One is called a politician worthy the name if he/she is able to command a following. Minus that, then one is bound not to be taken seriously by all and sundry.In the build up to the 2019 elections, the recent talk in the oldest Malawi Congress Party (MCP), has been of the seasoned politicians repositioning themselves for the running mate position.
However, we all know that it is the prerogative of the presidential candidate to select a running mate and one thing is clear that what motivates a presidential candidate to pick someone as a running mate is the ability of that particular person to add value to the pair so electorates can usher the duo and their party into power.
To add value in politics is to help bring votes. To have the capability to influence a section of people to act as you tell them to do—that is to vote for your pair.
Now this brings us to the two guys who are seen to be fighting for the running mate position in MCP; Richard Msowoya and Sidik Mia.
I contend that Richard Msowoya failed the litmus test and if I would emerge the MCP presidential candidate in 2019; I wouldn’t go for him as running mate.
To substantiate my position; one would appreciate that Chakwera likely thought Msowoya was a political heavy weight in the Northern region who would help him canvass for votes from the region when He picked him as runningmate during the 2014 elections. He thought people from the region would listen to him.
Alas, the 2014 presidential results proved this kind of thinking wrong. The people of the northern region, in their unison, decided not to listen to Msowoya but rather had full confidence in the cash gate tainted former President Joyce Banda when they gave her a large share of votes.
You know what, if Malawi was using the northern region votes as criteria to select the president of the country; then Amayi Joyce Banda would have been the leader of this country today. The region showed her love—they displayed true love.
Worse still, Karonga district—where Msowoya hails from and Chitipa—Karonga’s neighboring district— voted in favour of the DPP presidential candidate—now state President Peter Mutharika.
MCP strategists were left baffled as to why Msowoya was made running mate in 2014. They were left with the impression that the Northen region does not regard Msowoya as a political heavy weight of the 1994 Chakufwa Chihana proportion.
Nevertheless, Chakwera seemed to give him the benefit of doubt when he recommended to his party to field him (Msowoya) as candidate for Speaker of National Assembly. The entire MCP block in Parliament as well as other MPs from other parties gave him (Msowoya) all the support and they trounced one over highly rated and ruling party fielded candidate Francis Kasaira for the seat of Speaker of National Assembly.
To serious strategists, they expected that Msowoya’s election as Speaker of National, would beef up his political clout in the Northern region so he could be seen as one of the gurus calling the shots politically. Alas, it turned out to a nightmare as well.
When some of us thought Msowoya would lead the MCP conquest of the northern region, what we see happening in the northern region is more depressing for a politician of his supposed caliber. People do not listen to Msowoya in the northern region and making him running mate again in 2019 would be a decision made at owner’s risk.
Why I am I forcefully advancing this position. Well, after he was elected Speaker of National Assembly in 2014, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), the following months, conducted a by-election in one of the wards in his (Richard Msowoya’s) Karonga Nyungwe Constituency—Zgeba ward in Nyungwe.
Now, let’s think of this very seriously, folks；a ward in the constituency of Richard Msowoya, someone whom the party had just recently promoted to be Speaker of National Assembly and there was a candidate representing his party (MCP) and of course was being challenged by candidates from these other parties. In that scenario, would you expect an MCP candidate to lose? I wouldn’t expect that. Naturally, this was supposed to be a foregone conclusion for the MCP councilor to win.
It’s like imagining that a DPP candidate in that Peter Mutharika’s constituency in Thyolo would lose that by-election to an MCP candidate. I think to think like that is tantamount to being insane. I am saying this because a politician of Mutharika’s caliber is expected to have full command of the people in his Thyolo constituency. He tells them to vote for his favoured candidate; they listen and do the needful. Thus what it means to be a political heavyweight. You call the shots.
You can even think of John Tembo’s influence in his constituency. You remember the young and determined chap Moses Kumkuyu who wanted to replace John Tembo when he retired in 2014? JZU didn’t bless him and instead he told the people to vote for his MCP candidate and the people listened. They ate Kumkuyu’s money and left him broke and frustrated.
However, this is not what happened in Karonga Nyungwe’s ward. People in that ward, which by the way is part of Msowoya’s constituency, didn’t listen to him. Instead, they voted for the MCP’s main political opponent—the ruling DPP. It was embarrassing for him and the party and it appeared that no one in the party noticed such an embarrassing political defeat.
Now, how can one successfully argue that Msowoya is a political heavy weight in Northen region when he failed to command the region to vote for Chakwera during the presidential election where he was made running mate.
How can you convince me that Msowoya is a political heavy weight when the enemy won right in his own backyard—right in a ward in his constituency?
How can you convince me that Msowoya is a political heavyweight in the northern region when he has literally done nothing to woo such vocal and strategic politicians such as Frank Mwenefumbo to join his party and strengthen the ongoing MCP movement?
