholic or a Muslim on board as the party’s Secretary General. This will deal with the increasing criticism of lack of inclusivity and at the same time sell the party to a wider religious constituency.

A devout Catholic, for example, would lead in making amends with the 1992 infamous reaction of the old MCP to the Catholic Bishops that followed the pastoral letter that ignited winds of change.

Secondly, the MCP desperately needs a Secretary General who is a proven professional, well versed with issues affecting women and youths in Malawi, and is up to date with current developments and challenges these two groups are facing.

Both the MCP leadership and the party in general will benefit by actively engaging these two constituencies which form the largest contingent of voters.

Thirdly, there is the issue of gender. Should the MCP and Dr Chakwera replace Daza with yet another male; they will have failed to redress the obvious shortage of women in the MCP National Executive Committee (NEC).

A woman party Secretary General will not only sell MCP as a gender sensitive party, but appeal to the women constituency and impress the donor community.

The fourth element is tricky but worth discussing all the same. Daza’s departure can potentially create a huge hole in the ‘Mangonilands’ of Dedza and Ntcheu. MCP, which has never done well on overall in this region, risks performing even worse in 2014.

To conclude, MCP needs a well exposed Secretary General at both local and international levels, someone who can connect with both Malawians and non-Malawians – in short, a person who can handle both party policy as well as domestic and foreign relations.

MCP cannot afford to have a Secretary General who is grounded in “village politics”; it risks failing to connect with intellectuals – who shape opinion; the diaspora Malawians and beyond – who can fund the party without undulging in corruption.

With a Secretary General with a brand name that is easy to sale, which cuts across the demographics of Malawi Daza’s departure could be turned into a blessing. Especially if this new Secretary General is energetic, results-driven and with proven capacity to resist the cashgate pastures.

We hope the MCP will find our free advice worth pondering.

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