Political analyst Boniface Dulani has said politics triumphed over performance in the downfall of former Blantyre City Council (BCC) mayor Noel Chalamanda who lost to his former deputy Wild Ndipo.
Ndipo, Chigumula Ward councillor and a Democratic Progressive party (DPP) candidate, defeated the flamboyant Chalamanda of Blantyre City Centre Ward yesterday with a resounding 17 votes against two in the peaceful polls that also had two other DPP contenders in George Chipwete (Soche West Ward) and Lewis Ngalande (Misesa Ward) who got eight and three votes respectively.
Analysing the outcome in an interview, Dulani, a political science lecturer at Chancellor College (Chanco), a University of Malawi (Unima) constituent college, observed that while it appeared obvious the DPP would win the seat, politics played a superior role.
He said: “It is not really surprising that they [DPP] have won although one would have expected the outgoing mayor [Chalamanda] to be given a second chance. But clearly this is the case where politics has triumphed over performance.
“I think people have gone for the party [DPP] rather than someone who was delivering given that Chalamanda was transforming Blantyre City. That is politics of the DPP. I think they are really more interested in consolidating their own power rather than building the city of Blantyre.”
So far the DPP has won two mayoral seats—for Luchenza Municipality in Thyolo and Blantyre City. The governing party has lost two in Lilongwe and Mzuzu where the seats went to the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP) respectively.
In Mzuzu, Mchengautuwa Ward councillor William Mkandawire (PP) yesterday reclaimed his seat as the city’s mayor with a landslide victory after defeating DPP candidate Yona Mkandawire by 13 to 3 votes.
In Mzuzu City Council, PP has seven councillors, DPP has four but five votes, including member of Parliament (MP) for Mzuzu City Leornard Njikho. Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has five councillors.
Given that DPP had five voting members and their candidate just got three, the mathematics could be that two of the DPP voters chose PP and ignored their own candidate.
The victory makes William Mkandawire the only mayor to have been re-elected into office as other mayors for Lilongwe and Blantyre have lost.
In his victory speech, William Mkandawire thanked other councillors for entrusting him with the position for the second time.
However, his former deputy Frazer Chunga failed to reclaim the seat.
It was obvious from the start of nominations that Chunga would not make it. His nomination could not be backed and it took MCP councillor Lusubilo Mwangonde’s sympathy to second the nomination.
Chunga was booted out by MCP councillor Alexander Mwakikunga who got nine votes while Chunga and another PP councillor Patrick Ng’oma got two votes each.
DPP did not field a candidate for the deputy mayor position and the rest of the votes were null and void. The null and void votes equalled the number of votes DPP candidate Yona Mkandawire got on the mayor position.
In Luchenza Municipal Council, both the new mayor and deputy mayor Brighton Baluwa and Henderson Supuni respectively belong to the DPP.
Elections are yet to be conducted in Kasungu Municipality while in Zomba City Council councillors will only vote for deputy mayor although the decision is being challenged.
Overall, Dulani said each of the three said parties won where they were expected to because of the majority councillors they had in the areas.
“For Lilongwe City, people were also looking at the performance of the former mayor. In that case, he has been punished for not doing a great job and have brought in someone that even people that are not MCP would expect to be in a position to do a better job.
“But for Mzuzu City, it is not surprising that the mayor has retained his seat. It is, however, interesting because the party itself [PP] as a brand I don’t think is as vibrant as it was few years back so perhaps it is the case of performance that people thought of giving him a second chance for doing a reasonable job,” said Dulani.
The new Blantyre City mayor has since pledged to fast-track the infrastructural development of the city and overhaul the council’s waning operations.
Ndipo, a businessperson, said he had learnt a lot from his predecessor and would proceed from where he left as deputy mayor.
“You will agree with me that since we came into office, Blantyre City has undergone great transformation. Now as the new mayor, it is my ambition to further change it for the better,” he said.
Among others, Ndipo hinted on ensuring that the red star campaign succeeds, revenue collection improves, outdated council by-laws are reviewed, encroachment of road reserves is dealt with and financial systems are strengthened.
On his part, Chalamanda, without elaborating, said his defeat did not come as a surprise to him, but he was leaving office a happy councillor because “all has worked well and together we will be working to take the city forward”.
He said: “I pledge my total support and cooperation to councillor Ndipo and his team. The people have spoken, they chose, they found another alternative and there is nothing wrong with that, it is a simple democratic process and that is how it works.”
Commenting on the elections outcome, several citizens The Nation spoke to on Chalamanda’s defeat expressed shock, describing his ouster as a “negative aspect”.
“It is shocking that the mayor who was rated a star performer among all his colleagues could fall like that. The man was visionary and surely in his two and a half years he has transformed the face of Blantyre City,” lamented Chawanangwa Kwaule, a resident of Manja Township.
However, after the polls, Ngalande, who is DPP director of youth and member of the party’s national governing council (NGC), accused Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa, who is also DPP director of elections, of “creating” his defeat.
Ngalande claimed that prior to the elections Nankhumwa phoned all the councillors advising them not to vote for him because he is a “troublemaker”.
However, Nankhumwa said in an interview last evening that he was surprised with Ngalande’s claims which had no substance.
He said: “As a party, we agreed that in as far as Blantyre City mayoral elections are concerned, we should not take sides in influencing voters on who to vote for because all the three candidates were DPP members and we didn’t want to confuse the voters.
“So, those were mere allegations and I don’t know why he made such claims. I never did that and I was surprised to hear about that allegation.” n