I promised last week to start analysing the post-election period for politicians after starting off with Civil Society leaders. I want to start with Saulosi Klaus Chilima, the immediate-past Vice President and leader of UTM Party. For simple reason he has the largest social media and real media machinery.
Chilima unfortunately emerged the biggest casualty of the elections. His whole UTM executive committee was simply unelectable- they couldn’t get seats in the Central Region, and only one in the North, East and South.
At his age (46) and likelihood that he will run again in 2024 or a re-run should the court think there was some funny things are higher than Reverend Lazrus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and most of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) wannabe’s. So, the five options here should help decide whether he really wants the Presidency or face another humiliation:
- Recharge UTM structures
The massive loss even in Ntcheu, shows there is fundamentally something wrong with the structure of the UTM. He needs serious characters who have really done Malawi politics beyond Patricia Kaliati, Noel Masangwi and Richard Makondi’s. Failure to get elected as a councillor or MP shows that most of the selected candidates did not fit the bill or merely, they all were cheating him. The challenge is UTM is managed by people seen as frustrated, some who jumped from other parties. This is quite destructive for the image of a new party. By the time the same people go back to their audiences, nobody believes them that they represent change. Masangwi and Louis Ngalande are attached to Robert Chasowa’s murder case, Makondi his own corruption case, Callitsa is not the most popular first lady. It is difficult to convince a voter that UTM means anything new. Add Iqbal Omar from his fights in UDF, Richard Msowoya, Jessy Kabwira versus MCP and even Anita Kalinde vs Peoples Party. The road to May 21 was already defined by who surrounded Chilima. Seeing the same faces that had left after fights in other parties meant that supporters from those parties-even the moderates would shun the UTM. The reality is stop sending people to work on structures, start conducting elections in wards, constituencies, districts, regions and re-do national convention. Everything done in 2018 was a sham, including the primaries.
- Election case could kill SKC chances
UTM has assembled a brilliant legal team, exciting, but only in court. The court of opinion among voters is that it is unelectable. UTM is not ready for elections. MCP has a weak case. But should the court order a rerun, today, only DPP and MCP has realistic chances not UTM. This is reality. Chilima should push for electoral reforms, build a party and be ready for 2024 elections. He should have left the DPP win in doubt without pushing for a rerun. Otherwise should DPP win, it will be difficult for him to make a convincing case in 2024. Should court order a rerun- the UTM will lose badly, MCP will be actual winners!
- Stop speaking like a war lord
As a transformative leader he should have maintained his calm, reduce attacks and appear to be the leader for all Malawians. Watching him chant “osaopa” dressed in military fatigues, removes the image of a caring religious down to earth leader he built overtime. It is common to hear people speak of him as arrogant and sharing his speeches like “I came to say bye” at Kauma or “sabera”. It seems Chilima still believes in playing for the urban and educated. His team should do analysis of the elections results and will see urban areas vote output versus rural areas. He needs to court conservative party aligned voters to his cause. His language and attitude will contribute to gaining peoples trust. Otherwise, he will learn the hard way, Malawian voters prefer humble politicians to rowdy ones. Brown James Mpinganjira, Gwanda Chakuamba and ChakufwaChihana provide perfect examples. In 2009 Bingu wa Mutharika was facing the arrogant “tube chopopa ndekha” in 2014 Peter Mutharika faced a Joyce Banda who justified everything against public opinion. If he wants to win, SKC needs to tame his speeches. He needs to do it now.
- Make peace with the Southern Region
From 1994 todate only a foolish politician would ignore the Southern Region and expect to occupy State House. No. Actually it is more than being stupid to subject the region to attacks and expect they will vote for you. SKC lost the Southern Region when he spoke “next time I will go to the South” and allow his lieutenants to chide or challenge “Blantyre or kummwera”. The sentiments makes the region as being against him or the UTM. He needs to make amends, preach peace and show the region how they are equally affected. As his teams that visited the North and Eastern Regions a few days ago, people who support the DPP are likely to vote for it again and majority are in the South. He needs to break the DPP majority in the South to head to plot number 1. He can do that by showing he care for them, not antagonise them for their current choices. There is still time to make amends.
- Provide Leadership
Whose tune is Chilima dancing to? CSOs or his party agenda. The danger now is both him and Reverend Chakwera walk the same stretch, shore up support but it is Timothy Mtambo and Gift Trapence of Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) leading the way. The MCP has been asking its councillors and MPs to contribute to the people. People don’t follow those behind others. If APM has been quite SKC option is to provide leadership, call for peace and become a father of all Malawians. Then he can start dreaming of State House. Otherwise walking beside Chakwera, Mtambo and Trapence does not build him as a leader, rather a follower. It was MCP that conducted first demonstrations to courts. SKC might wish to pull out of demos and lead in being the mature leader, or he might invent his own protests unique and not like demos like every Malawian wear red on a certain day or stop for a minute of silence at a particular minute and day. Otherwise he should stop following and provide Leadership. Nelson Mandela was outside ANC ruling team in jail, he became a leader even whites voted for, because he preached peace. SKC can leave MCP and its violence, Mtambo and his fight, and be the champion of peace.
Many accuse President Peter Mutharika of lacking leadership qualities, the three leaders so far Mutharika, Chakwera and Chilima have equally shown that personal ambition overrides reason. SKC could make himself outstanding, should he become a statesman, than an emotional follower. 2024 is already 3 years and nine months away. Remove the campaign year and the wasted 2019.
Next, Reverend Lazarus Chakwera options.