Who’s gonna win Malawi presidency? Chakwera the man to beat

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

So the die is cast, eleven people will battle it out for keys to Plot No. 1.

As I said last week, we have four serious wannabes in this race; the rest are ‘also runs’.

So how do the Big Four stand?

Let us begin with Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika, the most reluctant of the candidates.

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

He is a serious candidate regardless. But, if truth be told, the Mutharika name will be both a plus and a minus for the good professor. Bingu, his Big Brother, is credited for achieving a semblance of food security in Malawi. His very expensive – and unsustainable – subsidy programme made Malawi post surpluses in food production.

So with 1.2 million Malawians going hungry this year the Big Kahuna’s success on the food front may rub off his younger brother.

Peter’s choice of running mate was also strategic. With the youth vote seemingly a big issue in these elections, Peter did not goof to settle for Saulos Chilima for Angoni is not only a ‘youth’ but a ‘youth who has been there, done that’.

Chilima’s Catholicism may also be a factor for the faithful of the country’s largest church may wish to have one of their own in the presidency.

But then the Mutharika brand took Malawi to the precipice during the twilight of Bingu’s tenure. Many a Malawian squirms at the prospects of having another Mutharika in State House this soon.

So Peter’s pay-off line of “I’ll continue where my brother left off” is self-defeating. Look, despite his scintillating first term when Malawi was mouthed in the same breath with the oil-rich Gulf state of Qatar, Bingu‘s last three years were a disaster. Surely, not many would want to go back to the “Egypt” of spending long nights at service stations waiting for fuel that never came.

And the infamous July 20 merciless massacre of 20 unarmed protestors make a lot of Malawians grow goose-bumps at the mention of the name Mutharika. The panga knives advertising violence ahead of the unprecedented anti-government demonstrations on July 19, 2011, is not a seller for Malawians.

Peter himself comes out as dour; he seems confused whenever he makes a public appearance. He could not even get his lines right during the presentation ceremony of his nominations papers!

Which brings us to Austin Atupele Muluzi who, at 35, is the youngest wannabe in this race. Like Peter, AA also has a political name that can work for or against him.

Bakili Muluzi, the candidate’s dad, was president at the re-introduction of multiparty politics in Malawi. The elder Muluzi is an affable guy, generous to a fault.

Listening to AA you cannot fail to discern that the young man stole dad’s voice but not the charisma. AA is a trite too serious while Atcheya is a happy-go-lucky fella given to cracking jokes.

AA will certainly ride on name recognition and dad’s popularity. After all he is surrounded by dad’s associates.

With the youth vote a big factor in these elections, AA may represent the aspirations of the age bracket that make up 68 percent of potential voters. The facebook and twitter generation may identify with him.

But, unlike Chilima, AA only brings his youth and nothing else to the elections.

His inexperience may be his undoing. Unlike Chilima, AA’s major ‘experience’ – if truth be told – is being dad’s son. There is no record that AA has managed anything in his life. The Trade and Investment Bank he founded with Prescious Kalonga Stambuli went under the moment the latter was bumped off.

Of course AA is a two-term parliamentarian and he makes sense whenever he speaks in the august House. But I honestly think AA is too young for big league politics. If he emerges victorious after May 20 he will have to rely too much on aides which will make him vulnerable.

The muckraker thinks 2014 is too soon for AA. All his opponents will either be dead or too tired to push on by 2024 while AA will be Barack Obama’s age when the first black American president became president of the free world. I wish AA had been patient enough to wait until then.

Which brings me to the ‘new kid on the political bloc’, the Rev. Dr. Lazarus MacArthur Chawera. Abusa has everything going for him. At 59 he is not too old, and being a recently retired clergyman, he is untainted by the 50 years of corruption and political killings that have riddled our politics.

Abusa can campaign on the platform of new politics. While all his three major opponents are associated in one way or the other with the 20 years of corruption, Chakwera brings to politics a clean slate.

Of course he heads a party with a chequered history. But he can claim that he represents a re-born MCP. After all Kamuzu owned up to – and apologised for – the party’s three decades of excesses of power.

But, like AA and Peter before him, he too lacks demonstrable experience in politics.

However, the retired man of the collar is certainly the man to beat in these elections. He will certainly benefit from the negatives of his opponents.

But Malawians may be apprehensive to entrust their future in the hands of an untried and untested man. Bingu came with the vibe that he will be anything but Muluzi, but see what we ended up with.

Will Abusa also not sell us a dummy?

Besides, how much has the core MCP changed apart from the visible changes at the top?

Of course I know the DPP and UDF boast youth leadership; the MCP too has an array of potential youth leaders of substance. I have in mind rookies like Juliana Lunguzi who can match both AA and Saulos.

But, if truth be told, Abusa should not rely on the fact that he is untainted with the violence and corruption associated with Malawi politics. Malawi need more than that.

Then comes Ama…

…Joyce Hilda Banda had everything going for her before the September 2013 shooting of the youthful Capital Hill officinado and the subsequent cashgate imbroglio.

When the infamous accident of fate catapulted her to State House during those three mad days of April, Ama was a breath of fresh air in an environment satiated by the violence of the DPP and the corruption of the UDF. In Ama the nation saw rays of hope.

But cashgate exposed her soft underbelly.

While the jury is still out on her direct involvement in the affair, her handling of the worst financial scandal in Malawi’s 50 years of nationhood may be her undoing.

She also has to trade carefully on the presidential jet sale proceeds. She is handling the issue amateurishly which is dangerous for a woman who rode to power on the crest of trust.

But, unlike her three opponents, she has the advantage of incumbency to bank on.

Cashgate notwithstanding, she is cleverly concentrating her campaign on the rural poor. Her acting as ‘Relief Worker-in-Chief’, her goat distribution and ‘One Cow per Family’ programmes may be laughed off on social media. But for the rural poor she just might be the ‘Esther’ they need. Do you wonder why, despite calls for her to slowdown she is still on the road daily? She is not stupid; she is a graduate of Atcheya’s school of elementary politics.

Her opponents may dismiss her out of these elections at their own peril.

I therefore think the Big Four have almost equal chances of pulling May 20 off. It only has to take the one with the joker to seal it. The next 84 days will give us the answers.

Watch this space!

[highlight style=’pear-green’] Chisi saved……. [/highlight]

So the Malawi Electoral Commission has saved Prof. John Chisi the agony of cartooning himself canvassing for votes he was not going to get anyway?

Chisi: Umodzi Party president
Chisi: Umodzi Party president

The good doc should go back to what he knows best – treating people afflicted by all manner of conditions, most of which brought about by policies of holders of the office he was craving to occupy.

So, good Prof., forget your 15th Century medieval Europe’s feudalism politics and go back to work. Feudalism only worked in creating a stratified class society in the Middle Ages comprising kings, noblemen, barons and bishops, on one hand, and peasants – also called “serfs” or “villeins” – on the other.

Peasants, who worked the land and produced food, were treated more or less like slaves who were allowed to own nothing. According to medieval law, the peasants did not even belong to themselves!

Women came out the worst in feudalism. They were confined to household tasks such as cooking, baking bread and sewing among other banal jobs.

Is this what the good old Prof. wanted for our women in the 21st Century Malawi? C’mon!

  • The Muckracking Column  was published in The Sunday Times newspaper
Raphael Tenthani: Muckracking columnist
Raphael Tenthani: Muckracking columnist

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