Malawi ‘big four’ vie for presidency: Telling the tales of May 20 polls

It is an undeniable reality that four of the 12 presidential candidates – Atupele Muluzi,  Lazarus Chakwera, Peter Mutharika and Joyce Banda – are the most likely to win the Tuesday May 20 tripartite elections. Their names have caused immeasurable tumult and, from the look of things, all the four are optimistic of carrying the day.

In the last of the entries on presidential hopefuls for the May 20 tripartite elections Nyasa Times’ Pius Nyondo tells the stories of Atupele Muluzi (United Democratic Front), Lazarus Chakwera (Malawi Congress Party), Peter Mutharika (Democratic Progressive Party) and Joyce Banda of the People’s Party.

Joyce Banda

President Banda

President Banda

 

Aged 64, Joyce Banda – incumbent State President of the Republic of Malawi – is arguably the most experienced of the ‘big four,’ with a wide outlook of the three regimes that Malawi has seen – MCP, UDF, DPP and her own PP.

During the MCP era she was wife to Chief Justice Richard Banda – now first gentleman. It means, without doubt, she had a feel of what it meant to be at the heart of government business. In the UDF era Banda served in a number of ministerial portfolios including the Ministry of Gender, Women and Child Welfare under President Bakili Muluzi. Joyce Banda then joined DPP after Bingu wa Mutharika fell out with Muluzi in 2005 and served as a member of the former’s cabinet before she was picked as running mate.

She became Malawi’s president following constitutional following the sudden death of her boss Mutharika who died of cardiac arrest.

PERSONAL LIFE

Banda has throughout her life been involved in women rights activism at grassroots level. She has said several times on political podia that she fell out with her first husband [Mr. Kachali] because he was “an abusive husband.”

Before joining frontline politics Banda founded the National Association of Business Women (NABW), Young Women Leaders Network, the Hunger Project and Joyce Banda Foundation – a non organization that is primarily concerned with the welfare of women and children.

A strong woman with a very strong character, Banda – once a Mandasi [fritters] seller – has risen through the ranks of life to become one of the most celebrated women of her time world over.

In 2013, Banda – Malawi’s first female president – was named 47th and most powerful woman in the world and Africa respectively by Forbes.

TOUGH PRESIDENTIAL RIDE

Joyce Banda inherited a government hampered with a number of problems from economic, political to social economic challenges.

Her predecessor, Mutharika, had messed up the economy and international relations, among other things.

Immediately she ascended to power, Banda has improved Malawi’s tainted international relations and the economy. The country now has stable reserves of foreign currency and fuel which were in frighteningly short supply during the Mutharika era.

Banda’s two years of presidency were also punctuated with the cashgate and presidential gate scandals – both to do with fraud and financial maladminstration. Most Malawians thought Banda would fall with the scandals; she has remained as strong and, is still on the grassroots, a force to reckon with.

WITTY POLITICS OF HOUSING AND HANDOUTS

A very clever politician and knowing the poverty that cuts across the people of Malawi, Joyce Banda has engaged the politics of housing and handouts to win the hearts of millions of people at grassroots in Malawi.

More than three-quarters of voters, according to Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) statistics, are from the rural earlier.

Through her witty politics, Banda has built hundreds of good houses for poor Malawians and has given out thousands and thousands of tonnes maize – Malawi’s staple food – to the needy.

ROAD TO MAY 20

During her campaign tours across the country, Banda has attracted mammoth crowds and, a gifted speaker, she has managed to woe not just a few but millions of people to her side.

Many Malawians – especially in the rural areas – have sympathized with her, saying things have been much better during the last two years than they were during Mutharika’s – her predecessor – last months of stay in office.

Banda’s running mate is Sosten Gwengwe from the Central Region district of Dedza. She dumped incumbent State Vice President Khumbo Kachali. Thus, Banda is likely to have to herself more votes from the Southern Region – where she comes from – and from the Central Region, Gwengwe’s home.

