In 1993, I was 9 years old when I first saw Gwanda Chakuamba at Mzimba Community ground where he held a political rally after getting released from Prison. This was an exciting time in the history of our country, even for curious and mischievous kids like me that always sneaked out from home to attend political rallies that were common as we were transiting from dictatorship to multiparty democracy between 1992 and 1994.
I loved to see political figures that were very famous for challenging Mkango, Dr Banda and championing the democratization movement, including Chakufwa Chihana, Bakili Muluzi, and some younger and brilliant youths like Dr Mapopa Chipeta whom I also liked and admired.
One thing that I remember vividly about what Chakuamba said at the 1993 rally was his reason for rejoining MCP. Mr Chakuamba told the gathering that after getting released from prison it was time to abandon MCP which had jailed him in the first place, “koma mphuno yanga, itanunkhizanunkhiza dzipani dzonze, ndinasankhabe MCP basi,” he said reassuringly while waving his finger to affirm that there was no better Party for him than MCP even at the dawn of democracy.
Mr Chakuamba breathed his last on Mondayy, but he has a special place in my heart mainly because of two reasons:
The first one is that I have never voted for a President in my life but once in 1999. And I voted for Gwanda Chakuamba then Presidential candidate for MCP, or rather the MCP/AFORD coalition of 1999. I know you are surprised how I voted in 1999 because if I was only 9 years old in 1993 then I obviously had not reached the minimum constitutional voting age of 18.
I was actually 14 years old when I went to register as a voter and I am even of a shorter height which could betray me. But I did found my way through, I registered, got my face captured on camera and I voted for Chakuamba. How I succeeded to do this at the age of 14 is a story for another day. But Chakuamba and Chakufwa Chihana inspired me with that courage at such a tender age.
The second reason is that Chakuamba was a fellow member of Adventist Church. We, the Adventists are probably the most conservative of all Christians and do not actively participate in politics especially at the partisan level as a matter of the standing of the Church. And until today, there is no clear consensus as to what extent Adventists can get involved in politics though they are allowed to “render unto Caesar that which is Caeser’s” through civil obligation including voting.
However, the Adventist Church has produced great politicians in Malawi and across the world despite the probably restrictive faith, and Chakuamba is the only Adventist that ever contested for Presidency of our Republic twice, and unofficially “won” the second time in 2004.
Chakuamba belongs to a special group of great Adventist men like Dr Ben Carson who was the first Adventist to contest for the USA Presidency in 2016 and President Major General Konrote of Fiji, who became the first Adventist to be President of a country in 2015.
And through out his politics, Chakuamba remained a true Adventist and respected the Sabbath day in his politics as per sacred dictates of our faith, just like Daniel, Joseph and other Biblical political figures that retained their Jewish faith and sacredness of Scripture even as they held high political offices in secular imperial governments of Babylon, Egypt and Medo-Persia.
For young Adventist that aspire to serve God and Mankind, and prepare Malawians for great citizenship in this world and for the world to come, I give you the greatest Adventist politician of all ages, Gwanda Chakuamba. As a Politician and a Christian, Chakuamba fought a good fight, he kept the faith, and he has honorably finished the race. May you learn from him, because he has no equal among the living of our politicians.
Fare thee well, Gwanda Chakuamba. May you receive your golden starry crown at God’s thrown of Grace.