The recent address by Dr. Mathews Chikaonda as a guest of honour at the Society of Accountants gala left a lot people speculating about his intentions. Does he want to get back into politics? He once served as a finance minister before being appointed to the present position as CEO of Press Group. His speech made some of us wondering as to whether he is exploring the possibility of running for office of the president. Indeed, it is a welcome political development. Chikaonda’s stature and background would bring something to the existing presidential contenders in the likes of Joyce Banda, Peter Muthalika, Atupele Muluzi, Cassim Chilumpha, John Tembo George Ntafu and Jumbe.
Unlike the rest, Chikaonda has not held an elective office and that will be a tough test if he decides to join the band wagon. Yes, the country is dissatisfied with the direction of the present administration and yet the opposition seems to be in disarray. This I think is where the ex-finance minister’s political calculation hinges. In my view it seems the opposition lacks an apparent leader who is smart, charismatic and bold enough to take on the current administration with a clear agenda for the country.
His problem, however is that Chikaonda doesn’t have an established political party. At one time he belonged to UDF but I am not sure if that still is the case. My point being all the others have their names already established with party structures and grassroots followers to a greater extent. My bet hence is that Dr. Chikaonda will have to team up with some recognized name in some existing opposition political party.
The political landscape favors the opposition at the moment, of course these dynamics changes from time to time, so much that if the election were held today, Joyce Banda’s party would be in a better position to win. Like I said, 2014 is too long a period in political calendar for that to hold.
Anyhow, Chikaonda would have it tough to unseat Joyce Banda in a party convention assuming they will be one, hence would settle for vice presidency. The two though have very different perspective of governance noting the varying academic and practical experiences. Eventually, this would create a phony working relationship which is bound to explode in the same fashion as we are witnessing now between Joyce Banda and President Bingu wa Mutharika.
The infighting and leadership wrangles in UDF would make one hesitate to make a comeback. Additionally, it was rumoured that Chikaonda while he was finance minister he had a number of differences with the UDF gurus most of whom are still at the helm and are the face of the party.
Unless there is a coalition of smaller parties to which he would be willing to be the torch bearer, I would think the best political move would be to team up with Atupele Muluzi who has the potential of amassing support from a cross section of the people. Right now he has some of the UDF former power houses in the densely populated voting blocks and so Chikaonda may stand to benefit from this kind of political arrangement if his ambitions are to ascend to the presidency.
But would the two work together?
No one can predict that for now if we are to go by the past two experiences we had. Mutharika and Cassim Chilumpha; Mutharika and Joyce Banda. It’s worth noting however that Chikaonda’s academic and practical experience coupled with maturity is a superior candidate for the presidency than Atupele. On the other hand however Atupele’s performance so far, openly challenging UDF gurus, shows he has something that can’t be dismissed out of hand. Whoever decides to pair with him should know what they are getting themselves into.
Having said that, Chikaonda’s assertion that mediocrity, indecision, craziness and the use of outdated political software is destroying the country may be right depending on how you look at it, except that he is being disingenuous. Unless the outdated political software has just been realized and what is the “revised version” of the political software that Chikaonda has created now?
The truth of the matter is that he hasn’t had an elected public office. He was appointed Reserve Bank Governor, then Finance Minister, and subsequently CEO of Press Group (the current position) by Bakili Muluzi. This doesn’t discount him from christening the government nor does it bar him from running for any office. It only questions the sincerity of his criticism.
In the same vein, I would like to hear his explanation why it has taken almost 8 years to realise that the policies that were pursed by the previous administrations have suddenly become outdated when you were part and parcel of the team both as a finance minister and the countries chief economic advisor on monetary policy as a governor.
Dr. Kamuzu Banda created and natured Press Group as the engine of economic growth and it did just that of course by being a monopoly. It was probably for that very reason the Muluzi administration, through parliament, grabbed the company from Kamuzu.
By the way, this bill was no different from the infamous Forfeiture Act . My point being that Kamuzu’s outdated policies created Press Group, and Bakili Muluzi’ outdated philosophies grabbed the same company from Kamuzu and appointed Chikaonda to run it. Bingu’s outdated agenda had Chikaonda running the same organisation. In fact, Chikaonda is probably the longest serving Malawian in that position, which probably it’s a testimony that he is doing a wonderful job at the conglomerate.
But Chikaonda hasn’t done great in helping the economy. CEOs of major corporations like Press do influence economic growth by spelling out how government policies may be detrimental or beneficial to the profitability of the companies and the country as a whole. He lived in Canada and he should know better.
What can he tell us about the forex and energy crises? By all standards his position at Press is probably the most powerful by virtue of the company’s economic activities. I am at a loss as to why he has been silent on important issues that hugely affect the country. Or should I take it that there’s more to come from his recent remarks? I hope so.
*The articles was first posted on Maravi-PostFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :