The road to the much touted convention was long, winding and bumpy. However, it was a road many MCP diehards wished was concluded long time ago. Central to this wish from many supporters was the desire to change the party’s top leadership, to rebrand the party that has been dogged with a long history of one party rule.
With Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera’s rise to the helm, there are few but important issues I would like to raise to confirm several trends that have remained the same in Malawi regardless of generational and observed changes in 2009 elections voting pattern.
First, MCP has been claimed to be a party of the Chewas of Central Region since the dawn of multiparty politics; despite the founders of the party emanating from the Northern and Southern regions of Malawi. This historical antecedent was due to the desire of Dr. Kamuzu Banda, the first president of Malawi and MCP, at consolidating power after the 1964 Cabinet crisis. It was also the desire of seeking the Chewa symbolism and cultural value as a base of national identity and Dr. Kamuzu Banda’s desire to surround himself with people he could trust after falling off with MCP leaders that had called him back from Great Britain to finish the anti-colonial drive. MCP was a national party or movement with strong and solid bases in the Southern and Northern regions before the Central region entered into the scene through the processes highlighted above.
MCP, immediately after Kamuzu Banda, was a party that had national grassroots structures since it existed alone for over 30 years and remained a national party on the road to the second multiparty elections of 1999 with Gwanda Chakaumba in the South and Dr. Peter Chiona in the North as strong leaders nationalising its party structures.
After 1999 elections and the deliberate creation of parallel conventions by MCP with one camp by Chakuamba-( a rightful president at that time), and with another camp of John Tembo (a hot contestant and a dreamer of a Central-region- ruled or led MCP); the success and ascendancy of Tembo to the leadership helm of MCP reverted the party into a Central Region mode and base.
Since Tembo emerged a leader of MCP, his campaign tactics have been Central region-based. As a result, under his leadership, MCP has failed to get MPs in the North and in the South. To date it has none from these regions.
On the road to the 2013 August MCP convention, the media reported that Tembo advised the aspiring presidents that he wished MCP was ruled by one from the Central Region, a bonafide Chewa. There were proposals for other contestants from Central region to pull out of the race to avoid selling the party to southerners. Meaning the party has huge problems with leadership from both Northern and Southern regions.
The winning of Chakwera, therefore, is seen as a triumph of the Central Region, the Chewa in particular- an important indictment of tribal politics in Malawi.
Regardless of the new president being a new face in politics, his ascendancy to power must not be clouded in these wishful and optimistic sentiments only. I contend that the tramp card of being Chewa and therefore from Central Region has been silently and publicly over-emphasised by the party loyalists.
Therefore, it also means that Chakwera’s candidacy in MCP was a planned Central-Region based initiative by the politiburo of MCP- inspired and motivated to rebrand MCP leadership from a tribal perspective.
That is why they dreaded the emergence of Lovemore Munlo from the South as he remained a hot contestant as also evidenced by his emerging number two during the convention.
However, the following questions linger over this conclusion: Why is it a foregone conclusion that MCP is a Chewa or Central Region party the 2009 elections showing that the base was mixed up and shrinking? Secondly, are those who continue with this understanding also telling us that what happened in 2009 was a temporary paradigm shift in Malawi politics and voting patterns?
Thirdly, are they saying something has happened that the Chewas or the Central Region is reverting to its original voting pattern? Fourthly, are those who think like this still contending that voters in the Central Region are still the same with the same experiences, same world views of development and politics; the same appreciation of MCP leadership- regardless of a new generation having emerged of 18- year- olds that have never seen MCP in power? Furthermore, are they defining Chewa and Central Region base as constant in the equation of power of MCP and not a variable- insinuating that life in the Central Region is static and not dynamic? Lastly, why did the central region vote for DPP and not MCP in 2009? What happened to the Chewa or Central Region constant?
So this translates into the following perplexing interrogation with reality on the ground; primarily playing a tribal or regional Chewa card in 2014, MCP is confirming just like the other parties in Malawi that our politics remain tribal and, therefore, cultural? Secondly, even if it means rebranding an old political party with men of God and new names (those that have no baggage from the preceding mistakes of Malawian politicians) on the face of Malawian politics, tribal identity is very critical at defining a party leader in Malawi and in turn a president of this country?
The ideal has been preached but we are not in paradise. This is earth, so Malawi citizens must face the truth as they go to 2014 Tripartite Elections. They must deconstruct the whole world view where personal identity is defined from a clan, tribal, religious, regional perspective before being recognised as Malawian. In the absence of this deconstruction, Malawi shall continue to have rotten leadership as rotten citizens keep on desiring rottenness as a satisfactory State of nationhood.