How the road to 2019 is shaping up


The contest for the 2019 general elections is about a year and a half away but, already, there are strong tides on the political front such that most people have began asking each other as to who among the country’s political parties stand a realistic chance of performing well during those polls.

Without necessarily drawing conclusions, I will quickly analyse the fortunes of the Democratic Progressive Party-DPP, the Malawi Congress Party –MCP, the People’s Party –PP, the United Democratic Front – UDF and the Alliance for Democracy –AFORD in recent times, as we continue to inch closer to the 2019 elections.

The Democratic Progressive Party – DPP


This is the governing party, in control of government resources. The party has continued to display anti-democratic tendencies, practiced since the advent of multi-party politics 23 years ago. For example, it continues to bar the opposition from using the state controlled media which is run on tax payers’ money. It would not be far-fetched to say that MBC radios and TV are now exclusively at the disposal of DPP.

In spite of that however, the party was trounced in the recent by-elections. That is telling. It means despite monopoly of the state broadcaster, people can still disregard its message and vote for whatever party they like.

The party has, on a number of occasions, failed to do what it promised it was going to do. For instance, the party promised to reduce the powers of the president, to stop cashgate and to ensure there is better healthcare and infrastructure in the country –it has failed to fulfill most of these promises and more.


To its credit, the Malawi Kwacha has been stable over the last two years and inflation has been going down, currently in single digits. The power blackouts have however crippled the industry, such that when President Peter Mutharika says the economy will grow by more than 5.5 percent, one wonders, how that will materialize. For an economy to grow companies must produce a lot to sell both at home and for export – but there isn’t much to export.

Even the construction industry has almost been crippled, since cement is no longer in high supply. As a result, the price per 50 kg bag has shot up to about K11 000, with the average hovering around K9000. Not so long ago, it was selling at K6000.

Food is in over-supply, and maybe that is a good thing. But the rural economy has become as good as non-existent, especially because President Peter Mutharika had banned the exportation of maize this year. When he eventually lifted the ban, it was too late for the maize to be exported, and some of it had gone bad anyway. With tobacco on its deathbed, it means there are almost no options for the majority of the rural population to make money through agriculture. Worse still, Admarc, the government-owned enterprise that is supposed to buy agricultural produce from farmers, is poorly run and its resources are, as we have witnessed, plundered by the president’s appointees. The number two in the DPP hierarchy George Chaponda was, in fact, fired from Cabinet due to fraud allegations at Admarc.

Corruption, then, is DPP’s Achilles heel. Presidential aides have become billionaires overnight. At the energy giant, Escom, there are strong allegations of dubious procurement.

This has been weakening the DPP’s standing ahead of the 2019 elections. It would appear some within the party seem to think that as long as they steal enough from the system to campaign formidably, that is all that matters. However, the 2014 tripartite polls showed just how close a contest it can be, despite the DPP and the People’s Party allegedly enjoying massive financial support from those within their rank and file connected to Cashgate.

Malawi Congress Party – MCP

On paper, the Malawi Congress Party – MCP should be the party that is in the best position to mount a formidable challenge to DPP. When it was kicked out of power in 1994, most analysts wrote the party’s obituary. In neighbouring Zambia, the United National Independence Party, also in power since 1964, crashed and burned, and has been a briefcase party since the mid-90s. MCP, however, has weathered many storms to remain standing. This time, most pundits believe it is at its strongest level.

MCP president Lazarus Chakwera, who doubles as the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, knows that corruption is the bull he has to take aim at, so he is constantly harping the point in each key speech he delivers. Recently, he took to the podium to name and shame parties to the shady procurement shenanigans at Escom. He went further in Parliament to name other corrupt deals and companies involved, calling President Peter Mutharika a “prince of thieves” – a remark that did not go down well with the government. The Speaker had the remark expunged from the Hansard.

Many of those who will vote in the 2019 elections were not even born by 1994. They do not know anything about the party’s troubled human right record. This means MCP’s opponents will be talking to people who did not directly suffer under MCP’s rule. At the same time, MCP will be able to point at tangible achievements of MCP that remain unmatched by any government so far: roads, hospitals, schools, the University of Malawi, the Kamuzu International Airport, an industry that was worth pointing at, grown through companies such as the Malawi Development Corporation and Press Corporation.