To make matters worse, he recently organized a rally in Mzimba where he invited people like Gustav Kaliwo and Jessie Kabwira to attend the rally. The turn-up of the people at the rally was poor—very poor not befitting a politician of his caliber. If you think I am exaggerating; then go to his facebook page and see for yourself the pictures he posted for that rally. The turn-up was pathetic if you understand what I am saying here.
Now, if Msowoya can fail to pull people from his own region among his own people, then I think I am yet to be schooled on factors to consider to see if one is a political heavyweight.
Contrast that with Sidik Mia: So far he is passing the litmus test
On the other hand, Sidik Mia is regarded as the lower shire political heavy weight. Mia lived to this billing when people of the Lower-shire flocked in large numbers to grace the rally at Ngabu in Chikwawa where he was being welcomed into the party.
Almost everybody saw the video clips as well as the pictures that came from the Ngabu rally. Even the local media reported that it was the first time for MCP to address a huge crowd in the southern region. Other local media even described the Ngabu rally as “mother of all rallies” for the MCP in the Southern region.
To me, what we witnessed at Ngabu was a sign that people in the lower-shire listen to Mia in that when he asked them to come in their large numbers to show their love for him; they listened. The numbers we saw at Ngabu ground show that the people listen to him.
Secondly, when Mia was joining MCP; he made sure that members of Parliament from the two districts of Chikwawa and Nsanje join with him and they did. Even controversial Nsanje lawmaker Dr Chidanti Malunga showed respect for Mbuya Sidik Mia by attending that Ngabu rally.
As if that was not enough, to show that Mia is political giant in the Lower Shire was a public testimony from one Francis Chiwanga who told a recent Nkhotakota rally that he joined MCP because he was following their Mbuya—Sidik Mia—and of course because of the new leadership of the party in Dr Lazarus Chakwera. Francis Chiwanga, son to mysteriously murdered David Chiwanga, said that he will contest as an MP in one of the constituencies in Chikwawa come 2019 under MCP banner, all this because of the joining of Mia into MCP.
It is also being reported that Mia was the architect of the recent Nkhotakota rally where he is on a mission of convincing his fellow Muslims to fully support MCP. I hear he will be on a similar exercise in the eastern region in Mangochi soon.
Mia’s biggest test
However, Mia’s biggest test will be in Nsanje Lalanje constituency where he is fully backing an MCP parliamentary candidate Lawrence Sitolo. It is an open secret that MCP has been performing miserably in the Southern region, vote wise that is. If you are following vote counting on the radio during election time, you hear MCP getting a handful of votes and either DPP or UDF scooping votes honorably. For example, an announcement for a polling station would go like this : “Mr John Ngozo of MCP 20 votes and Mr Mathews Kwenda of DPP 2,500 votes.” The difference would leave you wondering if such candidate with 20 votes would catch up in the other remaining polling stations. You knew he was heading for a resounding electoral defeat. This is how unpopular the party has been in the region.
So, if MCP wins in Nsanje Lalanje constituency, then all the credit will go to Mia and his claim that he is the Lower Shire political giant will continue to be validated.
If his backed candidate loses, strategists worthy their name will look at the votes his candidate will get. If it will be reasonable number of votes, then his political fatherhood in the shire valley will still be validated.
However, despite what will happen in Nsanje Lalanje constituency in October; it still has to be pointed out that Mia has the wow factor, so far the only politician remaining in the country we can favorably compare with Dr Bakili Muluzi, in as far oratory skills are concerned.
Watching a repeat of both Ngabu as well as the Nkhotakota rallies on our many TV stations in the country left me totally connecting well with him, naturally paying attention to what he was saying on the podium—laughing and enjoying myself where appropriate.
We can argue but the lebwede-lebwede fusion during the Ngabu rally sent the whole crowd in stitches. I think those who attended the rallies saw that it was indeed worthy attending. In fact the debate that ensued after the use of the onomatopoetic lebwede-lebwede indicated that his presence and speech was felt by all and sundry—the media inclusive.
In politics, you need people like him to create such hype, to energize the people and encourage the people to stay on board. This is a character found in Mia only that is in as far as the so called big three’s—Chakwera, Msowoya and Mia—are concerned.
As the debate continues as to who would make a better running mate for Chakwera in 2019—that is shall Chakwera become the presidential candidate for MCP—then one can submit that Speaker Richard Msowoya of Karonga Nyungwe constituency may not stand better chances in as far as this analysis is concerned. So far, Sidik Mia is showing that he can be the right person for the position.
The main litmus test is ahead of him in his claimed controlled region—the Shire Valley. Depending on the results from this Nsanje Lalanje constituency, it will help us conclude at least beyond reasonable doubt, if he is indeed the political heavy weight in shire valley and if indeed he is that person to help turn around the fortunes of the oldest party in the country—the Malawi Congress Party.
DISCLAIMER: Views expressed in this article are those of the Author John Dereck Kathumba and not of this publication. For any feedback, please feel comfortable to write to this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.