Saturday, 24 May 2014

When the Sun is under Clouds

In August 2013, I registered to participate in the Malawi 2014 tripartite elections. At that time, I was already concerned with the PP Governments failure to articulate and implement a vision for Malawi. Cash gate had not been revealed but all stories talked about how the country was bleeding from fraud and corruption. Names were mentioned and most aligned to PP and the President's family. But these were allegations.

If my Father had not died, I probably would not have had the opportunity to cast my vote. It was his death that brought me home. At his funeral on 25 July one of the mourners was Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwera. At that time, he had announced that he was going to stand as a candidate during the MCP convention. In introducing him at the graveside, Rev Nyondo wished him well and hoped that if he became President of Malawi, he hoped the Golodi road would finally be considered. Despite having listened to his church ceremonies before, I was impressed with his humility and humanity.

 On 20 May, with no regret at all, I cast my vote for Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwera, who I believe did not become the President of MCP by accident. Today 23 May 2014, having cast my vote for Rev Dr Chakwera and, as I prepare to return to Watford, UK, I  reflect on my 6 days in Malawi.  I am of course leaving without knowing the declared winner of the 2014 Presidential elections. The only known fact is that President Joyce Banda is no longer going to be the President of Malawi. It seems the political similarities between Malawi and Zambia continue to surface. This starts from comparisons between Kamuzu and Kaunda to how cardiac arrest, arrested Mwanawasa and Bingu. The other known fact is that the next President of Malawi is going to be either Arthur Peter Muthalika (APM) or Lazarus Chakwera (LC)

Indications as I leave are that that LC is narrowly leading by a few votes. The lead established is however from unofficial results from constituency tallying centres. Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is yet to announce the official results. So like everyone else I hold my breath. However both APM and LC should know that people voted for them not just because they like them, but because they have hope and faith in their leadership for the future and Malawi's future.

Irrespective, there are lessons to be learnt from this election. First, the Power of Incumbency can be a myth in a maturing democracy especially if majority of the people cry for change. This was clearly shown in the results in Zomba the homestead of the incumbent Joyce Banda. Second, sadly Malawi still sees election as an event and not part of our democratic system which requires a functional Electoral Commission. MEC currently operates like a "Wedding Committee". This has to change going forward. Just like everyday we teach mothers regarding family planning, MEC should have an ongoing programme of voter education and establishment of electoral systems. Third, politicians need to consolidate their Party structures on the ground. This was very a visible weakness of the MCP in the North and Southern region where party structures were non-existent which made it difficult for MCP to reach out to the people.  On the other hand DPP seems to have retained local party structures that canvassed voters every other day in their weaker regions.

Going forward, the next elected President should immediately move and seriously restructure our civil service, insulating it from politics. Let's try to build a professional civil service in terms of staffing as well as delivered public services. Second, Ministers should now not double as MPs. This will ensure that MPs concentrate on their role. Third, decentralisation and devolution of power should be started with the intention of having stronger local authorities. Although elections of councillors did not attract much coverage, the future of Malawi's development lies in strong and functional District Assemblies that will have and implement local development plans. Finally, we need to go back to the 2007 Constitutional Review document to implement recommendations made including reclaiming section 64, having 50+1 provision etc. Our democracy has been compromised by greedy politicians who managed to massage constitution to fit their agenda.

To Outgoing President Banda (JB) I applaud her and the people that made it possible for JB to step in the vacuum after Bingu's death. I have no doubt that when she stepped in, she wanted to make a difference in Malawians lives. She however has herself to blame for not performing and for losing this election. She only had 2 years to utilise the goodwill shown by Malawians soon after that fatal Thursday in April 2012 when we lost our unpopular President.  She unfortunately never listened to the free and good advice offered by many genuine Malawians. I vividly remember Edge Kanyongolo's wise words when both if us we were panellist in Scotland on Malawi's democracy. It seems she preferred to listen to the sharks that have moved from party to party since 1994. I can foresee PP ending up like AFORD, a historical party. I wish her God's guidance as she waves goodbye to the power, pomp and the Orange movement. There is life after State House. A good start would be a rethink on "One Cow, one Family" and Mudzi transformation Trust outside State House.

As I leave Malawi, irrespective of who wins, I do not regret voting for Lazarus Chakwera. I believe as I have said before, he has the integrity and the heart to lead Malawi into the future. If he loses, he will be a credible Leader of Opposition. Like he said in his Press briefing yesterday, that even if he were to lose and despite challenges MEC faced, he will accept the outcome of the elections.

One phrase that I will always live to remember uttered by Rev Dr Lazarus Chakwera is, "just because the sun is under the clouds does not mean it has stopped shining". And I say to my fellow Malawians, "just because your preferred candidate has lost the election, does not mean Malawians don't need development".

God Bless us and Malawi

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