Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president Lazarus Chakwera says his pairing with the country’s estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima in the July 2 fresh presidential election is “a date with destiny” to improve the plight of Malawians.
A visibly charged Chakwera, who quit the pulpit as head of Malawi Assemblies of God in 2013 to join frontline politics, said it is the dream of a new Malawi that has bound together nine political parties in an electoral ticket branded Tonse Alliance.
He said: “Our destiny is Malawi watsopano okomera tonse [a new and better Malawi for all]. That is what you deserve.
“This dream of a new Malawi is what binds us together. It is what has brought me and Saulos together, not as rivals, and not as a candidate and running mate, but as partners in the service of Malawi.”
Chakwera said the destiny can only be achieved if Malawians cast and protect every vote on July 2.
Turning to Chilima, president of UTM Party whom he faced in the Constitutional Court-annulled May 21 2019 presidential election, he said: “For 26 years, Malawi’s Vice-Presidents have been mistreated, underutilised and slandered. But God has given us Dr. Chilima, whose courage has confronted this disease and answered the call to cure it on behalf of all Malawians. That is destiny.”
Chakwera, who alongside Chilima successfully petitioned the High Court of Malawi sitting as the Constitutional Court to nullify last year’s election, blasted MEC for alleged incompetence and lawlessness, which he said has over the years seen Malawi’s democracy being “hijacked by cheats whose hold on power is built on fraudulent elections, violent campaigns and minority rule”.
He said: “It is a destiny that has survived six years of broken promises. It is a destiny that has survived the acrimony of the 2019 campaign and the robbery of the 2019 elections.”
Chakwera said God has given Malawians the fresh election to restore every voter’s power to bring change and enjoy their rights.
Responding to a question, in an interview, on why his team has presented nomination papers
to the same MEC he brands incompetent, Chakwera said he was complying with the law. to the same MEC he brands
He said: “We have presented the nomination papers to MEC as an institution. We respect institutions. We are following the law which requires candidates to present nomination papers to the institution.”
In the run-up to the annulled presidential election, MCP and UTM had manifestos which promised voters a number of things, including fertiliser subsidy, improved food security, jobs and improved infrastructure.
On how the parties plan to streamline their promises if they form government, Chakwera said the manifestos were being merged and was quick to add that “there was not much difference”.
Reacting to Chakwera’s sentiment that Chilima— widely known by his initials SKC—is his partner and not necessarily a running mate, governance analyst Rafiq Hajat described the statement as confusing because upon submission of nomination papers, the partner automatically becomes running mate.
Hajat, who is also executive director of Institute for Po l i c y Interaction (IPI), said the current partnership between Chakwera and Chilima shows that they can endure, especially looking at the past working relationships between the country’s Presidents and Vice-Presidents, which have often fallen out.
In a separate telephone interview, Chimwemwe Tsitsi, a political scientist who teaches at The Polytechnic—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said Chakwera’s statement is just semantics.
“I would say it is just vocabulary that he chose to use. Politicians, when they are in such circumstances, at some point get excited and they use some words interchangeably,” he said.
Tsitsi also shared Hajat’s sentiments that the duo appears to blend and to have taken time to put together guiding principles for their alliance.
MCP and UTM Party officials were not immediately available to comment on the official name of the alliance as submitted in the application, but MEC spokesperson Sangwani Mwafulirwa said in a written response that the nomination papers have been submitted as MCP.
Present during the presentation of nomination papers were MCP first vice-president Muhammad Sidik Mia—who was Chakwera’s running mate in the annulled election—and his wife Abida, MCP second vice-president Harry Mkandawire, UTM Party vice-president Michael Usi who paired Chilima last year, former president Joyce Banda and representatives of other alliance partners, including All iance for Democracy, People’s Progressive Movement, Freedom Party, Umodzi Party and Malawi Forum for National Developmen.