Despite its enviable history of rescuing Malawi from the jaws of colonialism in 1964, the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), since its fall from grace in 1994, has struggled to claim a fair share of the national vote and return into government.
Its greatest challenge, I argue, is that MCP has always been a predominantly central region party even after the much touted generational leadership change from the Gwanda Chakuamba to John Tembo of the old to Reverend Lazarus Chakwera of the new.
For the 19 years that MCP’s leadership was in the hands of Chakuamba and, then, Tembo; the party represented everything that many hated about its 31 years of ‘death and darkness’
In those good 19 years, MCP was closed in the north, wasn’t welcome in the South and, sorry to say, wasn’t a darling to the youths. It was just a party for, mostly, the hardcore Chewa people from the central region—especially the rural areas.
The coming in of Chakwera in 2013 started a process of rebranding the party. However, that process failed to get MCP to power in 2014 and 2019 because Chakwera failed to get a person who can help MCP connect where it was failing to reach.
In 2014, for instance, Chakwera settled for Richard Msowoya, a politician who only spoke to his small constituency in Karonga. It wasn’t different in 2019 when he settled for Sidik Mia—a politician who only spoke to a small section in Chikwawa District.
Msowoya and Mia were never regional political giants, even worse; none of two could speak and influence the youths. MCP, as a result, was still on its own—entirely reliant on the central region vote which DPP was doing better in dismantling.
For MCP to return to government Chakwera needed a youthful and energetic figure who can speak, one, to the youths; and two, speak to the national without the regional mindset. In other words, with his tradition central region vote intact, all Chakwera needed was a master of pulling all swing voters to the fold.
Thank God, in the year of our Lord 2020, he found that person: Saulos Klaus Chilima.
When he partnered Peter Mutharika in 2014, Chilima wasn’t much of a political figure to reckon; even worse, he was riding on the back of DPP machinery which was already staunching and menacing.
The political grandeur of Chilima was felt in 2019 when, in not less than six months, he launched his own political party, shook the nation with radical campaign tactics and, eventually, winning over 1 million votes.
Chilima’s political branding revolves around two key variables: One, not being associated with politics of regions and tribe; and two, appealing mostly to the youths and urbanites.
Through that branding, Chilima, in 2019, managed to get much of the urban vote, the youths and a couple of swing voters across every corner of the country.
The only challenge with Chilima and UTM is that they don’t have strong political bedrock to base their winning formula. That is why, on his own, it is troubling to imagine him win the presidency.
But at the level he reached with the 2019 botched results, he had become more of a king maker than a king himself.
Whichever way he went, DPP or MCP, he was already poised to make a king. That is why, today, MCP, after 26 years in the opposition, can afford a smile—a giant one, for soaring into power. It would never have happened without Chilima.
Ladies and gentlemen, hail Chilima, Malawi’s political king maker for now; the gallant campaigner who has changed the history of MCP! -Nyasatimes