Peter Mutharika

Mutharika:  Bingu's brother leader

Mutharika: Bingu’s brother leader

An esteemed lawyer and recipient of the 2008 International Jurist Award, Peter Arthur Mutharika was born in Malawi in 1940.He has worked in the area of international Justice internationally. He is an expert on international economic law, international law and comparative constitutional law.

He was informally serving as an adviser to President Bingu wa Mutharika from the onset of his election campaign until the President’s death on the 5 April 2012, in issues of foreign and domestic policy.

He also held positions of Minister of Justice, and later the Minister for Education, Science and Technology. Mutharika was also the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

EDUCATION

Mutharika received his law degree from the University of London in 1965. He then received his LL.M and JSD degrees from Yale University in 1966 and 1969 respectively. As a professor, he has taught at University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Haile Selassie University (Ethiopia), Rutgers University (USA), the United Nations Institute for Training and Research Program for Foreign Service Officers from Africa and Asia at Makerere University (Uganda), and Washington University (USA), and has served as an Academic Visitor at the London School of Economics (UK).

Mutharika also served as advisor to the American Bar Association’s Rule of Law initiative for Africa. He was also the chair of the Institute for Democracy and Policy Studies.

BROTHER’S, OWN MISTAKES

Mutharika is haunted by Bingu wa Mutharika’s – his late brother – sins and those he committed while serving in a number of ministerial positions, especially the Ministry of Education.

Many Malawians have out rightly stated that they don’t want to have another Mutharika for president following the disaster Bingu created in Malawi.

Mutharika, as Malawi political and governance expert Dr. Henry Chingaipe put it the other day, lost it big time to prove to Malawians that he is worth a leader.

He failed to sort out the Academic Freedom Saga at Chancellor College, University of Malawi in 2011 after lecturer Blessings Chinsinga was questioned by former Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhitho over an example he had given in class.

The move resulted in the firing of Chinsinga and the closing of the institution for about six months.

Mutharika thus terribly failed to showcase his leadership skills.

Poor handling of this issue, including failure to secure academic freedom and reinstatement of lecturers became a national issue of debate and one of the contributing factors outlined in the 20 points of discontent leading to the July, 20 2011 Malawi protests.

By September 8, 2011, Mutharika was moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

LHOMWE BELT, OPINION POLLS, PROPHETS

Mutharika has an upper hand in the May 20 elections considering the fame and firm roots he has in the Lhomwe districts of Thyolo, Mulanje, Phalombe and Chiradzulu.

The districts have close to half of the country’s registered voters.

A number of opinion polls have tipped Mutharika as Malawi’s next leader the first being one conducted by Nation Publications Limited’s (NPL) newspaper Nation on Sunday.

Recently, Mutharika was also tipped that he will be Malawi’s leader by Africa barometer – a renowned African organisation.

Mutharika, 74, has also been tipped by a number of the country’s religious prophets that he will win the May 20 tripartite elections. Malawi is said to be a “God-fearing nation.”

ROAD TO MAY 20

Mutharika won with a landslide to be DPP’s torchbearer at the party’s national indaba in 2013. He contested against Henry Chimunthu Banda – current Speaker of the Malawi Parliament.

His rallies have also attracted thousands of Malawians, and he is arguably one of the strongest contenders of the ‘big four.’

His running mate is youthful Saulos Klaus Chilima, an accomplished business personality formerly Managing Director of Airtel Malawi, who come from the Central Region.

LAZARUS CHAKWERA

Chakwera

Chakwera

 

Chakwera is a church-pastor-turned politician and was born on April 5, 1955 in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe to a subsistence farmer.

According to Wikipedia, Chakwera is an only son with surviving sisters. He is married to Monica and together they have four children and grand children.

In 1977 he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Philosophy) Degree from the University of Malawi. He got his honours degree (BTh) from the University of the North, Sovenga, South Africa. In 1991 he got his Masters (MTh, from the University of South Africa. The Trinity International University, in Deerfield, Illinois, USA awarded him a doctorate (D. Min) in the year 2000. The Pan Africa Theological Seminary awarded him Professorship in 2005.

NEW MCP

The election of Chakwera at MCP’s national indaba in August 2013, brought about joy and jubilation in the hearts of millions of Malawians.

Before, MCP had been said to be an autocratic party that resisted change – essentially because of the presence of John Tembo, Chakwera’s predecessor.

Chakwera has brought in an aura of change in MCP, and for the first time Malawians –   not only from the Central Region, where the party has its stronghold – have fallen in love with the party and are ready to vote in Chakwera as Malawi’s next leader.

POLITICAL STINT

Chakwera has throughout his life been known as a reverend and leader of the Malawi Assemblies of God for which he was president for 20 years – from 1983.

He is according political analysts a novice in Malawian politics with no experience at all. Chakwera, again, has extensive religious leadership experience which is totally different from political leadership.

Politically, Chakwera is the cleanest of the ‘big four,’ and therefore the best choice for many Malawians who do not want recycled politicians.

OPINION POLLS

All the opinion polls that have been conducted prior to the May 20 tripartite elections, Chakwera has been ranked second.

And, according to Richard Msowoya – his running mate – it means MCP is really a force to reckon with as far as the May 20 elections are concerned.

ROAD TO MAY 20

Like the rest, Chakwera has a great impact on the May 20 tripartite elections if the crowds that have been attending his political rallies are anything to go by.

He is likely to take most of the vote in the Central Region – his home – and from the 2004 and 2005 general elections deciding region where his running mate Msowoya comes from.

 

Atupele Muluzi

Atupele Muluzi

Atupele Muluzi

Austin Atupele Muluzi was born on August 6, 1978.  He is a Malawian politician and son of Bakili Muluzi, Malawi’s second President.

He was Minister of Economic Planning and Development under the Joyce Banda administration but resigned after some senior members of the ruling party verbally attacked him at a political rally due to his position as the leader of an opposition party.

After resigning, he began to focus on his career as the leader UDF. He is a sitting member of parliament for the Machinga North-East constituency.

He is married to Angella Zachepa, and is the youngest of the presidential candidates for the tripartite polls.

EDUCATION

Muluzi attended Saint Andrews International High School in Blantyre, Malawi and Bentham Grammar School in Yorkshire, England (now Sedbergh School) where he became its head boy. He is a graduate of the University of Leicester, United Kingdom in Economics and Law, and the College of Law in London. He is a lawyer by training.

DADDY’S BOY

Many Malawians have doubted Atupele’s independence, arguing he still has so much inclination towards his father.

Muluzi – Atupele’s father – was the first democratic president of Malawi but his ten year rule was marked by gross corruption.

He is currently answering graft charges over K1.7 billion of donor money which he allegedly channelled to his personal country.

Of course Malawians’ fears could be baseless.

AGENDA FOR CHANGE

Muluzi has been campaigning on an Agenda for Change. He blames all Malawi’s problems on leadership, and is certain that he is the change Malawi has been waiting for.

During the second presidential debate Muluzi said he “will make it mandatory that politicians and civil servant do not supply to the government” and that he “will use private external auditors to audit government.”

ROAD TO MAY 20

Muluzi has also been a crowd puller each time he has addressed his political rallies. With an authoritative voice, he appealed largely to most youths who form 60 percent of the total voters in the country.

His running mate is Dr. Godfrey Chapola – an agriculture expert from the Central Region. Muluzi is thus likely to get most his vote from the Southern Region Yao belt area where he comes from and from the centre, Chapola’s home.

Conclusion

The big four have, to be sincere, almost equal chances in the May 20 tripartite elections. Each with outstanding qualities in one area or another, they are going to make voting very interesting for Malawians.

Unlike in the past Malawi elections where it has been easy to say who will win a particular election, the May 20 polls are different. It seems all the four are going to win.

But; of course, it is Malawians’ choice.

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