I am fully aware that a manifesto is a product of collective ideas that reflect on the aspirations of a political entity.
However, political parties elect presidents as overseers, head drivers, and direction givers. Therefore, the final product of any manifesto is approved by the parties’ heads, thereby reflecting their vision. Should the head or President of the party feel that the manifesto does not reflect well on their personal vision, such a manifesto is sent back for refining with comments, new direction and corrections. In essence, presidents own manifestos, especially in Malawi. The recently released MCP manifesto is no different.
The man behind the MCP manifesto is the party’s president, Dr Lazarus Chakwera. I thought a reflection on the man himself will help us appreciate his way of thinking and how that way has informed on the document that has made social media abuzz with comments, compliments, criticism and controversy.
So far, how much have we known about Chakwera since he joined politics as a church minister? I will present my reflections in point form in order to make reading of my post more friendly.
1. Dr Lazarus Chakwera is still a pastor although he is the President of the MCP. He has been spotted preaching many times in Malawi and outside Malawi, especially the US at conferences and church services
2. Dr Chakwera congregates every week at his former church where he was a pastor before he became MCP President, whenever he is in Lilongwe and takes part in church activities when he has the time
3. Answering to a presenter’s question on Times TV whether he will continue preaching when he becomes president, Dr Chakwera’s answer was a resounding yes! why not? when I have the chance to do so! It will be quite interesting and historical to have a preaching president, who probably will also be praying for people
4. Dr Chakwera still holds international church-based positions in Africa, the US and globally. In one African presidency position he was re-elected in 2015. A year later he was elected vice president of a global Christian entity in Belgium. According to him, nothing changed in terms of his Christian responsibilities, convictions and obligations. He argued in one of the video clips which I watched on social media that being president of Malawi is simply a higher pastoral calling as far as he is concerned
5. I am sure some people were not aware of these facts about Chakwera, which now takes us to his MCP leadership, national performance so far, and then his manifesto
6. Chakwera is an interesting character who has the tendency of making politically risky decisions and statements. I have the following in mind:
– Calling Mutharika a thief, a pathological liar, and other names
– Singlehandedly taking Mutharika’s government to task often as a lonely voice in and outside parliament
– Consistently promising to have his personal presidential powers stripped when he takes over government
– Challenging that he will resign after two years if he doesn’t fulfill particular promises that he keeps making
– The list of this politically insensitive and I don’t really care or fear anything behaviour is so endless that at one point thugs invaded his home on a night when government security officers were absent from work. Coincidence? Your guess is as good as mine
7. Dr Chakwera has faced the toughest resistance from his party’s senior leadership that any president has ever faced. It is extremely unthinkable that he has emerged victorious in all the court battles and is now the likely man to lead Malawi after the May 21, 2019 elections
What is even more baffling is the fact that all those that teamed up against him are nowhere to be seen in terms of their political life. This fact alone has helped to vindicate Chakwera as the one who was not in the wrong, after all. It is now my opinion that hunger for power was the cause of all the infighting in MCP
8. Dr Chakwera has demonstrated that he is visionary. It is now clear that his quick move to rope in Sidik Mia was well calculated. Those senior members who did not share this view must have been myopic to say the least. I think Mia has changed the face of MCP in a very short time
Recently, Chakwera’s vision was extended through his political resolve to include in the party’s NEC the likes of Harry Mkandawire, Gotani Hara, Rev Maurice Munthali, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma and their new catch alliance partner Khumbo Kachali to target the northern region. All these people have one thing in common, a thing that has been missing in MCP. We can easily guess what that thing is, and so far it seems to have yielded results for the party, thanks to Dr Chakwera’s informed insistence
People who take such moves lightly must be short-sighted
9. Dr Chakwera is a philosopher, not only by qualification, but also by communication. It takes a genius to unpack his speeches. He is also a great communicator, always choosing his words properly. I call on the reader to visit the archives of his speeches and appreciate this fact.
In the same vein, I am sometimes perplexed with not only his American accent, good grammar and choicest English words (quite rare among our politicians), but also his conservative Chichewa, proceeding from the same mouth
10. It is generally said by those people who have known Dr Chakwera that he is a hard worker (typical of a pastor), he cherishes excellence (the colourful events he is know for speak for him), he is not a pushover (contrary to what many people think: ask the libelous MCP officials), he is a great listener and he listens to anyone and respects even the simplest opinion
….In his term as the church president,his Assemblies of God experienced the greatest development including establishment of the famous Sheafer campus, a church university, a radio, a TV station, over 1500 church congregations, etc.
….No wonder he was re-elected and served for 24 years until he resigned to become MCP President
….He was also the long-serving Chairman of the Evangelical Association of Malawi before his resignation, he served in the Malawi Council of Sports board (by the way he was into sports as a younger person), he was in the public universities committee set up by Bingu, and was very instrumental in the Section 65 vs Budget standoff in ensuring that the budget passed…..Bingu trusted him a lot
Now all this is in the public domain in case people think this is private information
11. Now read through his manifesto. You will see many bold statements about minimum wage, presidential powers, presidential appointments, MBC’s independence, anti-corruption bureau independence, large-scale development projects, death sentence without clemency, expansion of the income tax band to a whooping K100000, no foreigner owning land, abolished of the education quota system, and many more….
Are these not risky decisions or promises? I wonder who else can put themselves in such a position instead of putting some control measures to somehow protect the presidency.
12. But I am not surprised. Dr Chakwera is a church person. He is not afraid of contradiction. He likely puts faith ahead of all his decisions. He apparently believes in being sincere and taking responsibility for his decisions.
13. Dr Chakwera makes certain statements that very few people understand or pay attention to, judging from certain criticisms leveled against him that I usually come across especially on social media. Some have just resigned themselves to doubt him and his abilities. Perhaps we are all wrong.
For example, as far back as 2015 Dr Chakwera has been saying that there are certain individuals or organisations who have promised to support him with especially projects in power generation, sanitation, rural water development, and recently security for people living with albinism. I suppose I read a lot and watch TV excessively.
14. Dr Chakwera is probably the first leader of opposition in Malawiwho has given the largest number of press conferences when an issue of national interest emerges. I think I have lost count of how many. Many people have mistaken him as one seeking to score political points. But further reflection on that characteristic may suggest that he is confident about where he is going.
Confidence in itself is good for leadership because one operates with conviction. If you are not convinced about what you are doing, you can’t convince others.
15. The MCP manifesto, being the only one from a major party which is out, is worth reading early enough before we are overwhelmed with several others that are yet to come.