Chakwera is a relatively newcomer in politics, and entirely unconnected to its past. Almost all the faces of the atrocious past are gone, which makes the party a renewed one and therefore appealing to the masses.

However, this does not mean MCP is not without question marks. For instance, the party has not taken a strong stand to demand transparency and accountability in the $500 million contract Lilongwe Water Board awarded to Khato Civils.

Simbi Phiri, the owner of Khato, told Daily Times TV that he finances both DPP and MCP – and so it is clear that MCP cannot bite the hand that feeds it. This, then, raises the question: Would Chakwera be in a position to name and shame such firms if they shared the loot with his party?

To be clear, no one has proved that corruption was involved in the Khato contract, but all the circumstances surrounding the awarding of the contract remain questionable.

Whenever this matter is raised, MCP keeps saying, “Show us the evidence” – the very same robotic response DPP uses when faced with accusations of corruption.

MCP appears to be underrating the impact of this matter on its image and is doing nothing to address the public’s concern.

People’s Party – PP

Though some people like to say the PP was a ruling party, the fact is; it never was. This is simply because it never won any election. At its first test as an entity, it lost by a landslide. It was lucky to taste power by riding the coat-tails of its founder, Joyce Banda, who became president by virtue of being in a good place at a right time: Bingu wa Mutharika, who was president at the time, died, and Banda, his deputy at the time, took over the reins as required by the constitution.

However, she lost popularity faster than she had acquired it. She found herself at the centre of Jet gate (the disposal of presidential jet) and maize gate (sale of maize from the silos) whose proceeds she has never accounted for.

Shortly after refusing to publicly declare her assets, the devastating looting of public funds at Capital hill came to light, christened Cashgate by the media. Scores have been arrested, and some are already serving time. Banda, under whose watch the scam was exposed, has been living in exile since she lost the 2014 election.

All this has had a negative impact on the PP brand. Uladi Mussa, the man Joyce Banda had left as leader of the party, was recently expelled from the post, having been deemed too ambitious.

Recently, the party’s MPs were reportedly spotted at State House where they had talks with Mutharika. What they discussed no one knows, but hopefully it might help reignite the flame of the fading PP brand.

United Democratic Front – UDF

The United Democratic Front’s first president, Bakili Muluzi, used to enjoy mocking other political parties by saying, “Some of these parties will wear out like curtains.”

He may not have foreseen, at the height of his power that his party would go down the same road for what is there now is a mere skeleton of what the party once was.

Muluzi alienated everyone of substance and made sure only his son became president. The son performed dismally in the elections – despite his attempts to have a message that resonated with the youth. To save his father from legal trouble – he is answering corruption charges– the younger Muluzi agreed to serve as a Cabinet minister in the Mutharika government, a decision the party’s most prominent Member of Parliament, Lucius Banda, has openly disagreed with.

What will Atupele do in 2019? He recently said, at a rally, that he has a card up his sleeve. But whatever this card is, his chances of ruling Malawi are fast fading at this stage.

Alliance for Democracy – Aford

There was a time when Aford had a realistic shot at the presidency – back in 1994, when Chakufwa Chihana, its founder, was at the helm. But after losing those elections, it has been downhill for the party. Now it has a couple of seats in Parliament, and no clout in the national discourse, except as an ally of major parties like MCP or DPP.

Some loyalists now believe it is time to take the party back to 1994, when the entire northern region was its stronghold. But with talks of revamping Aford have come divisions among the party members.

Also, this thinking does not take into account the fact that people’s tastes have changed, and winning the whole of the Northern Region is an impossible dream. Major players such as DPP and MCP will definitely make a strong challenge and might harvest a sizeable fraction.

Aford’s key challenge is that it lacks a personality of Chakufwa Chihana’s stature. The late icon’s son, Enock Chihana, has failed to command similar respect. He is already facing challenge from the ambitious Frank Mwenefumbo, who is eyeing the presidency.

But in Livingstonia Synod the party has a strong ally. It appears that the Synod, rather than the party, is behind the idea of a revamped Aford, and may very well play a strong role in ensuring that there is intraparty unity ahead of the elections.

Facebook Notice for EU! You need to login to view and post FB Comments!
Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker