Since the dawn of multiparty politics in 1994, the former single ruling party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP), is yet to find its footing.
For the two decades Malawi has been a multiparty democracy, the party is yet to win power through the presidency.
It took itself to the polls through Gwanda Chakuamba and John Tembo in three general elections, both heavyweights during the Kamuzu Banda era, but failed to make a mark on Malawi politics.
But it has not been losing everything. It has managed to have a good number of seats of Members of Parliament (MPs) in the parliament. It now holds the opposition leadership, meaning that it has more MPs than any other opposition party in the house.
But with the presidential system we have in Malawi, it is only on a few occasions that numbers in parliament matter. Decisions are made by the executive. That is where the real power is.
It seems like good news that the party still manages to retain a good number of MPs in parliament. But another challenge to this is the fact that most of the MPs are from the central region.
This is the region that MCP has always taken to be its home. President Kamuzu Banda was from the region. With his tyrannical three decades grip on power, people have always associated the region with him and his party. Even after his death, it continues to be like that.
In the 2014 Malawi general elections, with a totally new face on the ballot of Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, the party did manage to attract admiration from the neutrals with the change it had experienced.
Dr. Chakwera has brought in new kind of politics and for the first time people started looking at the party as an option to the then under fire People’s Party (PP) and the less trusted Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which surprisingly went on to win power. MCP came second.
But still, the challenge was that it had most of its votes in the central region with the north going to PP and the south, the largest of all the three regions, voting for the DPP.
History and the 2014 performance is a wakeup call to the MCP that if ever it dreams of getting into power, it has to spread itself across Malawi. But for that to happen, it needs strong strategies.
Its Vice President, and also Speaker of National Assembly, Richard Msowoya, comes from the north. He won a seat in parliament. He acts as an entry point of the party into the region. But that alone does not solve it all. There is more work to do. The northern vote changes from one election to the other.
How about the Southern region? With the United Democratic Front (UDF) and then the DPP commanding the southern vote for the past two decades, MCP has totally failed to make a mark in the area. All it has are ground party structures which fail to transform or show up during elections. It is very hard for the MCP to penetrate the region.
But all is not lost, as far as the 2019 general elections are concerned, and also beyond.
The strategic advice MCP has to take heed of is to recruit Blantyre City Mayor, Noel Chalamanda, to contest as a Member of Parliament on its ticket.
He should be promised all the financial and party support for him to secure the seat.
Getting the special treatment than other contestants will be for one reason: He is a project.
During the run up to the 2014 general elections, Noel Chalamanda stunned people when he announced that he will contest as an independent Ward Councilor.
He abandoned a successful Law practice and went for politics. He gained people’s love and support even before the elections and easily won and assumed the position of Mayor. There was no any other person people could have chosen for a Mayor than him.
Chalamanda is a man of class. He is probably the first celebrity politician who has attracted a lot of admiration from people. As a Mayor, he is delivering.
He has been engaged in several projects that have seen Blantyre City getting beautiful and clean. It shows that most of the projects are out of his vision and strategies, working together with the Blantyre City Council.
As a person, he is also known as a man who has a good sense of dress and appearance. He is good looking, has an intelligent face and a commanding voice. In short, he is the kind of man Malawi politics has been missing for years, someone who has command as a person and as a politician. With all the reputation he has gained, Chalamanda cannot lose an election contesting as a Member of Parliament.
If the MCP wants to penetrate the southern region, this is the man they must recruit and turn him into their man.
He can do a lot than what Richard Msowoya is doing in the northern region.
And recruiting him must not just be for the elections, but looking at him as the future of the party.
With a new generation of politicians coming in, MCP’s survival depends on the presence of such people in its ranks. Securing the southern region vote will make the party invisible once again, a quality they lost in 1994.
*About the writer: Wonderful Mkhutche is a speech writer, a Political Scientist and a manuscript editor and developer.