His naming as UTM running mate in the May 21 presidential race brought a thrill, but Michael Usi’s joining of frontline politics has made him come to reality with it.
Usi said he did not regret leaving his lucrative job in the NGO sector to join mainstream politics.
“I am delighted and grateful to God that I joined mainstream politics. I have come to terms with reality of how some politicians view our country and its challenges of public importance and what they think are solutions,” said the UTM second-in-command.
The renowned comedian, actor and film producer, known by his stage name Manganya, quit his job at Adventist Development Relief Agency (Adra) as country director to become a full-time politician in February 2018.
Exactly a year later, UTM president Saulos Chilima, then the country’s vice-president, nominated the development specialist—who had worked for Adra for nearly three decades—as his running mate during the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
In February 2014, Chilima was also nominated by President Peter Mutharika—then a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate—as his running mate when he was Airtel Malawi managing director.
But speaking in an exclusive interview with Weekend Nation, Usi said the few months he had led mainstream political life, he has observed how the country’s democracy is still refusing to grow because of how politicians behave.
“I have enjoyed identifying disparities between rhetoric and programme implementation… There are elements in some political parties that cannot transact with dissenting views. All they want to hear are bunches of praises; constructive criticisms are unwelcomed and viewed as a challenge to authority,” he observed.
Usi, who also contested as member of Parliament (MP) in Mulanje Central, and lost to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president for the South, Kondwani Nankhumwa, further noted that the level at which the public understands governance issues “leaves a lot to be desired”.
He suggests that there is need for more non-State actors to fill this gap so that Malawians get sensitised on issues of governance, which is a broad discipline.
“We need a government where no individual is above the law, what is illegal is illegal, what is unethical is unethical—whether one is politically correct or incorrect,” said Usi, who bemoans that most parties are infested with gross indiscipline and ‘warlords’ who create different factions with their own teams.
University of Livingstonia political scientist George Phiri described Usi as the brain the country needed because of his skills in mobilising people to deliberate on issues of national importance.
“He is an up-and-coming leader who is focused on issues and not persons. His articulation and analysis of issues of national importance is also great. However, he has chosen a complicated career, but I see in him a character that does not give up,” said Phiri.