Malawi’s bleak options for 2019 — Idriss Ali Nassah

It’s been three years now and Peter Mutharika can hardly be called a success.But then we all knew it, didn’t we,coming into the 2014 election, that not once in his years as a cabinet minister in the government of his brother had Peter shown any spark of leadership.

Malawi possible 2014 presidential candidates: Joyce Banda, Peter Mutharika, Atupele Muluzi and Lazarus Chakwela

His style to facing problems was to close his eyes and hope that they go away. Or, as he did during the height of the Academic Freedom struggle — simply run away. He has carried that management style into the presidency; ignore the problem, pretend it doesn’t exist and hope that it disappears. Nothing, it seems, is going to change that style. Malawians, instead,are going to have to be the ones to change things.

But whom do they turn to?

Those hoping for Saulosi Chilima will be disappointed. The man doesn’t seem to have the gall, or the strategy, to start putting plausible distance between himself and the bungling of his boss, in readiness for 2019. He has had plenty of opportunities to do so. Maizegate was one such. Rather, he has chosen to be silent but silence, even he must know, is not a winning formula. It is confusing and infuriating to anyone who might want to support him. Maybe he fears—as Patricia Kaliati came to find to her horror—that once you cross the DPP inner-circle, you have burnt your bridges. But the most fascinating thing about this, though, is that Saulosi is clearly sidelined and rendered redundant by his boss. He is an outsider vice-president with nothing meaningful to do, so, what does he have to lose?

Atupele Muluzi is a lamentable—some say laughable—case of what might have been. From the dizzying prospects of 2014, there is no denying today that he has eaten into his own political capital by his ill-conceived association with the DPP. The genesis and benefits of that association have been questioned by many in the UDF, including its own increasingly critically vocal MP, Lucius Banda.

Atupele’s 2014 campaign was heralded with much excitement because it was precisely the sort of campaign this generation needed—issues-based, aspirational, clean in substance and form, a mixture of youthful exuberance and steady experience. Throughout, Atupele came across as almost presidential.Granted, 2014 wasn’t his time but 2019 could have been, would have been, his fair shot at national leadership.

But he can’t now come out and start shouting “Agenda for Change” and expect to be taken seriously. Three years ago,that very mantra fired up an excitable base, and had one foreign diplomat tell me, “this man will go on to greater things if he keeps this critical mass of supporters engaged and believing”.  Well, three years is too long a time in politics. Today, Atupele’s critical mass is decimated, confused and disillusioned, thanks to his flirting with—and dithering in—Peter Mutharika’s government.

Then you have The Reverend Lazarus Chakwera and his MCP.

Some say the internecine war going on in MCP right now is a wonderful thing for intra-party democracy, and maybe it is. But is anyone thinking about what damage all this is causing the party, going into a crucial electoral year?

The other thing that troubles me about MCP is Lazarus Chakwera himself. Unless he begins to embrace all of Malawi, and not think that only votes of the central region will carry him into State House, MCP hasn’t a hope. On look at his shadow cabinet and its clear you have a problem.

I have nothing against Reverends in politics but I often wonder whether Chakwera—aman used to the sanctimonious praise and worship of religion—can withstand the rigors of robust political activism and the accompanying bruising contestation of ideas. I’m still not convinced.

Another problem with Chakwera hus far is that he has articulated no clear policies, has failed to take advantage of Mutharika’s blundering to position himself as a viable alternative, and is now garnering a reputation as being a person who can’t take criticism. His style is to alienate those—like Gustav Kaliwo, Jessie Kabwila and others—with a contrary opinion and surround himself with zealots.

And then there is Joyce Banda’s PP, which right now is a sorry state of affairs. Until she returns to galvanize her party, PP will continue to be rudderless and bleed membership. Uladi Mussa is the acting president but everyone knows that while Uladi Mussa is passionate and brave and belligerent, he is not smart enough to be anyone’s president.

2019 is going to be a delicate moment, which will require Malawians to look beyond the traditional lines of voting—ethnic and regional—and worry about the overall health of the country itself.

Today, we are looking at a tattered economy, tattered public institutions, tattered leadership. It will get worse. No doubt, some people are doing well, materially, in this country, amidst all the suffering.But a good number of those benefitting from this state of decay are the crooked, the ruthless and the utterly corrupt. The law will not touch them because they belong to the correct hue of the colour blue.

That so far nobody has been hauled before the courts of law for maizegate is indicative of the erosion and decay of principles and values at the altar of political expediency, cronyism and friendship.

The same reckless way of doing things will be transported to 2019 and beyond. The country will continue to crumble. Unless, of course, Malawians react to their poverty and mismanagement of their affairs in a way that ushers in a bold new leadership, not one lead by over-the-hill politicians who have become intoxicated with the kachasu of materialism, corruption, indifference, ineptitude, and cronyism.

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Rift Valley
Guest

I am surprised, Massa, that you have chosen not to articulate that there are outside forces working for the division of MCP. Perhaps you may should propose solutions which can be of use to Chakwera in ensuring the party stays intact.

I, for one, would not condone the behavior of the likes of Kaliwo who everyone knows is being propelled by third parties to ensure MCP loses track.

Yes, the party must accommodate dissenting views but definitely not of those who deliberately choose not to observe the party’s 4 corner stones of UNITY, LOYALTY, OBEDIENCE AND DISCIPLINE because of greed.

lekeleni
Guest

Much ado about useless job,what a prophetic article.

Mzika Yeni Yeni
Guest
How many times should we tell you that the only President in waiting is Chakwera, Chakwera! . The whole analysis is very fine, but those people he has mentioned can NOT all be the failures . Ayi!!! Enatu akungodana ndi Chakwera because they do NOT know who really Chakwera is. Listen people, Chakwera as a Man of God has joined politics, that in any way NEVER makes him a failure. This is a No Nonsense person you need. He is the ONLY ALTERNATIVE on the people the writer has lined up. The squabbles in MCP every sane person knows who… Read more »
chikoti
Guest
The thinking of Nassah is for the elite not the commoner.unfortunately,the commoner is the key to how the next government is going to shape..if you point problems that are seen by the elite and expect that the commoner will agree with you ,you are cheating yourself…a commoner has few needs in life and they are easly addresses by those responsible..you and your elite class will keep crying and make noise in English which the commoner doesn’t understand and won’t make him think different …And my BWLIEF IS THAT ALL THESE POLITICIANS,CHAKWERA,MUSSA,WTC NAME THEM WILL NOT BE ANY DIFFERENT ONCEBTHEY ARE… Read more »
Malawian
Guest
Absolutely daft comment by someone who thinks things are the same as they were 5 – 10 years ago. You seem to be sitting on your old thinking. Things are changing with the expansion of media channels. You will be surprised one day when you realise that amalawi akuchenjera pano. A lot of people are becoming more aware about what’s going on. Rather than thinking amalawi adakali opusa, if you were clever enough and forward thinking, you would not be ignoring the impact of social media and other media channels. You seem to have a different thinking than your blue… Read more »
Ngalamayi
Guest

An excellent analysis of the situation in which Malawi finds itself…and well-written too. Please continue your objective analyses: perhaps some Malawians will take your points to heart as well as head. Also, have you considered running as a presidential candidate?

chatonda Mvula
Guest

Dr. Chakwera is the only answer to your article brother. Nkhani yatha…

The Emerging Voice
Guest
I have huge respect for Mr Nassah but this article is empty. It does not present anything new beyond what we already know or knew two years ago. His dislike for HE APM after previously being seeing posing for pictures with him smacks of hypocrisy and bitterness. I would have loved if he had taken the time to evaluate what promises the DPP led government made during the campaign and what they have delivered or not on those promises. I would have loved if he had taken the time to dissect each party in terms of who are the possible… Read more »
Malawian
Guest
Reason you think the article is empty is because you are blue, simple. You don’t like your blue king to be attacked – read the article carefully. You will notice that Idris is criticising all possible candidates unlike your blue-leaning mind. Yes, respect to Idris for being neutral in his criticism. Criticising the current government is indeed good enough as the government has shown absolute impunity to deal with the dwindling state of affairs. You are probably one of the people who is benefiting in the current situation. People who distaste to be criticised have skeletons in their cupboards. Sounds… Read more »
KARONGA
Guest

The point is that there is no point in this article. What is news here? Waste of time!

Malawian
Guest

Have a read again. Reason you cannot see the point is either you have skimmed through the article or favours one candidate. You cannot notice that Idris is non-bias. The article covers all the possible contenders of 2019 elections which to me shows maturity rather than the usual one sided politicking. The article just reminds everyone of failures and continuing failures of our country due to lack of leadership options. Idris is right to say that it appears we do have good candidates for 2019 elections!

Kingsley Jika
Guest
I share your sentiments that the MCP, despite its potential and this opportunity has failed to show us they are that alternative. They’ve failed to prove they are a national party; they have failed to demonstrate they can handle with maturity internal dissent (you become a ‘nkholokolo’, this modern version of the old ‘kapilikoni’ if you dare oppose); above all, they have failed to inculcate in their supporters a culture of distinguishing opinion from ‘opinioner’ – they dress you down for expressing your mind, mistaking you for the ideas. It is this absence of alternative that sends the DPP-UDF in… Read more »
pastor Yona.
Guest

Malawi needs someone with sober mind,not too political,wise,strong in thinking,spiritual,God fearing,able to unite the whole nation,generous,advisable,a loving person but even these whom have talked about if they can change things can work and mind you my fellow Malawi you need to know that there is no single man who is 100 percent lets give lets take time to pray for our country and those in different leadership positions.

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