In 2014, incumbent and presidential candidate Joyce Banda had the shock of her life when she lost the presidential election coming a distant third after Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and Malawi Congress Party’s (MCP) Lazarus Chakwera.
Factors leading to her spectacular loss might be difficult to pinpoint such that even she must still be dumbfounded, five years later.
She did everything well: A flamboyant campaign strategy, a wide distribution of campaign materials and a media strategy which include maximum use of the State broadcaster on a daily basis.
Banda’s strategy began with courting groups that supposedly had clout with the voters among them traditional leaders. In a short period of time, close to 20 000 traditional leaders were promoted to various grades ranging from traditional authority to senior chief.
The promotion of chiefs became such a norm that at every rally she attended, a senior traditional leader in attendance could be assured of a promotion right there and then.
Courting traditional leaders, teacher, police officers and public servants in general has been the norm just before an election in this democratic dispensation.
Although they might not have evidence of a correlation between the promotions and winning over voters, the politicians still feel it’s another winning formula to be employed.
On Wednesday, about 20 100 teachers woke up to some good news that the long fought for promotions had become a reality.
Exciting as it might be to the 20 100 teachers in the public service that the government has promoted them, the whole development smacks of political machinations to woo votes.
Teachers have been demanding these promotions for a long time, where was the government these four years while teachers were languishing waiting for a promotion that has been effected at the threat of a strike hanging over their head?
It is certainly not a funding issue when the government has had billions to waste on allowances these past four years. As such it would only be natural to question the timing, with less than two months to election day.
At this time, it wouldn’t hurt to take anything from the government and politicians in general with a pinch of salt.
During this campaign period, politicians will say and do anything and it is unfair on the people who will be affected by decisions made with the sole intention of winning votes.
In a short period of time, we have seen promotions of police officers, some questionable as well as promotions and strategic transfers of District Commissioners.
The madness has not stopped at promotions but extended to promises of roads and other infrastructure which have unrealistic timelines with the express intention to hoodwink voters.
Government has abandoned some road projects to take on more to be fully funded by the taxpayer. These include Nsanje-Marka- Road, Chiringa- Muloza Road, Dwangwa – Nkhotakota among others.
In his excitement the other day, President Peter Mutharika went as far as promising supporters of Nyasa Big Bullets and Mighty Wanderers, teams that have sponsors, stadiums in Blantyre.
Just last week, the people of Likoma were told that construction of the long awaited jetty would begin.
The Minister of Transport Jappie Mhango went as far as convincing the contractor, Mota Engil, to send over equipment to the island to quell any talk that the whole move was a mere campaign gimmick.
Poor Mota Engil is being spread thin as it is and it is only a matter of time before they crack under the pressure of delivering several roads within a short time.
The DPP should know that just as the public and civil society have been doing the past five years, they will be held to account for all the promises they have made recently.
Teachers do not want to wake up from a nightmare after May 21 to find that the government cannot pay them what was promised, like the 20 000 chiefs promoted under the Banda regime.
The betrayal they will feel will surpass that of the people of Dowa-Chezi who have waited 10 years for the road to be completed, or those who live along the Zomba-Jali-Chitakale Road who have waited close to 15 years for the promised road to be completed.