Race against time as candidates scramble for votes ahead of by-election

With just hours to go before campaign period ends for the November 10 by-election in Karonga Central Constituency, on Friday the five candidates had a busy day as they sold their manifestos to electorates.

Mlare was the hotspot with the UTM party and Malawi Congress Party (MCP) which are probably the strongest contenders in the seemingly closely monitored race sharing the same geographical location at almost a stone’s away distance from each other.

Mkumbwa: So far, so good-Photo by Jordan Simeon-Phiri

Both rallies were monitored by the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) Commissioner Dr. Anthony Mkumbwa to assess the situation.

At UTM party rally held at Mlare school ground, group village headman Mwambelo asked the party’s candidate Frank Mwenifumbo to consider renovating teachers’ houses at the school and construct two new houses whose foundation was laid few years ago.

While this was the case, just across the road, another traditional leader asked the same from the MCP’s director of youth Richard Chimwendo Banda who instantly donated cement, timber and iron sheets for the project at Mlare school to take shape.

In an interview, Mwenifumbo said his job will be to continue fostering developments to transform the socio economic status of the constituents.
“I am a development conscious person. I have always dedicated my time and resources towards development. Therefore, I will just make sure that potable water, infrastructural development and health facilities are spread evenly,” Mwenifumbo said.

On his part, UTM Party regional governor for the North Moses Mlenga advised his supporters to refrain from inciting violence, claiming he has information that there are plans being hatched to halt the by-election due to political violence.

He said: “Let us avoid provocative situations at all means. Even if we see people removing our flags and campaign material, let us be calm because those are agents who want to confront the situation so that they should find an excuse to cancel the election”.

At Mlare ground, Chimwendo Banda the MCP’s bulldozer captivated a mammoth crowd that came for their pick by telling them not to be swayed away by lies but instead focus on voting for the “calm, polite and development minded”

Leonard Mwalwanda who has already hit the ground running with various projects in the area.

“Never be cheated by people who are masquerading and canvassing for your vote. Most of those people failed to campaign for their own Parliamentary seats in their districts. Therefore, do not listen to them,” Chimwendo Banda said.

Asked about concerns from the UTM Party that his coming to Karonga Central for campaign has been challenged time without number, Banda hit back at those critics, saying he is a bonafide citizen of Malawi who should enjoy the freedom of association, adding: “I am free to go everywhere to campaign for MCP as I am also director of youth in the party”.

On the other hand, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also sold its candidate Ernest Mwalughali at Mwenilondo and Lupembe where the party’s national director of logistics Symon Vuwa Kaunda told people to vote for Mwalughali, saying he knows the voters’ problems better than anyone having served the area as a Ward Councillor before.

The independent candidate Shackie MaryFlorence Nthakomwa also had a busy day garnering for votes at Vokolani, Ndomomo, Lupembe, Chiwondo and Gumi.

In an interview after monitoring rallies, the MEC Commissioner Mkumbwa asked the candidates to improve on message packaging to concentrate on issue based campaign to avoid political violence.

He said: “So far so good. There has been personal attacks, character assassinations and use of hate speech but we can do better than this. However, as MEC we are ready as ballot papers have landed in the country and will be dispatched here any day”.

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