Daggers have been drawn for what seems to be the historic May 20 elections in which for the first time nine presidential candidates are contesting.

It has never happened before. And for the first time, we have a new face in one of the country’s heavyweight party-MCP- contesting.

And for the first time, we have an incumbent president who became president by accident—after Bingu died because as vice president, she had to ascend to the throne per constitution dictates.


 And indeed, for the first time, it means the incumbent president will be seeking a fresh mandate.

 And for the first time as well, Malawi will have two female candidates aspiring for state house. The other female is well-healed Helen Singh of the novice United Independent Party.

In 1994-the first time the country had multi-party elections, the big parties were only three-UDF, Aford and the MCP.

We all knew what the MCP had done to Malawi in three decades and Malawians thought they had nothing new to offer. Their manifesto had no ‘wow’ factor.

 Aford were more concerned with human rights, poverty and governance issues. Their manifesto had no ‘wow’ factor.

It was the UDF which had the ‘wow’ factor in its manifesto—the introduction of free primary school.

Free primary school was indeed introduced when the UDF ascended to Sanjika Palace. Free primary school education tinkled the fancy of many poor villagers. It was the winning formula for the party.

Since 1994, I would say manifestoes have been diluted because parties do not have the ‘wow’ factor in them. Manifestoes of today want to deliver in anything, yet this is a country with so many problems that cannot be dwelt with at once.

What is that parties are selling in their manifestoes in 2014?

Business magnate Mark Katsonga, who runs his PPM outfit, has a 20-point plan as a manifesto, which I must admit, I have not seen it. The party has not made big noises about this plan, unless it’s me who is to blame for not chasing their 20-point plan and see what Mark is talking about.

But if there was any ‘wow’ factor, we could have heard about it.

I will not talk about his brother Davies of the Chipani Cha Pfuko fame. One person said his party is a waste of time and resources, but I have argued that this is the beauty of multi-party—anybody can start a party. They call it freedom of association.

For Singh, what I have picked from her speeches—and not manifesto—is that she will have a 15-member cabinet if she wins. That will be historic. She maintains that Malawi is a small and poor country to afford 40 ministers.

Well, they all say this, but change when go into government because they realise they have to please more people by giving them ministerial positions and other jobs.

Kamuzu Chibambo of Petra blames the “selfishness of leaders” for Malawi’s poverty and thinks it’s time we changed things for the benefit of the poor. After 50 years of independence, Kamuzu says this is the time to transform the country to a better place to live in.

The UDF says its ‘Agenda for Change’ is aimed at creating jobs and wealth, protect the poor and vulnerable and simply put money in the pockets of Malawians. What they call economic freedom. Don’t ask me how the UDF intends to do this. No ‘wow’ factor.

The PP, with its ‘Transformative Agenda’, has set its eyes on the poor—to change their lives by creating jobs, giving them cows, goats, corrugated houses and infrastructure such as roads, clinics etc.

The PP’s agenda is quite impressive, but it needs a lot of resources and cash to achieve this dream. By the way, where does the money the PP uses for its Mudzi Transformation Fund come from?   The problem with PP is sometimes it lacks transparency and accountability. No ‘wow’ factor.

The MCP is trying to regain its lost glory. With a new leader, former cleric Lazarus Chakwera is riding on the strength of the old Kamuzu Banda days when the economy ticked and when there was no graft in the civil service, to ascend to state house.

After 20 years in the opposition, the MCP says it’s a re-born party which seeks to carry out reforms in the civil service and the country, take agriculture back to its pivotal position and manage the country to the satisfaction of everybody.  This is a tall order for a party that has forgotten how the government machinery works. No ‘wow’ factor.

And the DPP isn’t impressive either. It wants to continue where it stopped with Bingu in 2012. After bringing food security to Malawi through the fertiliser subsidy programme, the Bingu admin left Malawi in an economic and foreign relations crisis, with donors pulling out their aid. This was reversed when JB came to power.

It’s all promises, promises and promises. The DPP has nothing new to offer. They are not even Bingu’s Greenbelt dream as their ‘wow’ factor.

Sorry, I did not talk about other parties such as the Umodzi Party because I have not read their manifestoes. 

Anyway, I still agree with a woman vendor named Agnes whom I find the other evening selling cooked maize. She said she had not yet made her mind of whom to vote for as president because no one had yet articulated issues to do with poverty.

But good luck to all the contestants and let the best candidate, even without the ‘wow’ factor, win.

It will be a pity for poor Malawians who will vote without knowing the true value of their vote, without really knowing what they are voting for. Stupid Malawi!

where is the the ‘wow’ factor?

Can’t wait for Next Friday — what has ACHIKULIRE got in-store for us.

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