The Malawi king maker: How Chilima changed MCP’s political history 

Despite its enviable history of rescuing Malawi from the jaws of colonialism in 1964, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), since its fall from grace in 1994, has struggled to claim a fair share of the national vote and return into government.

Chilima and his wife Mary
Chilima taking an oath of office as Malawi vice president
Former MCP president John Tembo witnessed the party getting back to power
President Chakwera and vice-president Chilima: They delivered change together
Saulos Chilima, President  Chakwera’s running mate, was sworn in as vice-president at a ceremony in the capital, Lilongwe.
Vice President Chilima and his wife Mary

Its greatest challenge, I argue, is that MCP has always been a predominantly central region party even after the much touted generational leadership change from the Gwanda Chakuamba to John Tembo of the old to Reverend  Lazarus Chakwera of the new.

For the 19 years that MCP’s leadership was in the hands of Chakuamba and, then, Tembo; the party represented everything that many hated about its 31 years of ‘death and darkness’.

In those good 19 years, MCP was closed in the north, wasn’t welcome in the South and, sorry to say, wasn’t a darling to the youths. It was just a party for, mostly, the hardcore Chewa people from the central region—especially the rural areas.

The coming in of Chakwera in 2013 started a process of rebranding the party. However, that process failed to get MCP to power in 2014 and 2019 because Chakwera failed to get a person who can help MCP connect where it was failing to reach.

In 2014, for instance, Chakwera settled for Richard Msowoya, a politician who only spoke to his small constituency in Karonga. It wasn’t different in 2019 when he settled for Sidik Mia—a politician who only spoke to a small section in Chikwawa District.

Msowoya and Mia were never regional political giants, even worse; none of two could speak and influence the youths. MCP, as a result, was still on its own—entirely reliant on the central region vote which DPP was doing better in dismantling.

For MCP to return to government Chakwera needed a youthful and energetic figure who can speak, one, to the youths; and two, speak to the national without the regional mindset. In other words, with his tradition central region vote intact, all Chakwera needed was a master of pulling all swing voters to the fold.

Thank God, in the year of our Lord 2020, he found that person: Saulos Klaus Chilima.

When he partnered Peter Mutharika in 2014, Chilima wasn’t much of a political figure to reckon; even worse, he was riding on the back of DPP machinery which was already staunching and menacing.

The political grandeur of Chilima was felt in 2019 when, in not less than six months, he launched his own political party, shook the nation with radical campaign tactics and, eventually, winning over 1 million votes.

Chilima’s political branding revolves around two key variables: One, not being associated with politics of regions and tribe; and two, appealing mostly to the youths and urbanites.

Through that branding, Chilima, in 2019, managed to get much of the urban vote, the youths and a couple of swing voters across every corner of the country.

The only challenge with Chilima and UTM is that they don’t have strong political bedrock to base their winning formula. That is why, on his own, it is troubling to imagine him win the presidency.

But at the level he reached with the 2019 botched results, he had become more of a king maker than a king himself.

Whichever way he went, DPP or MCP, he was already poised to make a king. That is why, today, MCP, after 26 years in the opposition, can afford a smile—a giant one, for soaring into power. It would never have happened without Chilima.

Ladies and gentlemen, hail Chilima, Malawi’s political king maker for now; the gallant campaigner who has changed the history of MCP!

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Kyala
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Kyala

I disagree, Laz won fair and square with or without skc. Just Laz v Peter, Laz would win every time. Yes skc campaigned very well but how many additional votes did he really bring to Laz. Laz has been taking more than 1.5m votes on his own for 2014 and 2019, so skc brought just addition few and even those included some new votes for Laz as well. In fact many deserted Skc for joining mcp alliiance. Ntcheu is the only district that we can say voted mcp probably because of skc but Other districts in the north or central,… Read more »

BigMan
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BigMan

Thoughts of a DPP cadet, utterly dull.

SavimbiSankara
Guest
SavimbiSankara

Are you mad? Ulibe nzeru olo imodzi.

DOBO
Guest
DOBO

I could not read through the wholesome nonsense above.Just looking at the topic is enough to judge it nonsense.With this nonsense,unity can easily break into pieces to the disadvantages of Malawians.Malawi king maker is a Malawian voter not the one voted for.Don’t make Chilima to be pompous.No evidence as of now that Chakwera won because of Chilima.There are many factors of which is that many voters were fed up with APM arongance and DPP as whole.

Bristol
Guest

It is true and we should learn to give credit where it is due

Kaitano Kagalu
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Kaitano Kagalu

I didn’t read all comments, may be I may say what someone has already said. To me and to my own version,the change you are talking about, first I see the coming in of Chakwera, because Chilima was picked by the DPP camp in fear of Lazarus Chakwera. It’s a fact that he has added and or strengthen the MCP to come back onto power, but you need to understand that MCP was there before Chakwera and Chilima if indeed as we are saying, he would not do that much without the coming in of Lazarus, if I challenge you… Read more »

mchisala
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mchisala

Whatever you may say, only DPP has the unmatched record of butchering and nipping in the bud twenty-one(21) lives in a day for protesting against DPP’s misrule and mis-government!!!

Mangochi Kabwafu
Guest
Mangochi Kabwafu

Chilima has simply redefined politics and changed Malawi political landscape for good in my opinion.

gamah
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gamah

Congrats to Malawi from Zimbabwe. All he best!!

Kambewa Chisale
Guest

Good article

Flamingo
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Flamingo

President wa 2024/25

Zofu
Guest
Zofu

Mr John Zenaus Ungapake Tembo you could have just watched the ceremony at home

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