These are not rumours. Weeks ago, a local chief in Malawi, Paramount Chief Lundu, made a strong case, publicly, connecting Prophet Shepherd Bushiri to mainstream politics.
At a ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) political rally in his area, Lundu publicly announced he has banned Prophet Bushiri’s churches in his area, saying Bushiri has ‘political interests’—whatever that means.
Weeks later, leader of newly formed Democratic Progressive Party (Depeco), Chris Daza, publicly told a media briefing in Lilongwe, Malawi, that he has written Prophet Bushiri, asking him to join his party.
There is a big reason why these two cases are important in the story of the apolitical Prophet Bushiri. These two cases, for the first time, makes a strong case, publicly, of connecting Prophet Bushiri to mainstream politics.
For the first time, after a series of hearsays and faceless arguments, we begin to see people coming out publicly attempting to marry Prophet Bushiri to mainstream politics.
Interestingly, not once, not twice, not even thrice, but countless times has Prophet Shepherd Bushiri—either on his own or through his spokesperson Ephraim Nyondo—denied these connections.
He had made it clear that he is comfortable running his ministry and he has neither intentions of partisan politics nor contesting for the presidency in 2019.
Surprisingly, the more he denies these connections, the more these reports, in a geometric progression trend, continue to spread. Of course at this point we, as Malawians, start to ask ourselves big and equally tougher – not softer – questions.
What is the genesis of the reports and, again, what is it that the public is seeing in Prophet Bushiri, absent in many other church leaders, that attracts perceptions that he intends to run for the president?
We have heard and read of many theories from various media reports that, according to those advancing them, explains the positive correlation between Prophet Bushiri and the speculated intention to contest in 2019.
We have heard and read that his unrepentant charity drives, especially relief maize distribution and also his support to the national soccer team, is a careful political strategy of selling himself, to more Malawians, as a caring leader.
We have heard and read that he is bankrolling Chris Daza’s Democratic Progressive Party (Depeco) with an underhand aim to take over in 2019.
We have heard and read that he is working with the ruling DPP in funding Depeco to weaken Malawi Congress Party (MCP) so that he gets larger fold in the ruling DPP.
I am telling you, our ears have heard and our eyes read so many theories about him and the Malawi politics. We have also heard and read that he is funding various individuals—politicians, musicians, actors, opinion leaders, footballers, chiefs, etc—with a goal of helping him establish himself politically on key pillars of society.
Interestingly, and intriguingly of course, Prophet Bushiri, mostly through his spokesperson, has explained clearly against all these allegations and theories that he is not interested in anything political including the flaring rumour that he would want to contest in 2019.
However, it must be underlined that the persistence of these reports, against his continued denial and repulsion, speaks of something larger about him as, perhaps, somebody who has the capacity to manage Malawi better.
It is debatable, of course, but studies and experiences agree that Malawi, stuck in the club of the world’s poorest nations, faces a critical leadership vacuum which, once appropriately occupied, can stimulate and launch her rise.
For a nation 53 years old since independence to still have millions going hungry, to still fail to meet basic social services of her people, to still be dependent on erratic donors, to still have almost half of her people wallow in abject poverty—speaks volumes of leadership bankruptcy.
Perhaps that is why, as 2019 draws, Malawians are no longer looking within their partisan establishment for leadership answers. They are looking outside—searching hope in young Malawians who have built their lives and career outside politics, but have managed to scale up beyond any shade of doubt.
Perhaps that is why the name Prophet Bushiri is always persistent in Malawi’s political discourse. Arguably, Prophet Bushiri’s rise to global stardom is a story that most Malawians of goodwill admire and those with ill intention greatly despise and burn with envy.
Malawi’s major challenge is that she has always been led by leaders who are experts at spending than generating income. We are a poor nation because we do not generate enough revenue within ourselves to fund our services.
All we have is leadership that knows how to steal from the little resources available and spend, wantonly, what remains. No strategy of generating enough and no strategy of carefully managing the resources for the benefit of the country. Personalized interests have engulfed the faculties and action stages of our leaders.
And here is Prophet Bushiri who has, against such lavish syndrom and through what can be pointed out as an outlier shrewdness, has managed to generate enough income not through his ministry, but in business investments through harnessing the power of global partnerships.
It is this attribute that many see him as an answer to Malawi’s leadership vacuum. They want a leader who can invest in generating income for the nation. They see the possibility in Prophet Bushiri because, in few years, he has managed to lift not just his life, but lives of so many Malawians out of poverty through his well-thought-out and gifted abilities of generating income through investments and harnessing partnerships based on mutual interests. They feel, perhaps, he can use these attributes if given a chance as Malawi president.
Let us accept it, he is rich—and he has wealth. He is young—his softer face can tell even from a distance. He is energetic—he, carried loads of maize bags on his shoulders, runs and jumps into larger vehicles on his own. He is apolitical—he doesn’t belong to any party, but respects government in power. He is socially conscious and he is the top-most followed Malawian on social media. He is respected and adored—he receives State security and honour in almost all nations he visits.
Arguably, in a country where being rich and famous only belongs to the aged and those with political connections, Prophet Bushiri will always remain a beautiful enigma amongst Malawians.
But the writing is already on wall—the numbers of his admirers continues to rise because he has proved to have leadership capabilities that are very rare in Malawi.
We know there are honest calls for him to come to politics. At the same time, we also know about his honest rejection and denial to be dragged into politics for he, already, has a big ministry to run and he, as he always says, is comfortable.
These, I repeat, are no longer rumours.
- The writer is a Master of Arts in Political Science student at a University in Australia