The election on May 21 this year will be the sixth time Malawians go to the polls to elect their leaders since the return to multiparty politics in 1993. I have been privileged to participate in all the previous elections and have had success in some cases, disappointment in others. My choice of candidate in previous elections has been informed by the scant knowledge of the candidates on the ballot and what I thought they represented.
This time, for a change, I will have on the ballot paper someone I know very well. Now, that can be either a good thing or a bad thing, because, for sure, knowing someone as well as I do this candidate means I know whether they are good for this country or not. I know their strengths and weaknesses and can tell with near certainty whether they are the real deal or not.
Ladies and gentlemen, the candidate that I am supporting in this election is none other than Saulos Klaus Chilima and I am urging you to follow me in supporting him, not because I know him, but because by knowing him I am sure he is the right person for Malawi. It would be nice for those who know other candidates as well as I do mine to also make their cases so that Malawians can make the best choice.
I must say many people who know me have been surprised to see me in UTM regalia over the last 10 months. It was my stated principle after coming out of Chancellor College that I would not don party colours ever again. Indeed, I have even vowed that I would never put on anything that promotes a human being, be they a politician, a football player or whatever celebrity, but here I am. I know I am not alone in this. That is how special this election is.
How well do I know SKC?
Saulos and I are not only age-mates – he was born three months before I was – but we were also classmates for four good years at Chancellor College. We were both studying Economics and we both graduated with a Bachelor of Social Science degree in 1994. In our first year, we were both taking refuge in Chilembwe Hall, he in Room 3 and I in Room 1. We, therefore, met virtually every day.
When multiparty politics came to Malawi, we both became politically active although we went different ways. He was president of the Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) Chanco Wing and I was deputy publicity secretary for the United Democratic Front (UDF) wing. We were, in other words, political adversaries. It means we have not always agreed.
Since our graduation in 1994 our paths have crossed several times. He was a marketer and I was a journalist and therefore dealt with each other several times. Both of us also happen to be Catholics so that was another route for our continued interaction. Over the last nine months or so, I have been able to work with him and have got to know him even better.
Those who followed my writings during my days as a journalist will recall that in February, 2014, I congratulated SKC on his nomination as the presidential running mate for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) but made it clear that if he were to become the country’s vice president, he would do so without my vote because my conscience could not allow me to vote for DPP. It was a tough decision because I was really happy for him and wanted him to succeed. And I must say he did very well in that office. Now that he is his own man and leading his own party, I am not only going to vote for him, but I will also try to convince others to do the same because of the personal qualities I know he possesses.
So, what do I know about him?
He is genuine
SKC has not said many new things since he launched the UTM at Masintha Ground in Lilongwe on July 21, 2018. He has talked about corruption which every Malawian knows about and many other politicians have been harping about. He has been decrying the sickening levels of poverty which are very familiar to everyone living in this country. He has been condemning nepotism and its evils; things that have been highlighted in public discourse for quite a while. The difference between what we have been used to hearing and seeing SKC mention them is that you see genuine anger and frustration from him, you see a clear understanding of what needs to be done about these vices and, more importantly, a steel determination to be the one to lead the quest of addressing them. The UTM leader has proven that believability is a crucial factor in rallying the masses behind a cause. That is one of the reasons UTM has become a household name within a short time, defying the logic of all those who dismissed his bid when it started. It also explains why so many middle-class citizens who had nothing to do with politics only a year ago have come on board, offering themselves and their resources to help UTM’s bid. The anger you see at the rally or on the screen is what you see on SKC’s face even in private conversations. He is not putting up a show.
He has pride and ambition
SKC cares about his legacy and will do everything to create and leave behind a good name for himself. That explains why, despite all efforts by the establishment to scour for some mud to throw at him, nothing of note has come out to soil his five years of public service at such a high level as Vice President of the country. The man simply wants to be remembered as the leader who presided over the economic and social transformation of one of the world’s poorest countries. That pride and ambition is a source of great hope for Malawians because it creates a win-win situation. Malawians get the leader they have hitherto only dreamt of, while SKC builds the legacy that he has always aspired for.
