Lessons from the Sunday Times opinion poll for MCP: Embrace new blood or become irrelevant

The outcome of The Sunday Times opinion poll published on May 5, 2013 speaks volumes about the aspirations and frustrations of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) followers that participated in the poll.

It should be said however, that opinion polls, have oftentimes proved to be misleading and this could apply to this poll.

In the first place, it is not clear how many of those polled were valid MCP convention delegates. Again, some of those who participated might not have been not bona fide MCP supporters. Sceptics could also raise the question as to what precautions, if any, were instituted against “rigging”.

These caveats notwithstanding, what cannot be written off easily, is the fact that given all the flaws of an opinion poll, when new comers onto the frontline political scene scoop 76% percent of the vote, people have to think twice.

Chakwera: MCP presidential hopeful
Chakwera: MCP presidential hopeful

Underlying implications can only be ignored by party president Hon John Tembo, the National Executive Committee, current parliamentarians and MCP convention delegates, at the party’s own peril because the party faithfuls’ craving for change will not come louder.

Looking at how the veterans faired, shows that while they have been instrumental in keeping the party alive through turbulent years in the opposition, the time has come for them to pass the baton to a new generation of leaders.

When MCP heavyweights including retired Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, Hon John Tembo, secretary general Chris Daza, Mr. Jodder Kanjere and deputy secretary general Beston Majoni, legislator Edwin Banda, former legislator Lytton Dzombe and Eston Kakhome amass between them a mere 24% of the poll; one can safely conclude that their intention to compete for the top MCP post portrays some sort of lack of judgement on their part and proves that some of them may have lost touch with reality.

Focussing on the top two: i.e. Dr Lazarus Chakwera and Mr Felix Jumbe’s neck to neck standing; while agreeing with Mr Felix Jumbe that Malawi’s agricultural sector has literally been thrown to the dogs since MCP’s departure from government; one is inclined to agree more with Dr Chakwera’s pragmatic assertion that this MCP race is still open.

Again, the pragmatists amongst Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, Hon John Tembo, Chris Daza, Mr. Jodder Kanjere, Beston Majoni, Edwin Banda, Lytton Dzombe and Eston Kakhome could, in the interest of boosting the party’s chances; shelve their ambition and help selling Dr Chakwera and Mr Felix Jumbe because these two are obviously what people are looking for.

As to who will carry the day at the convention, this is the MCP delegates’ call. Of course the delegates will have to look beyond strengths, real or perceived, in agriculture.  What MCP needs today is not necessarily “a sector expert” because we have many of these in the civil service, civil society and in the private sector.

What the MCP needs more is someone who can rebuild the party and reenergize it beyond the central region base. A person with proven ability to build national cross-sectoral networks, from nothing.

Such a person ought to already have a national constituency of sorts to build on, because between now and May 2014, there is not enough time for a less known person to attain a critical mass that will tip the scales in MCP’s favour come May 2014.

And most importantly, MCP needs someone who stands more than good chance of outsmarting the DPP’s Prof Peter Mutharika; beating the UDF’s Atupele Muluzi; and dislodge the incumbent President Joyce Banda – who with state machinery at her disposal, has already promised hell to the opposition.

If the MCP dares to field a weaker candidate, the combined DPP, PP and UDF campaign machineries will chew him and spit him out before trampling all over him, leaving his prospects and the party’s in tatters.

To conclude and reverting to the poll, if the 24% respondents who polled in favour of the irrelevant reconsidered their loyalty wisely, MCP has the first ever realistic chance of going back into government in two decades.

And without doubt, the experience that Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo, Hon John Tembo, Chris Daza, Mr. Jodder Kanjere, Beston Majoni, Hon Edwin Banda, Lytton Dzombe and Eston Kakhome have will come in handy to help repair the mess created by twenty years of misplaced priorities and ill-advised experiments.

Finally, we want to commend Blantyre Newspapers Limited, which was there at the genesis of the MCP, for bringing it to MCP leadership’s attention through this poll, that Malawians are dying for an invigorated MCP; and for according these guest columnists space to comment on the critically.

Final word: the people have spoken, MCP delegates, this is now your call!

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