Until the midnight of 21st May 2019, if you asked any Malawian even a child which was the most violent party in Malawi, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would likely be top of everyone’s lip. The post May 21 period, if you ask the most violent party, an honest Malawian will likely mention the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) followed by the UTM. How the DPP has managed to reverse the trend, let political historians and analysts examine critically the party’s strategy.
In 2014, people were likely be scared to go to Mangochi or Thyolo during elections with anti UDF or anti-DPP messages respectively. The no-so-loved DPP cadets were led unfortunately by the now transformed Lewis Ngalande and company, caused mayhem.
MCP after there decades of Kamuzu Banda’s ruthless rule, eight years of Gwanda Chakuamba at the helm with a very negative resume of being MYP commander and almost seven years under the once feared John Zenus Ungapake Tembo – the man Bakili Muluzi christened a “political mafia.” The coming of Reverend Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, an ordained born-again preacher and outstanding politician was a fresh breath in the air.
Reverend Chakwera, withstood his ground. No dirty words, no insults, preached love, servant leadership and it was time to change Malawi. Many urban and even the North, which hated MCP of John Tembo with passion, welcomed Chakwera. Had it been not for Saulos Chilima, MCP emerged as a second strongest party in the North. DPP got nine seats the same as independents, MCP was second, Peoples Party which won the region in 2014 came third with two MP’s and the UTM whose presidential candidate was the most popular in the region got only one seat.
What has gone wrong? What can our saint Reverend Chakwera’s options be to redeem his image again?
- Reject demonstrations and violence
The biggest casualty of the demonstrations is Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, his high moral ground as a servant leader, image as a Man of God and a servant of Jesus in Christ now lies in tatters. It had to take the Constitutional Court to compel Man of God to condemn violence called against Malawi Electoral Commission officials. No matter how his apologists might phrase it, Chakwera calling as he put it was to preach the gospel of Christ and that he viewed his political calling as part of the same.
Today, hundreds of small businessmen and women are crying over the demise of their businesses. Thanks to demonstrations he strongly endorses. Today, public facilities in his constituency of Lilongwe North West are being vandalised and Youth at Nsundwe are now christened “navy seals” proudly for wreaking havoc, beating police and torching public facilities. No matter which angle one would justify the right to demonstrate, ordinary citizens are now frightened to go about their work, political and CSOs leaders speak like war lords.
Even if a re-run is called today and Chakwera wins, the violence will leave scars on many small-scale businesses who will have to start over. Justice cannot be limited to political rights; it must be seen to be for every citizen.
Reverend Chakwera, the man who called for justice, must not have been asked by the Constitutional court to denounce violence. The demonstrations have revived the bad image of MCP as a violent party. Worst still, even gule wankulu, the UNESCO national heritage dance, today MCP has rebranded it as a violent and protesting cultural dance. This self-inflicted damage has to stop. Its about legacy of a smart politician, the legacy the Reverend and his militant publicity secretary, another reverend has built, sadly a violent image of a party which worked hard to cleanse its horrifying past.
The best starting position would be- What would Jesus Christ do? The call to prayer and fasting could have moved thousands of believers in a God-fearing nation. The call to the streets and its aftermath, I am sure has many now praying to God for peace than justice in elections. The devil can change your prayer petition and push you to a public debacle. The question now is what is stronger his belief in prayer or more demonstrations which are resulting in violence in the North and Central Region, which happen to be his base, while the DPP enjoys free cities in East and South.
Does it make sense for opposition supporters to continue damage in their strongholds and expect DPP to suffer when they did not vote for it? These questions can only be answered by fair and just men, which are now lacking in those leading or supporting demonstrations.
- Rebuild MCP beyond Central Region
The MCP Gwanda Chakuamba left was a national party, Nicholas Dausi, Masauli and others in the South, Peter Chiwona and others in the North. The MCP Tembo built was ridiculed as Lilongwe East-Dedza party. The party that had Luis Chimango, Makala Ngozo, Willard Gwengwe, Kate Kainja, Bestoni Majoni and even Bintony Kutsaira all doing his bidding. All the powerful positions were shared among these people until people like Lingson Belekanyama, Njobvuyalema and others from “kwa Dikisoni ndi ku Mudi” including Late Ishmael Chafukira could be trusted.
Reverend Chakwera’s biggest challenge has been to rebuild MCP to be an attractive franchise beyond its base- the Central Region. The unfortunate part, he had to welcome most rejects from 2014 party that failed-Peoples Party. Today, MCP looks like a blend of PP and some make up of old DPP and UDF. The new MCP with new Chakwera needed people like Jessie Kabwira, Juliana Lunguzi, Lovemore Munlo, Richard Msowoya, Felix Jumbe, Chris Daza and even Gustave Kaliwo more than most of the PP squadron that only joined because the DPP of Peter Mutharika rejected them. Sidik Mia, Gotani Hara, Ken Zikhale, Halima Daudi and Harry Mkandawire are purely businesspersons.
After demonstrations and elections case, if there are no chances for MCP to go into Government, these are people that will leave MCP without an apology. Ask Bakili Muluzi, Late Bingu or his living brother Peter whom of these politically-morally bankrupt politicians dumped him after plotting to hide the body, elect him as Chair then went on air as saints and saviours for Malawi. If you think Muluzi and Mutharika wont say much about this gang, try Joyce Banda, they misled her dumping Khumbo Kachali and left her immediately she was no longer useful to their political and personal agendas.
Chakwera has an option to build a new MCP without baggage of the past. The MCP in the South failed massively. In the North, mostly newcomers did well. Give people like Jacob Hara prominence. In the Central Region make peace with the die hards. Look MCP failed to impress in Mchinji, Nkhotakota and even Lilongwe rural Kustaira managed to show the party a middle finger.
Nancy Tembo can be trusted as a principled politician and even Madalitso Kazombo, Khumbize and Ezekiel Ching’oma. Give them a chance, blend with people like Alekeni Menyani, Lunguzi and the other young firebrand Chimwendo Banda. MCP revival will be complete.
Forget the rest of part time gang, many encouraging the participation in demonstrations or insult Mutharika or reject PAC or any other dialogue to burn your image capital to pave way for them to claim your position. Rebuild MCP, be forgiving and revive the oldest party to be relevant in all regions, especially in the east and south.
Where is the statesman Chakwera who was once entrusted by DPP, UDF and MCP at the peak of the 2005-2009 political upheaval to lead in discussing truce and peace? That Reverend Chakwera spoke of peace, personal sacrifices and quoted Nelson Mandela. The new Chakwera takes time to condemn violence, leads in protests and fails to call the out if they turn violent.
- Invest in a rerun-image and elections infrastructure
The last option for Reverend Chakwera is to invest in the probable rerun of the elections. He has to ensure he takes votes form DPP and UTM to comfortably beat the DPP and claim the ultimate prize. I have friends close to the whole NEC, none has sat down and strategize how to approach a possible re-run. The MCP is running amok with demonstrations while UTM which is the main sponsor of the demonstrations is busy planning a possible re-run and how to paint the MCP blacker. The oldest party needs to quickly re-invest in its national image as a party of peace and a party for everyone.
MCP needs to reflect its status as the wisest party to understand the excess of power and the pain of being in opposition. It does not need to copy the UTM marketing jibe to sale the MCP agenda. What he needs is to build and election infrastructure, from experienced statisticians, researchers and people who have done political research worth accurate results. Then he needs to reflect on the team that he campaigns with. Otherwise using most of those rejected at the ballot as MP’s would be a disaster, he needs a blend of new winners, voices and campaign that articulates the majority of Malawians that live in rural areas and want a change in their status.
The options for Chakwera, unlike Chilima are limited. He needs a rerun as that is his last chance to contest as a presidential candidate. But also seriously he should know that the UTM and Chilima and the DPP could be working to taint his image as much as possible. He is the only one standing between Peter Mutharika or Saulos Chilima and their desire to stay or enter State House. It will be naïve to believe and support demonstration and lawlessness which Chilima continuously and publicly condemns but has failed to stop short of even threatening to stop supporting if violence does not stop.
If Chakwera wins, Chilima has to wait for 10 years to realistically think he can take over and that assumes an MCP administration will fail. If Mutharika wins the court challenge or a possible re-run, he has limited chances of gaining votes in the east and south, so his target will be central region to install his UTM as alternative. The biggest loser to the rerun is UTM. The biggest loser to a win by DPP is MCP. Chakwera should stop trusting anyone as an ally and start living realistic politics- the enemy of my enemy is temporarily my friend.
Thanks for all the feedback. It was heart warming to see El Comandante Saulos Klaus Chilima in a desert fatigue, I am sure the direct response to my options last week. Very great indeed, as one Attorney General once said, one can only give advice, it is up to the recipient to use it or not. Those pictures, speeches and character will haunt someone’s political career for a long long time. Unfortunately, Malawians tend to forget very quickly once food is available. Let’s wait and see.
The challenge with our politics today, is that among the three leaders, none wants to be a leader at all. The comments reflect the advisors and boot lickers who in the first place cheated SKC and got him embarrassing four parliamentarians. If UTM remains arrogant and believe they are the best, they won’t convince any voter to vote for them. Nobody takes them serious in rural areas save for the show they put along.
- Next week, we will speak of options of Professor Peter Mutharika, he cannot continue wishing the tide will end…