He does not know failure
SKC has astounded many people by his levels of confidence, overconfidence if you will. The man simply does not know failure. The other day on one of his famed campaign sojourns in Thyolo, he was preceded by a heavy downpour which made the roads impassable. The driver in one of the vehicles ahead of him thought the most prudent thing was to turn back. SKC would not have it as it would mean he had failed to go and address the people whose vote he so much wanted. He asked the driver to step out, got onto the driver’s seat and drove the car to safety. He then returned the vehicle to the driver before going to take charge of his own and he proceeded to the rally venue and addressed the people. Drive and determination define his modus operandi. He believes in and lives the saying that where there is a will there is a way.
He has taste
SKC does not settle for half measures. It is either something is done well or it is not done at all. If you heard the story about the dyke in Nsanje, that was not an isolated incident. He simply detests mediocrity in all its manifestations. There are people who are now nostalgic about the standards that the founding father of this nation, the late Ngwazi, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda set in this country and in SKC you have a man that always settles for the best. You can, therefore, not expect him to compromise his standards in everything, be it on public appointments or in the quality of the development projects done on his watch.
He leads by example
SKC will not ask of you that which he is not ready to do or give. If he asks you to keep time, he will be the first to respect time. If he asks you to work hard, he will begin by rolling his sleeves and getting dirty. He will not abhor corruption in public while engaging in shady deals privately. He demands integrity because he smells integrity. That is a very important quality in a leader who wants to transform the ethos of a public service immersed in systemic lethargy and the mindset of a nation beset by a spirit of defeatism and resignation to fate.
He is frank
SKC will never leave you in any doubt as to what he thinks about you or something. He does not brook gossip. If he says anything negative about you in your absence, be sure that he will repeat it in your face once he gets the opportunity. That can only be good because no one working around him is uncertain about where they stand with their leader and everyone is able to work at ease and with clarity. There is no room for suspense.
He has enormous social capital
I cannot think of any presidential candidate who has a network of friends and collaborators as big and as diverse as SKC has. He simply knows who to go to whenever he needs a hand. And he seldom does that with the help of a third party. He will, of course, need advice in making certain appointments, but I doubt he will ever appoint anyone he does not know well enough to entrust them with a position. His social capital also means it is difficult to cheat him because, eventually, he is likely going to find out the truth through his vast network. I may call him a friend but I know hundreds of others that are ahead of me in the queue.
He is a patriot
SKC is not the only Malawian who knows the problems besetting this country and one would add that he is not the only one with the wherewithal to help change the situation. For many of us, however, personal comfort matters more than the drive to do something about the situation. SKC puts the country above personal interests. He had already made a name by being the first Malawian to head Airtel Malawi at such a young age and heaven knows how far he would have risen had he stayed on or moved to another job locally or outside. And yet he preferred to get dirty and risked a lot by resigning to accept to be running mate for a party that was in opposition and had just left power at a time when its popularity was at its worst. As vice president he is assured of state resources for the rest of his life and he could have chosen to leave the political stage to do other things, but his love for Malawi supersedes whatever personal interests he may have.
Of course, there are the other reasons that are known to many of you. Not all of the millions of people that love SKC have had the privilege of being as close to him as I have been, but they already know he is the real deal. They say he is a risk-taker; he is a hard-worker, he is humble, he is smart, he is God-fearing, he is focused, he is charismatic, etc. Mine was merely an attempt to lend weight to that vote of confidence. It is also an effort to convince those that still harbour doubts about him based on the fact that they do not know him well enough. Those who say politicians are all the same and that voting for Chilima, or indeed any leader other than the current rulers, would be simply changing from one of hegemony to another. To those people I am staking my reputation by saying, that is not entirely true. If you think voting for SKC is a risk, I will say SKC is worth that risk. I dare say SKC presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redeem this country. He epitomises hope for a brighter tomorrow.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :