As we glide towards the general elections next year, the political fray appears to be awash with political activity as almost all political parties are busy zooming up and down the country to sensitizing voters on their agendas as well as on the importance of voting. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is currently registering people to vote in the tripartite elections next year.
To an extent, the newly launched United Transformation Movement (UTM) has disrupted the hitherto predictable political landscape with its well patronized launches in all the regions of the country: the southern region; the central region; the northern region; and the eastern region.
Almost all political parties paused momentarily to place the movement within the larger political context of Malawi and are now coming up with requisite responses.
The UTM rallies were marked with a lot of noise and pomp particularly among the youths, which also somehow confirmed the fact that the elections next year will be defined by the youth vote. It was therefore critical that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) responded in earnest to the new political waltz and respond it did.
As expected, the ruling party engaged an extra gear with meetings in some parts of the country to sensitize voters about registration and to promote its agenda. The party’s southern region vice president, Kondwani Nankhumwa has been particularly animated and appears to be the leading voice realistically making DPP more visible on the political map in this country.
Just when the UTM was waltzing on the political scene with its launches, it was Kondwani Nankhumwa who came to the party with a concept to neutralize the newcomer at its own game. His first rally at Bangwe in Blantyre was one of the biggest rallies in recent times and turned out to be equal in stature and even surpassed the rallies that UTM had been organizing.
He has since organized several of those rallies across the southern region with equal pomp and success. His message has also been very clear. He has generally been issue-based and has been articulating the DPP’s vision for this country with above-average zeal and temerity. In his message delivery, Nankhumwa outlines the development that the DPP government has accomplished under the able stewardship of President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika in various sectors such as energy, infrastructure development, health, education and agriculture, among others.
Just as the political fray is littered with violence, with a chunk of the blame thrown at the DPP, Nankhumwa has also consistently come out in the open to condemn the political violence in the strongest of terms. He has unequivocally stated that political violence does not have and must not have any room in the DPP, and that anyone promoting violence in the name of the ruling party must be condemned and arrested because that is not what DPP stands for.
In the same vein, Nankhumwa has advised all campaigners to minimize insulting political opponents but to promote issues as voters are interested to hear what the DPP has done to Malawians and to know a clear roadmap of what it has in store for the people going forward.
The DPP vice president for southern region has also condemned the practice of harassing of journalists by politicians. He has warned that anyone found harassing or abusing journalists shall face serious repercussions.
Since he was voted to the position of vice president for southern region at the convention for the party, which was held in July this year, Nankhumwa has brought the southern region live for the DPP, something which has attracted praise as well as discomfort from within and outside the ruling party.
Surely, Nankhumwa represents the new political future for the ruling party, which is what the political context in Malawi is demanding.
Indeed, any political party, which has a good programme for the youth, and one which it will communicate properly to this important voting bloc will win the next elections. Nankhumwa is youthful and appears to be the one who is increasingly emerging as a poster representation of the youths in the DPP. He is currently doing the right things and also doing them right, and if he continues on that path, DPP will retain power next year.
He has bemoaned the bring-him-down-culture, which is particularly rife within political parties in Malawi, especially when they see someone ‘rising’ on the political radar.
Nankhumwa could soon be a victim of this behaviour within the DPP. Already, some quarters are becoming uncomfortable with his well attended political rallies and planning to put spanners in his works.
This is counter-productive because, as much as internal differences are normal for any political party, they must not be allowed to simmer to the levels where they derail the whole political party train. DPP will be the final loser if things are allowed to reach that stage.
- Kelvin Masambo is a Blantyre-based social and political analyst. Views contained in this article are those of the author and not Nyasa Times