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Lazarus Chakwera’s predicament

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Malawi Congress Party (MCP) President, Lazarus Chakwera joined Malawi politics carrying the hopes of many people, especially those not connected to the ruling party. He was seen as a “Mr Clean” who was cut out to spruce up Malawi’s image that was soiled by the infamous Cashgate.

After failing to clinch the baton stick in the 2014 presidential relay-race, many expected Chakwera to easily sail through in the 2019 presidential elections. However

Chakwera, just like any other crusader, has faced mounting pressure from within and outside his MCP.

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But is Chakwera really fighting his deputy, Richard Msowoya and Secretary General, Gustave Kaliwo or is there some big brother waiting to benefit from this fight?

A few weeks ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released results of its survey which predicted that President Peter Mutharika would win the 2019 elections by a narrow margin. The EIU said the chief factor towards Mutharika’s win will be the internal squabbles that have rocked all opposition parties in the country.

This is not to say that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is not suffering bickering. Actually, the infighting in the DPP is so palpable that wall-papering cannot work. But the difference is in the way Chakwera and Mutharika handle these internal squabbles.

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DPP roughnecks have been urging Mutharika to deal with people suspected to be rubble-rousers in the party. The trending term for the suspects as coined by the party’s Regional Governor for the South Charles Mchacha is “aperezi” (traitors).

At a time when DPP functionaries called for Vice President Saulos Chilima’s head, Mutharika pulled a surprise. He went on a podium telling all and sundry that Chilima was his son. This he did despite taking away some responsibilities from Chilima. Mutharika ensures that he salutes Chilima at government and party functions and master of ceremonies insist that speakers at such gathering must salute Mutharika, the First Lady and Chilima without fail. When pressure mounted on DPP’s Secretary General, Gresselder Jeffrey to resign for saying most Cabinet ministers in the North were non performers, Mutharika looked the other way.

He rejected a resignation letter that Jeffrey submitted to him. What the opposition may consider to be Mutharika’s weakness might even be his greatest strength. Mutharika realises that politics is a game of numbers and that fools must be kept so that they can go around villages to announce a chief’s rallies. Chakwera, a Chewa himself, knows the Chichewa adage equivalent that goes like zitsiru sokupha zose pa mudzi; zimalengeza misonkhano yao fumu.

Granted, traitors must not be allowed to hold everyone to ransom in a party. But sometimes, it is just better to insulate their influence: they can be isolated at an appropriate time. This is the tactic that former president Bakili Muluzi used for his survival. Muluzi’s successor, Bingu wa Mutharika played a fool during his campaign until he stunned Muluzi as soon as election results were announced.

Of course, Chakwera deserves credit for refusing to be misled by his party stalwarts and youth leaguers who vowed never to leave an indaba venue, last Sunday, until Kaliwo was fired. To the contrary, Chakwera guided the meeting to give Kaliwo and Msowoya a chance to be heard as per provisions of the MCP Constitution and rules of natural justice.

It is pleasing that the MCP accepted the EIU survey results.

There is merit in conditions given for Mutharika’s win. Look, the DPP is busy consolidating its grip on the populous Southern Region. In the 2014 Tripartite

Elections, the MCP did not get even a single seat in the South.

DPP only lost to other Southern Region based parties such as the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the People’s Party (PP). The other headache for the DPP was a team of independent candidates who were frustrated during DPP primaries.

Then the DPP and the other parties snatched a few seats from the MCP’s stronghold such as Salima, Nkhotakota, Lilongwe and other districts in the Central Region.

The swing vote came from the Northern Region where the DPP and PP had a field day in sharing the seats among themselves with the MCP getting a few including that of

Msowoya.

Today, the DPP is busy smoking out the UDF and the PP from the South. It is also stealthily shadowing those who won on independent tickets with its own candidates.

Is anyone observing how a rising political meteor that was Vincent Wandale has been grounded?

On the contrary, the Central Region is giving birth to parties linked to former vice president Cassim Chilumpha and former MCP secretary general, Chris Daza. The North is also birthing former vice president Khumbo Kachali’s party as Alliance for Democracy is disintegrating. Chakwera’s main task is to lock the Centre from the other parties while getting a biggest share in the North and a few seats in the South. The moving in of Lower Shire political gladiator, Muhammed Sidik Mia, to the MCP is a good tonic for Chakwera’s campaign.

But Mia needs more hands to effectively cover the Southern Region.

The MCP has weathered similar storms before.

Chakwera’s predicament is to consolidate MCP’s fort while gnawing at the South and the North. Confining the MCP to the Central Region through appointments to the Nec will not yield the party the desired dividends.

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