‘I have what it takes to lead at any level’
President of the Assemblies of God, the Reverend Dr Lazarus Chakwera has challenged Malawians that he can change the face of Malawi politics. He has declared his interest to lead this country as a President on the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) ticket. Our reporter ANTHONY KASUNDA wanted to hear from the religious leader, why MCP of all the political parties?
That you want to contest at the MCP’s forthcoming convention is now in the public domain. But of all the political parties in Malawi, why MCP?
As the founding party of the Malawi nation, I believe that the MCP is the foundation that was laid as nationalists came together to unify a people and embark on nation building with a clear vision and values.
Some of the early aspirations and dreams need revisiting and the values that spearheaded that nation building need re-emphasis to more perfectly realign present realities with the future Malawians are longing for. Changes would be there considering the context in which we live now. I believe MCP is well able to adapt as it has survived up to now.
MCP is associated with bad things if what is said on political podiums by other political players is anything to go by. You are a respected religious leader, are you ready to be associated with MCP history?
MCP’s history, like anyone’s history for that matter, has both positive as well as negative aspects. One does not throw away the baby together with the bath water. The positive aspects can be embraced and build upon while the negative can serve as valuable lessons not to be repeated.
Not many people would agree with your recent description of the MCP president, John Tembo, as a democrat. What’s democratic about Tembo’s leadership?
Honourable Tembo has repeatedly said the party belongs to the people and it is the people who choose leaders. I would think that is a democratic position. And I respect that.
What would you say to someone who argues that you are a political amateur and, therefore, not fit to run for presidency?
People have a right to their opinion. Political amateurism or professionalism depends on how people perceive and practice politics. And my not having been in mainstream politics would be viewed by some as a weakness on my part. But on the other hand, that could also be seen as a strength by others. The whole issue is about leadership. And I believe I have what it takes to lead at any level.
Don’t you think you should have first grounded yourself in politics, by for instance running for a parliamentary seat before vying for the presidency?
That is certainly one option. But my interest epitomises the whole concept of doing politics “unusual” not “as usual”. If people want change, I am offering myself as someone who can work with them and provide leadership.
When you want to fight a pig, you have to be ready to be contaminated with mud. Politics is said to be a dirty game, are you ready to get dirty?
While politics is said to be a dirty game by some, the word itself per se does not mean or imply that. People who do politics may be the ones who are dirty and consequently practice dirty politics.
If, therefore, some people want to put mud on me as you put, so be it. But I am not putting mud on anyone. It is not about me. If we tell the truth, it will always catch up with us.
Your name is very new in Malawi’s politics. What gives you confidence that MCP should trust you to take them into government next year?
People are looking for change for the better. A new name on the horizon might just represent that change. Since people vote for who they want, we respect their choice. We deserve the leadership we choose despite the feeling that Malawians deserve better.
How are you going to combine church and politics, considering that you are president of Assemblies of God church? Will you resign from the church’s position?
At the appropriate time, it is evident that I will relinquish my leadership as President of Malawi Assemblies of God. But we need not give the impression that that church and politics are mutually exclusive. All authority is from God. And God is God of the nations. He sets up leaders. Righteousness is what exalts a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.
What do you think are your major strengths and weaknesses?
My capacity to cast a compelling vision and mobilise people to realise it for their benefit is a strength that I have. My greatest asset is my character. Sometimes mere competence without corresponding character traits leads to the derailment of otherwise good policies and plans in pursuit of any given vision. My apparent weakness is being a novice in so far as mainstream Malawian politics are concerned.
Malawians are looking for a leader who will provide a solution to the economic woes the country is facing. How do you think this situation can best be resolved?
Specifics of these can be given at the appropriate time. The agricultural sector may need to be beefed up beyond levels of mere subsistence. A deliberate plan to grow Malawian entrepreneurship in all sectors may need to be embarked on. The infrastructure is already there. We must create wealth for all. We must all resolve not to be a nation of beggars.
Campaign is an expensive exercise, are you financially ready?
I may not be financially ready as you put it. But Malawians can fund a campaign that is unlike any other but getting everyone who believes in the future we represent to invest in it.
Lastly, if you fail to make it at the convention, what’s next?
I shall continue to serve Malawians in my present capacity and support those leading this nation in any way I can to accelerate the country’s development and unity. Thank you for taking time to speak to me.