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On your marks, get set, go!

Most publishers and columnists dedicate their year-end programmes and articles on the retiring year’s highlights. With time, this has become a tradition.
While duly respecting this tradition and its practitioners, I refuse to jump with common spirits and hence in this piece I’ll look neither east nor west, north nor south, just forward.
In Malawi, whatever transpired this year was intended to ensure either that President Peter Mutharika with his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)-led coalition – whatever form it will take – stays in power post-May 2019; or that Reverend Lazarus Chakwera with his Malawi Congress Party (MCP)-led alliance – assuming the reverend wakes up in time to forge meaningful electoral alliances – unseats Mutharika come May 2019.
Based on the current status quo, unless the State Vice President Saulos Chilima boldly divorces the DPP to pursue a “Macron” and unless the MCP First Deputy President Richard Msowoya is not pushed to a “Chakuamba-2004-redux”; we are talking of Mutharika versus Chakwera in 2019, under the same rigging-prone framework and laws because Parliament – on our behalf – decided that electoral reforms are pointless.
Talking of the miscarriage of the reform bills, before falling into the trap of scapegoating the Public Affairs Committee (Pac)’s postponement of the December 13 demos, listen up.
Firstly, Pac has no seat in Parliament. Just like our valiant NGOs, it suffers from the ‘democratic deficit’. As such, the moment the bills were tabled, like you and me, Pac became a mere observer.
Secondly, the moment the bills hit Parliament, the ball rolled onto the Leader of Opposition’s feet.
Chakwera simply had to:
(a) Ensure that no MCP legislator is absent from the chamber;
(b) Lobby independent MPs to secure broad-based support on the bills;
(c) Win back the Peoples Party (PP) MPs seen happily wining, dining and flirting with Mutharika; and
(d) Successfully poach some DPP MPs – those feeling side-lined within their party, convincing them to disappear from the chamber to reduce DPP MPs’ numbers.
For a leader worth his salt, this is Foundational Politics 101; requiring no rocket science. Did Chakwera perform any of these manoeuvres?
I, for one, need some serious convincing.
Whatever the case, without these measures; other than praying, there wasn’t much that Pac could have done to pass the bills.
To sum up: the intra-parliament deal-making was Chakwera’s call. From the look of things, he was found wanting. Busy counting chickens before they hatched, Chakwera and his minions lost us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform our rigging-friendly electoral laws.
Therefore, instead of censuring Pac, Chakwera and his Whips are the people we should be taking to task. Full stop.
Having said that, since there is no gain in crying over spilt milk, let’s move on.
The 2019 election is a very open race. Some might argue that it has not even started. I beg to differ: the race has already started and going forward, it will only gain more momentum.
For both Mutharika and Chakwera, there are myriad variables ahead, with some bound to go well and others sure to go horribly wrong.
Putting it mildly, 2018 will be a mine field with an almanac of blunders waiting to happen, a whole repertoire of possible miscalculations, tonnes of accurate and inaccurate assumptions to be made and surprises; all which will have a bearing on who the “Prince of Thieves” May 2019 onwards will be.
We will unpack all this in 2018 but for now, a synopsis will suffice.
One needs no prophetic powers to deduce that Chilima will not partner Mutharika on the ballot in 2019.
Vote-wise, will this be a plus or a minus for DPP?
MCP-wise, that Chakwera feels more comfortable around Siddik Mia than he does with Msowoya requires no binocular to observe.
Will Msowoya eat humble pie? More to the point, will MCP emerge from its convention slated for 2018 united or divided?
So, what if Chilima and Msowoya team up? Could they ‘poach’ from both DPP and MCP at both executive and grass-root levels?
If they did, which party between MCP and DPP would bleed the most?
Which demographic groups would be most excited and attracted by this phenomena? And how would this pair impact the regional dynamics forming the core of Malawi’s politics?
Let’s speculate further and say this Chilima/Msowoya or Msowoya/Chilima phenomena rises above tribe-based politics which is the DPP’s forte and MCP’s ‘fifth cornerstone’.
How many followers would DPP and MCP lose from corners of Malawi that feel ‘excluded’? And, how deeply would this eat into DPP/ MCP traditional territories on account of the slowly but surely increasing liberals caring less and less about tribal politics? The churches. How would they react?
All these questions have no easy answers.
But what is the point of these questions?
The point is: in May 2019, victory won’t go to those who work the hardest; but to those who craft and implement the smartest strategies addressing complex questions like the above.
Where does this leave you and me?
Rather than be overly defensive – which is one of the reasons Malawi is poverty and corruption-wise – a ‘star performer’; we should embrace the new year with a new perspective.
This requires leaving our comfort zones and daring to try and test what has not tried and tested before.
The motivation is obvious.
Wasn’t it Albert Einstein who said we can’t solve current problems using the same thinking used to create them? Moreover, isn’t “Insanity” the art of repeating old mistakes and yet expecting different results?
Blues’ Orators, while I am itching to wish you a happy and prosperous new year; the best I can offer is a less painful year ahead, hopefully with no faeces-infested water.
For 2019, depending on you Blues’ Orators becoming smarter and transcending nepotism and partisan politicking, I might have a better prognosis.
Till we meet again next year, take care and please, do take charge of your destiny.

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