1; SKC was commanding
It is naive to think that the number of people attending a candidate’s rally is an indicator of how that candidate will do in an election. The electorate can be treacherous. That being said, it is just as naive to think that the number of people attending a candidate’s rally is not a significant gauge of the public interest that candidate is attracting and generating. And when it comes to Saulos, his pull at Masintha for his inaugural rally is proof that he has successfully captured the interest of urban Malawians. That should give us hope that political constituencies are not as captive to existing political institutions as we fear.
- SKC was connecting
He spoke of the suffering of Malawians under the corruption of the current regime as though they were his own sufferings. You almost forgot that he is the country’s Vice President and that he is a government insider. He spoke scripture, spoke pain, spoke humour, spoke tough, spoke soft, wherever appropriate, and so was able to capture the mood and emotion of the country with his words and tone. That should give us hope that it is possible to be an executive government official surrounded by the perks of high office and still keep a finger on the pulse of the common man’s experience in the streets.
- SKC was compelling
By going public in this manner about his bid for the Presidency, he has answered those of us who were skeptical of him as a man playing it safe. He is speaking out against his own government, criticizing the failures of his own boss, and standing up to a regime that feels he should be beholden to it. That takes a courage that I myself was afraid he may not have. As it is, I no longer believe he is playing it safe, but rather playing the cards he has been dealt with. It is fair to criticize him for taking too long to get to this point, but no longer fair to accuse him of being afraid of reaching this point because he is not up for a fight. This should give us hope that the level of debate among the candidates will be rigorous and enlightening for us as voters.
- SKC was clear
Saulos’ statements on the quota system, on the plight of people with albinism, on what he would aim to accomplish in his first year, on women empowerment dancing at rallies, on potential attempts to rig the elections, all had a clarity that leaves no doubt on where he stands on such matters. Even though he did not necessarily put forward a new idea, possibly because he wants to present himself as the new idea, and even if you happen to disagree with his assessment of his own capacity to implement the ideas that are extant, disagreeing with him is only possible because he has been clear about where he stands on the prevailing ailments of our society. This should give us hope that now that his intentions are as clear as those of other candidates, it puts the ball in our court to weigh all our options in the scales and choose whom to believe.
- SKC was creative
One of Saulos’ knacks is his acute sense of occasion. He understands that substance is not enough to campaign on, for in fact history shows it is possible to win a campaign with very little substance indeed. The substance of a candidate, as in what he believes, what he intends to do, and how he lives, are like a meal that a party wants to serve to the electorate, but Saulos knows that having the right diet is useless if no one has an appetite for it and if the dishes in which the food is served look unsavory. So the meal must be served at just the right time, at just the right temperature, under just the right amount of lighting, in just the right kind of dishes, with just the right kind of seasoning, in just the right room.
In short, a good meal must be more than edible and nutritious; it must be memorable. And that takes preparation. Lots of it. And there is no doubt in my mind that the Masintha rally was months and months in the making, and that the rally was about more than presenting the substance of the man, but also creating a powerful optic of the movement.
This kind of orchestration, both public and clandestine, should give us hope that we as citizens should never see ourselves as victims at the mercy of bad governance or institutions, for we can organize ourselves to mount a challenge against an undesirable status quo, and civil society organizations in particular should take a page out of this regarding how to galvanize a discontented public. No one is entitled to having people walk for miles to attend their event, whether it is political, religious, civil, commercial, or social. Big occasions are created, not wished upon, and Saulos has set his generation a great example in creating such an historic occasion.
- I also took note of 5 things about the launch that I think should give us caution and pause, but it would be bad manners and taste to state them on this day. Today, in the spirit of rejoicing with those who rejoice, I congratulate Saulos Chilima for successfully launching a credible bid for the presidency, and I wish him the very best. No matter how the race turns out for him or any of the candidates before us, our democracy is better with Saulos in the running than out of it.