At long last, the nation has witnessed the inauguration of Lazarus Chakwera and Saulos Chilima as State President and State Vice President, respectively.
The event took place Monday at Kamuzu Barracks in Lilongwe after Chakwera called off this year’s Independence Anniversary celebrations at Bingu National Stadium because of a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The two leaders took over control of the country after their triumph in the June 23 Fresh Presidential election under Tonse Alliance.
During a colourful ceremony which was attended by dignitaries from countries such as Tanzania, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Kenya, Malawi Defence Force Commander Peter Namathanga finally handed over the Sword-of- Command to Chakwera.
The ceremony could not have taken place on a better day than July 6, the occasion when the entire nation comes to a standstill to celebrate gaining self rule from British colonial rule.
This means the Malawi leader is in full charge of the country’s affairs and all sectors are certainly hoping for better things to come.
One such sector, sports, has every reason to be more excited with the two leaders who share a common denominator of having been in the game at various levels.
Chakwera served the nation as board chairperson of the Malawi National Council of Sports during late Bingu wa Mutharika’s rule.
It is not clear which team Chakwera supports locally but his preference outside the country seems to be English Premiership side Arsenal FC, whose jersey the first citizen has been spotted wearing on several occasions.
Even during his time as leader of opposition between 2014 and 2019, Chakwera would put on his favourite red football boots and a tracksuit each time he attended a sports event.
As for Chilima, this is a man who needs no introduction as far as sports is concerned as he still slum-dunks his way through the basketball court with relative ease.
On several occasions while serving as former president Peter Mutharika’s vice, Chilima would don his sports attire and grace competitions such as National Bank of Malawi’s Mo626 College Basketball tournament and the Standard Bank Be More Race.
Unlike other leaders who would just be contented with sitting on their executive chairs watching the action from the sidelines all day, Chilima would join the athletes and show them that he has what it takes to be a true sportsman.
Therefore, the two leaders’ ascendancy to power must have made the sports fraternity smile with expectations of a better future.
The general expectation is that Chakwera and Chilima will have a soft spot for sports as they channel resources to develop various sectors in their five-year term of office.
Football Association of Malawi president, Walter Nyamilandu, said they have expectations from the two leaders given their passion for sports.
“We have very high expectations from the leadership of Chakwera and Chilima. We believe that this time sports will be taken seriously and not just as a social pastime. Given the passion that the President and the Vice President have for sports, we definitely stand a very good chance that sports will receive a lot of attention.
“We are therefore very excited with the prospect of the new government pumping in significant investment towards sports so that Malawi must be a shining star in top international competitions,” Nyamilandu said.
A sports analyst, Chimwemwe Nyirenda, asked the two leaders to pay special attention to netball as it is a key sport that has put the country on the world map.
“The new government should prioritise supporting netball. This is a key sport that has put the country on the map. Motivating netball players with better incentives will go a long way in improving our national team’s performance.
“We also need an international standard netball court as soon as possible. The new government should also find ways of helping Netball Association of Malawi to create and find sponsors for a national netball league,” Nyirenda said.
He also asked the government to improve management of Sports Council which handles government’s money that goes to sports associations.
“Sports Council is the heartbeat of all sports disciplines in the country and its board members should be well experienced in sports development and management. We should not have board members whose only qualification is political party loyalty or membership.
“Sports Council should champion creation and formulation of strategic plans for associations. It should train association heads and empower them with skills to improve the running of sports and generation of extra income. The government should also ensure that all associations should be audited by independent auditors,” Nyirenda said.
Former Zodiak Broadcasting Station sports producer/presenter/ football commentator, Mike Bango, who is now Malawi Congress Party’s Kasungu North Member of Parliament, said the two leaders are very passionate about sports.
“I first met the President some seven years ago when he was Sports Council board chairperson. He was the one who presented to me the Best Sports journalist and presenter award in the TNM Super League awards. I have a photograph of him presenting a miniature to me. This is one of my best treasures.
“So it was like a dream when Malawi Electoral Commission declared him winner of the Fresh Presidential Election. I keep looking at the photograph and cannot believe that I am a parliamentarian for someone I had interacted with seven years ago and is now our Head of State. It is only God who has done this. From where I have come from, very few can believe that this is reality,” Bango said.
The youthful lawmaker said he believes that Chakwera will give sports a special consideration as he leads the country for the next five years.
“I have great hope that the President will take care of sports as he addresses challenges that all sectors are facing. He is a sportsman with great passion for sports, at least from the little that I know about him,” Bango said.
Malawi can only look forward to a bright future in sports with Chakwera and Chilima at the helm.
Success has eluded almost all sports sectors since independence and one only hopes that the new government will bring back the sweet memories of 1978, 1979 and 1988 when the Malawi national football team lifted the East and Central Africa Senior Challenge Cup.
Better must come!