Sosten Gwengwe was just a whisker away from becoming the country’s youngest ever vice-president when his frontrunner in 2014 Tripartite Elections Joyce Banda of the People’s Party (PP) was defeated. The former Minister of Industry and Trade also fell from grace in Dedza Central East where he lost his parliamentary seat. Now under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Gwengwe has found a new lease of life after claiming Lilongwe Msozi North Constituency in the October 17 by-elections. FATSANI GUNYA caught up with him to talk about his ‘political wilderness’ and ‘return’ to frontline politics. Excerpts:
How does it feel to be back in frontline politics?
It definitely feels good to be back as a parliamentarian. I don’t take it for granted. Psychologically I had retired my mind from frontline politics until the by-election came. I stepped forward and people voted for me. For me it’s like the story of Jonah. You would want to run away from politics and whether by fish or whatever means, you still find yourself in Nineveh.
You almost succeeded in becoming the country’s vice-president when you were running mate to former president Joyce Banda in the 2014 Tripartite Elections. How did that ‘fall from grace’ affect you?
I have always taken politics as a calling to serve one’s people. I will always be grateful to former president Dr Joyce Banda for according me the opportunity to have some hands-on- experience on matters of the State. Political positions are not a matter of a right. They are given to you by the people and there is no point shedding tears if the people decide not to vote for you. My winning back a seat in Parliament should be a lesson and an encouragement to fellow youths that resilience and focus are crucial in achieving your goal in politics or otherwise.
You have changed parties to win back a seat in Parliament? Does that not reflect badly on your character?
True, I have changed political parties but not once have I changed my ideologies. If you are privileged to serve your people in an elected position, then it is your primary duty to serve the people diligently and with humility. It is the duty of the electorate not to vote for you if they are not happy with you.
You dumped MCP and joined PP, now you have returned to MCP and won a parliamentary seat. Do you have regrets for dumping the party in the first place?
No election is easy. In the 2014 Tripartite Elections, [the late] Highton Lewis Jiya went to the august House with 4 700 votes. In a by-election, I am going to the House with over 10 000 votes. I think MCP has also benefitted from a candidate like me. But above all, I have no regrets. I appease no one and I will be in Parliament to serve the people of Msozi North. If I serve them well, they will vote for me again in 2019. If I don’t, they will vote me out.
From what happened in the recent past as regards your career path, your loyalty may always be questioned by other MCP loyalists. How do you plan to ‘win them over’?
With me, people get what they see. I make no promises. I make no appeasements. If I have to work, I work and I have no time proving myself to anyone. You either take it as it is or you leave it. Still, life goes on. After all, it’s a world of free choices, therefore, I don’t have plans to win any one over. If my political career gets finished today, for instance, I will be satisfied. I am not in the House to rekindle my political career. I am in that august House to serve the people.
Having been on the sidelines for a while, how can you describe the conduct of Parliament lately?
The current Parliament seems to be vibrant and proactive. There are now many young people who know what they are saying and I like the way various committees have taken government agencies and departments to task on various issues. The electoral reforms debate, too, is probably the best thing this Parliament can get credit for.
What about the role of the opposition parties in consolidating democracy? Are they doing enough?
The opposition is currently putting government in check in many aspects through parliamentary committees. So far so good, but as they say, we can do better as a country.