It is almost six months to the elections and as expected, political parties with realistic and completely unrealistic chances of taking over government and leading Parliament are busy on the ground.
Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is making progress in sorting out its primaries mess while the biggest preoccupation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) seems to be shielding its senior members and incumbent Members of Parliament from embarrassment at the primary elections.
But while these two political parties have all means to sort out their issues so that they do not become the focus as we inch towards nomination period, the same cannot be said of United Transformation Movement (UTM).
The movement has in its fold a wealth of political experience and the marketing finesse that comes with running a top telecommunications company, as its leader Vice-President Saulos Chilima does.
When the movement first started out a mere four months ago, it was credited with the smarts to foresee any hurdles that its formation might face along the way.
These hurdles ranged from political intimidation of its members, threats to the personal and professional lives of its high ranking members and of course a well calculated smear campaign on SKC by the masters of the game, DPP.
All these have come to pass: Patricia Kaliati faced intimidation in her own backyard, two government officials who dared voice their support for UTM have been tossed out of Capital Hill and of course Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) has conveniently remembered the tax sins of the movement’s co-founder Noel Masangwi.
But as its members sail through troubled waters, which they should have anticipated, it was highly expected that it would at least lay a foundation for its existence beyond May 19 and that was a convention.
This week, UTM has come out to inform its members that the convention scheduled for November 9 has been postponed because its announcement was unprocedural and not in tandem with the movement’s constitution.
It is well and good that UTM has decided to abide by the dictates of its own constitution, albeit retrospectively. One would have expected the announcement of the convention to precede a close scrutiny of what its blueprint says.
Apart from the convention, UTM still has to conduct primary elections and if it has learnt anything from the MCP primaries debacle and DPP pussyfooting over its top leaders, primaries can make or break a political party.
The next step for UTM, highly commendable too, has been to go to the districts, go to the grassroots and it has gone as far as setting up a youth initiative to assist in this drive and promote UTM as the face of Malawi’s political future.
These are things that given time UTM should have done over a period of at least two years but it has defied that and has gone full throttle competing with the likes of MCP and its 24 years experience in the political wilderness.
But as time creeps closer to May 19, the 11 months that UTM had on the day of the launch has become 6 months. UTM has four months to identify candidates for Parliament and council in time for submission of nomination papers to MEC.
It has four months identify funding to pay nomination fees for its candidates ahead of May 19
UTM has a mere 5 months to sell that candidate using a platform that will be acceptable to Mec and that is a symbol and a name.
Unfortunately for UTM, the judiciary cannot be rushed into making a determination on the fate of its registration as a political party.
Perhaps the movement possibly has not moved around enough money in the judicial system to make that happen, as the Chief Justice confirmed does happen.
Nonetheless, UTM needs to move and move quickly, time is not on its side and it will be a great injustice to the Malawians who have such high hopes if all these efforts come to nothing.