Th opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) registered a resounding victory over the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the October 17 by-elections, by winning all three parliamentary seats and two, of three seats, for councillors. Our Lilongwe Bureau Chief SAM CHUNGA caught up with the party’s president Lazarus Chakwera to find out if he was surprised with the victory? Excerpts:
Did the victory of Tuesday’s by-elections surprise you?
Our victory as a party is not as worthy of celebration as the victory of democracy that has allowed Malawians to express their will regarding how and by whom they wish to be governed. The MCP is merely a servant and instrument by which Malawians can express their will and aspirations to reclaim their country and its riches after years of seeing both destroyed by an intransigent class of kleptocrats. The victory that will be truly worth celebrating is the removal of all the dross that is clogging up every one of our governance institutions, as well as the restoration of the pride and prosperity of Malawians, and toward that end, our work has only begun. So no, we were not surprised to see that Malawians across this country are wise enough to know that the government they currently have is not worthy of their aspirations.
As the votes were being counted in all the elections, were you anxious enough to sit up late and follow the blow-by-blow reports and how were you feeling?
As MCP president, I have full confidence in the internal reforms we have undertaken as a party and the honorable men and women who are the custodians of our vision of national transformation through servant-leadership. It is what is driving our robust culture of empowering young people whose vigilance during these elections was so great that any anxiety on my part would have been needless. Their efforts are more worthy of attention than my personal sleeping patterns or feelings.
Who accompanied you in the poll results’ vigil: family or/and some party officials?
Your question presumes that I kept a vigil and was accompanied in doing so, but the only thing that matters is the will that Malawians clearly expressed at the ballot, the results of which I learned together with all Malawians when Justice Jane Ansah, SC, announced in her capacity as a chairperson of the Malawi Electoral Commission.
Some people think that during the by-election, MCP merely benefitted from a number of DPP’s blunders. What is your take: was this MCP’s classic use of strategies that worked?
It is true that the DPP government has shown itself to be incompetent, mediocre, insensitive to the plight of Malawians, and belligerent towards opposition parties. It is also true that the young people who continue to flock to MCP all over the country are incredibly talented and determined to use the best strategies to cast a compelling vision of national transformation through servant leadership to the electorate. Even so, the biggest determining factor in the by-elections was the fact that Malawians now know that they deserve better than the DPP government they currently have, and so they are determined to give themselves a better government they know will work in their interests.
During MCP’s campaigning recently, an MP for an opposition party said he and several of his colleagues not only plan to ditch their party but also want to stand on the MCP ticket during the 2019 general elections. Have such MPs formalised their wishes yet?
When they do, I am sure it will be public information. Still, every Malawian joining the MCP is doing so because they can see that we are more than a party. They join MCP because they can see that we are a movement of Malawians that believe that the future of this country belongs to all of us and that there is no one person who is going to build that future on their own. They join MCP because they are tired of waiting for politicians who make empty promises and distribute perishable handouts to get elected into offices where plunder is the only agenda they work hard on.
How do you hope to build on MCP’s strength and popularity in the face of some long-standing squabbles which have seen some cliques developing within the party?
What you think are squabbles are what we know to be a healthy manifestation of the democratic process in a political institution that has rejected settling for the kind of artificial unity other parties have based on tribal and familial monopolies propped up by a culture of handclapping. We are building a party whose unity is sustainable by virtue of being based on love of their country and the pursuit of the aspirations of Malawians, which necessarily means we must embrace a culture of facilitating a healthy debate, not stifling it.
When and how do you intend to do a post-mortem of the by-elections?
The post-mortem is already under way and we will build on whatever we learn from Malawians about how we can serve them better going forward.
Obviously, a convention is the best tool for revamping any party. When will the MCP hold its convention?
I have addressed this question in the past, and you will find that my remarks on when we will hold a convention are a public record.
The recent Gonapamuhanya ceremony for the Tumbukas, in Rumphi, exhibited unfortunate acts of violence. Were you personally targeted and did you run away, like some opposition party leaders did?
I was invited by Malawians in the North to attend the event, and there is no way I can run away from those who presume to intimidate me in my own country. Even though I was personally targeted, those employing these violent tactics are fighting a losing battle, because attacking me will not stop Malawians from pursuing the establishment of a government that is free of corruption, intimidation, regionalism, and executive arrogance.
Do you have any parting words to Malawians?
As Bob Marley said, continue to “Get up and stand up. Don’t give up the fight”. Our victory is closer than it was at the beginning. Stay the course, and together we shall overcome.