With less than 17 months to go before Malawi holds its sixth general elections under pluralistic system of government, a wave of aspiration for constituency seats is now building up in some areas.
Nowhere is the hype surrounding this wave so apparent than in Blantyre City South, a constituency which has a history of offering a one-term limit for its legislator.
Unverified figures indicate that about 14 people have already expressed interest to try their luck in this ever-slippery ground.
Incumbent Allan Ngumuya, who won as an independent in last elections before joining the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), is among the pack.
The musician-cum-politician is looking forward to make history as the first sitting Member of Parliament (MP) to retain the constituency’s seat.
Ngumuya believes he has earned the trust of constituents to be given another mandate in next year’s elections.
He cites several development projects that have been achieved under his tenure, notably the Nkolokosa-Zion Road and the maintenance of Ntonda Clinic, which is now operational after so many years of dormancy due to dilapidation.
Reports that he is in panic mode to impress constituents to the extent of developing bad blood with fellow contestants in order to win 2019 polls are baseless, according to Ngumuya.
“Such reports are the architect of people bent on tarnishing my political image. I am not at loggerheads with any aspiring opponent,” he says.
Ngumuya adds that his focus is on bringing more development projects on top of the 13 bridges, roads, clean and safe water he has provide to people in the area.
He says he is ready to face any opponent aspiring to contest for the constituency and specifically named the likes of former Malawi National Football Team player and captain Peter Mponda and former MP for the area Moses Kunkuyu.
“These people should stay away because they will just waste their resources. Am retaining the seat because of the developments I have brought to the people,” Ngumuya says.
Kunkuyu, leader of Transformation Alliance, has distanced himself from any interest to vie for Blantyre City South seat.
“I am not contesting; I do not have such plans at the moment,” says Kunkuyu while expressing reservations about Ngumuya’s conduct for taking credit on the upgrading of Nkolokosa-Zion Road to bitumen standard.
“It is just coincidence that the road has been constructed during his term of office. I was the one who mooted the initiative to upgrade the road,” Kunkuyu says.
While the former Minister of Information and Civic Education has not shown any interest in contesting, other people have openly declared their desire. They include one of the country’s former celebrated footballer, Peter Mponda.
Mponda has made up his mind to wrestle for Blantyre City South seat and says he is ready for the contest.
“I have done my research and I am convinced that I have what it takes to win the seat. I want to bring sound development projects to people especially to the youths who represents about 60 percent of the population in this area,” Mponda says.
The former Malawi national football team skipper is yet to disclose the party he would represent, saying he would do so in March this year.
“As of now, I will remain independent,” Mponda says.
But reports on the ground strongly link him to the ruling DPP. No wonder, the warning shots from the incumbent Ngumuya are not just about the constituency seat but also about the party ticket.
Another footballer, Fischer Kondowe, is reportedly contemplating joining politics. The Nyasa Big Bullets long serving player is said to eye the same constituency on a DPP ticket too.
The scramble for Blantyre City South promises fireworks especially with Ngumuya, Mponda and Kondowe seeking to ride their contest on a DPP ticket. There is a likelihood that some more contestants may pop up to have a foot-in on the blessing of the ruling party.
Other figures connected to the contest for the constituency is prominent businessman in Chilobwe Township going by the name Mtonga B.
The businessman, who chose to have his real name concealed, refuted reports linking him to the contest.
But when asked further why his name keeps coming up on the list of aspirants for the seat, Mtonga B says he cannot comment much on that.
“I am just busy concentrating on my business. I am not interested in joining politics,” he says.
Other emerging names include another former legislator Jimmy Banda and a Blantyre-based businessperson, Leonard Chimbanga.
So far, there is no news about any woman aspirant. Such a development offers no inspiration to gender activists advancing for women empowerment. The constituency is yet to have a woman as its legislator and previous attempts by few women aspirants have proved to be a tall order.
Historically, the first woman contestant in the constituency came as late as the third general elections in 2004 in the name of Tryness Lonely Kuswete.
Available statistics from the Malawi Electoral Commission show that out of the 43 different contestants the constituency has had in the past elections, only five have been women.
There is no positive sign that this figure might inch up. But there is still more time for people to declare their interest and it is hopeful that women will be among the list.
Commenting on the developments in Blantyre City South, Chancellor College political analyst Happy Kayuni says the pace set by contestants in the constituency is good for democracy.
“Competition in a democracy is a great tool for advancing and realising development.
“What the possible candidates are doing in the constituency is fine considering that they are putting pressure on the current MP to be on his toes and perform,” Kayuni observes.
He adds that despite the early battles generating political enthusiasm and tension, there has been no incidence of violence.
“Competition without violence is a sign of a thriving democracy,” Kayuni says.
At least for now, the situation remains calm and no one would wish for the unfolding of dramatic events that insinuate or smack of violence when time for primaries and the elections gets close.
That Blantyre City South can be another platform for political drama and comedy was in evidence on 12 December, 2008 when former legislator Moses Kunkuyu was allegedly ‘abducted’ in the run up to his election in 2009.
It emerged, as a police enquiry later concluded, that the abduction was staged to buy sympathy and that on the night of the alleged abduction, Kunkuyu was holed up in room number 120 at Kanjedza Lodge in BlantyreFollow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :