Updated: Jan 21, 2020
For a third time in two weeks, something gets to make the waves on the dwindling odds for the Ngwazi's Party, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), making it in the upcoming polls in 2019. Most recently, the MCP's love for press conferences are themselves a tactical error that is only responsible for making the kind of news that it would rather not encourage (see latest here). It shows a party dealing with instability and distress more than forging a vision for Malawi's future. While the underlying factor in the mess the Party has voluntarily embraced is a result of a complacent leadership at the top, this website thinks it will be suicidal for the MCP to ignore the strength of the undercurrents driven by its wobbly bureaucracy.
Even for those that may hate the MCP with a passion, the love for democracy means that the Ngwazi's Party is indispensable for balancing out the growing power of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) beyond 2019. It is the only hope for development in the likely event that the DPP wins.
But first, Gracian Tukula – God bless his loud mouth – is right when he sees the absence of hope in the MCP to lead the country anytime soon. Rudo Tariro, a rather charged regular on Nyasatimes, seems to make a strong point when he prophetically predicts the looming fall of the Ngwazi's party in 2019. And so are the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) in providing that the DPP will likely emerge winner in the same general elections. Very good news for the DPP. Terrible news for the MCP, the only contender with some stamina to oust Mr. Mutharika’s government.
As stated above, it goes without saying that Reverend Lazarus Chakwera has seldom displayed his decisive self. And that is scary in a leader. We shared some sentiments on this in our 23 September 2016 article, in which we advised the most courageous path for the good Reverend towards the country’s democratic maturity, which is to step down. Several months since, he has gone nowhere. However, in doing
so, he compromises the chances of MCP supporters, who have hungered to see their Party at Capital Hill for over 23 years, from ushering their beloved party into power. He also – and we doubt he is aware – is squandering valuable time for the party to groom a more likeable candidate that could make it happen. And, he is shortchanging the MCP in gaining those marginal voters Mr. Tukula speaks of, who can easily be persuaded in an era infused with too many DPP failures.
But while Mr. Tukula’s message covers extensive ground on scrutinizing Reverend Chakwera’s conduct as leader of opposition in Parliament, and how he has missed real opportunities to complement rather than merely oppose and react, we think the problem in the MCP is much deeper. And it is the sort of malaise that smears itself on all parties’ cultures in conducting business. Rev. Chakwera, much like President Peter Mutharika, is surrounded by people who are investing themselves in his vicinity to chance a favour were he to make the presidency. Going by the odds of the moment, it is likely this dream will never be reality for them.
The visible outcome of the dirty internal dealings within the MCP has been the naturalization of factions that are split between rendering unquestioning loyalty to the Reverend and those that solicit a more democratic leadership that heeds to the cautious voices within. Instead, Rev. Chakwera's Regional Chairmen think a party member is unfit to call for a national convention, and invoke the same old tricks in the book to castigate and cast doubt in their General Secretary's loyalty. They miss the point that the Party gains from a unification exercise that, possibly, a convention might just help deliver. More importantly, leaving all decision powers in the hands of a National Executive Committee foregoes the immunity the Party enjoys from an authoritarian brand. And then, the MCP suddenly shows it has not changed from its golden days.
The dispute resolution mechanisms need to be revamped and need to be freed from interference of those that think the leader is not to be questioned. The pardon of Jessie Kabwila and her friends only remains a sugarcoated solution to a deeper challenge the Party president needs to resolve. In fact, it lacks specified avenues through which these rebel politicians will be reintegrated in the main stream of running the Party to the next election. Reverend Chakwera, satisfied with these temporary measures, continues to rest in the comforts accorded by his minions.
It is hard, if not impossible, to envision a 2019 MCP victory with Reverend Chakwera at the helm. With shallow articulate prowess on development solutions dogging him, the more he positions himself on the reactionary and emotional side of governance, it is hard to comprehend he will use politics to drive any message in a manifesto home. In recent times, he has neither offered solutions to Cashgate, Maizegate or the impending Watergate with the Lake Malawi Water Project, nor has he pushed for focused momentum on the prosecution of wrongdoers to rid the country of corruption. He has offered none himself and instead continues to gain a slow and growing distrust in his leadership and that of the Party behind him.
With the full backing of his spotlight-loving elites, Rev. Chakwera has opted to castigate and call out Mr. Mutharika’s failures in managing the vices facing the nation as his way of 'doing opposition.' All the while, the good Reverend has forgotten that, as Member of Parliament (MP) and Leader of Opposition in Parliament, he is a piece of the governance puzzle that should bring illumination on what to do next.
Surrounded by loyalists, the MCP leader has offered some random press conferences, again where the message is too shallow to fill Malawians with the confidence in MCP needed to usher it into the next government. He is outshined by other newcomers, being relatively new o the political scene himself, as Kamlepo Kalua and Joseph Chidanti-Malunga. These opposition leaders have become vocal by persistently keeping government on its toes as it struggles to keep together its mischiefs from leaping out of the bag. Some within, like Juliana Lunguzi, are offering substance to the mainstream debate, a characteristic he is unable to emulate.
These problems in the MCP are a worrisome sign of the lack of political wit within the largest opposition Party in Malawi, which indicate that the Leader of Opposition in Parliament is ill-advised. The caressing power of Rev. Chakwera's loyalists is clouding the opportunity for the man of the pulpit to succeed as a politician, let alone as the leader Malawians have longed for since the fall of the Ngwazi in 1993's referendum. Their fear of letting go of the Reverend makes sense in as far as the chances of a new leader will not wield the proximity that would materialize in an official position in an MCP government. But this logic critically misses the good sense that continuing on the current path will never wield an MCP government altogether.
It is time for the MCP to wake up to the calls, and devote some quality time to building the party. Malawi will need it whichever side of the bench it will sit.