The moment MCP delegates on Saturday rejected John Tembo’s bid for another term as party leader, it was clear that the grouping’s rank and file wanted a new era.
And they got their wish, dramatically electing the 58-year old politically inexperienced former Assemblies of God president Reverend Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, a cleric throughout his adult life, to lead the party and be its torch-bearer in the May 2014 Tripartite Elections.
Chakwera amassed 287 votes out of the 652 cast. Former Chief Justice Lovemore Munlo came second with 169 votes whereas former secretary general Chris Daza came third with 90 votes, followed by former parliamentarian Lytton Dzombe with 24 votes, former Cabinet minister Jodder Kanjere with 21, former Farmers Union of Malawi (FUM) president Felix Jumbe with 19 and Nkhotakota Central legislator Edwin Banda got 14.
Lilongwe Mpenu Member of Parliament (MP) Watson Makala-Ngozo garnered eight votes. Former secretary general Betson Majoni and MP Joseph Njobvuyalema (Lilongwe Mapuyu South) had seven each whereas former director of political affairs Eston Kakhome came last with six votes. Seven votes were null and void.
As the presiding officer from the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) announced the results in alphabetical order, supporters of Chakwera, who was called second, had to wait for Munlo’s name before they burst into jubilation.
Thereafter it was uncontrollable singing and shouting in the hall as well-wishers rushed in to congratulate Chakwera who did not immediately react or join the jubilation, saying in a brief interview later that he was too shocked to react.
Chakwera could not immediately talk to the press, only saying he was too overjoyed to say anything.
Soon after the results were announced and before the delegates could go into another round of voting for other positions, the president-elect had to be excused from the hall amid heavy security escort.
As we went to press, voting was continuing for the other positions.
In his opening speech earlier before the election, long time MCP president John Tembo, whose candidature was against the party’s constitution that only allows a two-term tenure of office, said he was seeking re-election after being forced by the party’s national executive committee (NEC).
However, when chairperson of the convention MacDonald Lombola asked the delegates whether the former MCP leader should be allowed to stand, a deafening “No!” rang throughout the hall.
This forced the veteran politician to withdraw his candidature, leaving only 11 candidates to face off.
By the time MEC was announcing the list of candidates, Tembo had already left the hall, while almost all the candidates were present.
Before the convention started, there was drama after it was realised that one of the districts had ineligible delegates, a situation that forced some of the delegates to rush to the High Court to get an injunction that ruled that the process should not start until the other delegates are allowed to participate.
Another drama followed during the actual voting process when the delegates felt uncomfortable with the MEC system of simultaneous voting for the presidency.
The confusion came when it was realised that some of the contestants were appearing in more than one position.
This prompted Central Region chairperson Daniel Mlomo to request that the system be changed so that the voting should start with the president before moving to the other slots.
Among renowned guests to the convention were British High Commissioner Michael Nevin, Chinese Ambassador Pan Hejun, Press Corporation Limited group chief executive officer Dr Matthews Chikaonda, DPP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi and UDF secretary general Kandi Padambo.
PP’s acting secretary general Paul Maulidi sent a congratulatory message, which was read by director of ceremonies Jean Sendeza, who is also MP for Lilongwe South West.
Who is Chakwera?
MCP’s new leader was born in Lilongwe on April 5 1955 to a subsistence farmer. In 1977, he graduated with a bachelor of arts (philosophy) degree from the University of Malawi and got his honours degree (BTh) from the University of the North, Sovenga, South Africa. In 1991, he got his masters (MTh) from University of South Africa. Trinity International University, in Deerfield, Illinois, USA, awarded him a doctorate (D. Min) in 2000. He later earned his professorship from the Pan Africa Theological Seminary in 2005.
Chakwera has worked as an instructor at the Assemblies of God School of Theology from 1983 to 2000. In 1996, he was made principal of the school. He has been a co-director and a lecturer at All Nations Theological Seminary. Since 1989 to date, he has been at the helm of Malawi Assemblies of God.
On April 14 2013, he took many by surprise when he declared his intention to run for MCP presidency and resigned as head of the Malawi Assemblies of God effective May 14 2013 to concentrate on his political career.
To win the presidency, Chakwera will have to outwit President Joyce Banda of the People’s Party (PP), United Democratic Front’s (UDF) Atupele Muluzi, Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Peter Mutharika and other contestants from what are considered little known parties.
Chakwera is married to Monica and together they have four children and eight grandchildren.