Since the multiparty referendum of 1992, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has struggled to garner meaningful support in the Southern and Northern regions of Malawi.
With time, its stronghold, the Centre, has become increasingly accommodating to other parties and independents.
On the other hand, the 2005-born Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) – MCP’s current nemesis, has up to now managed its stronghold very well. Save for a few independents, no other party wins seats in the Lhomwe belt but DPP secures seats in the Centre and North.
Get me right Blue Orators, I am not implying that MCP cannot break the jinx. Holding all things constant, MCP can even win the presidential election.
To lend weight to this, the legendary Raphael Tenthani (MHSCRIP), in the run-up to May 20, consistently argued in his Sunday Muckraking column that the 2014 elections were for Chakwera to lose.
In theory, MCP just needed to marshall all eligible voters in the Centre to turn out on polling day and secure over 90 percent of their votes.
What happened, however, is that protecting its stronghold, let alone persuading people to turn out in the numbers necessary to attain the critical mass needed to tip the scale in its favour, proved difficult.
And Tenthani’s forecast notwithstanding, whether it was the fact that MCP had no parliamentary candidates in 39 constituencies to serve as the party’s local champions and custodians of its presidential votes or the fact that the North did not reward Chakwera for Richard Msowoya’s selection as running mate because it already had ‘Nkomwana’ in Joyce Banda or that the elections were rigged, Chakwera lost.
Once beaten twice shy, the saying goes.
As we speak, MCP is reportedly ‘rebuilding’ via a strange combination of controversial district elections, point less suspensions, problematic expulsions, and of late, courting Muhamed Siddik Mia presumably to run alongside Chakwera in 2019.
It appears that rather than work with the North – where the party faired badly in May 2014, or harness the Centre, including Chakwera’s home district, Lilongwe, where the party lost some parliamentary seats; MCP thinks romancing the Shire Valley is its best manoeuvre to counter the ruling DPP’s and United Democratic Front (UDF)’s collective supremacy in the populous South.
Blue Orators, let us weigh in and unravel the maze as best we can.
The first issue is that among the major parties, MCP, although endowed with assets like the National Headquarters and other buildings spread across the country – plus plenty of goodwill, is as cash-strapped as a church mouse.
And this, Blue Orators, is where MCP’s problems begin.
Because, whether MCP fixes whatever went wrong in 2014 and sticks to the Chakwera/ Msowoya ticket or whether it dumps Msowoya and the ‘ungrateful’ North for Mia to cash in on his reportedly massive war chest plus the Shire Valley votes that abandoned the party with the exit of ‘Mbuya’ Gwanda Chakuamba, an empty stomach is the worst adviser.
Talking of empty stomachs, Nobel prize-winning scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955) said: “Reduced to a formula, one might say simply that an empty stomach is not a good political adviser.”
He continued: “Unfortunately, the corollary also is true – namely, that better political insight has a hard time winning its way as long as there is little prospect of filling the stomach.”
Although Einstein was speaking about a specific political situation when implying that desperation does not make good politics, this theorem – like his many others – has since gained traction and proved its worth, over and over again.
My advice to MCP strategists – assuming there are any – is: before endorsing Mia as running mate because of his money and supposed Shire Valley following, they should soberly look at the numbers, which, when the votes have been cast, are all what matters.
For a start, having not being picked by Joyce Banda as a running mate, Mia, in a ‘chikuwawe’, endorsed Atupele Muluzi.
The questions they should ask are: “How many Shire Valley votes did Mia’s endorsement of Atupele translate into? Didn’t Atupele, with the money, name and the supposed Eastern Region popularity come a distant 4th in the presidential ballot?”
Secondly, with regard to Mia’s fortune, which could potentially bankroll the MCP’s 2019 campaign, the question they should seek honest answers to is: “Assuming that Mia’s bottomless wealth were available in 2014, would it have made a difference? How?”
Plus: “If Mia joins the MCP but is not given the running mate position he is after, will MCP manage the ensuing confusion?” Can it afford yet another crisis?”
They should, finally, consider whether: MCP lost the 2014 election due to lack of funds; or the failure to feature candidates at all levels in all the constituencies and wards; or hiring incompetents as election directors and monitors which aided the alleged rigging; or a combination of all these factors and address the causes, rather than seek the very same ‘quick-fixes’ which Chakwera is on record bantering the DPP government about.
And by embracing Mia, who has openly declared he is returning to politics for something ‘big’, MCP strategists should consider the consequential backlash, at the 2019 polls, from the Northern Region that will feel cheated for dropping thei r son, Msowoya, especially after the dismissal of a convention-elected Deputy Secretary General, Jimmy Chatonda Kaunda.
Whatever the mathematics the MCP gurus are doing, the numbers of voters in the Shire Valley, plus the porous Central Region cannot dent DPP’s and UDF’s superior numbers from the Lhomwe and Yao belts.
The Northern vote could, in fact, be the decider in 2019.
The stone that the builder rejected, all the above notwithstanding, is the ‘prophetic’ letter by the beleaguered Secretary General – Gustave Kaliwo, whose contents are now turning out to be true.
You may recall, Blue Orators, that it was Kaliwo’s letter that first announced the Mia Factor, and raised other pertinent issues that should not have been quickly written off as ‘childish’ by Msowoya or any sober party member.
The issues raised, if immediately addressed, remove the need to recycle the Mias of this world when there are a lot of capable Malawians who – if given space and not quickly branded ‘nkholokolo’ – could elevate Chakwera to the State House.
Unfortunately for Kaliwo and his counsel, Einstein’s corol lary that : bet ter political insight has a hard time winning its way as long as there is little prospect of filling the stomach, applies.
Kaliwo was, however, right.
MCP needs to move fast on Mia so that it has enough time to manage the inevitable fallout which will come after his inclusion or exclusion in the party as running mate.
To close this discourse, going against Einstein’s advice is an option for Chakwera. The only problem, going by MCP’s constitution, is that 2019 will be Chakwera’s last and final shot at the Malawi presidency.
On your behalf, Blue Orators, I wish Chakwera the best of luck as he prays on how to circumvent the conundrum posed with Mia’s ambitions and interest in MCP.
Strategists or no strategists, advisers or no advisers, nkholokolo or no nkholokolo, this is Chakwera’s ultimate litmus test in his sojourn towards the 2019 elections, which will determine if he will ever be the state president failing which, he will have to step down so that the MCP, a party never short of presidential aspirants, can move on under new leadership.
Is it too early for MCP members to start scouting? This is none of my business but they too should know that an empty stomach is not a good political adviser!