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Sundays with Cedrick: Can the MCP become a national party again?

Malawi First President

Hastings Kamuzu Banda

Kamuzu Banda

Cedrick Ngalande, PhD

The scene is set on July 6, 1990. His Excellency the Life President Ngwazi Dr H Kamuzu Banda arrives at Kamuzu Stadium on top of an open Land Rover truck, his fly whisk in hand. Thousands of people fill the stadium. The overflow crowd goes as far Kamuzu Highway and up to the Malawi Polytechnic.

malawi women dance for kamuzu

As the Ngwazi enters the stadium to the song, “Uyo, uyo, uyo Ngwazi”, the crowd becomes frenzy. They are members of the mighty Malawi Congress Party – the one and only party in the whole country. They have come from all corners of the country – men and women – sharing the same love and zeal for their Ngwazi. Even the notoriously liberal Ndirande youth come along without anybody forcing them to. They do not want to miss the Ngwazi deliver his 24th independence address.

MCP was a true national party.  In almost every village, MCP had a vibrant branch, complete with a branch chairman and committee members supported by members of the Malawi Young Pioneers. Each branch reported to a district committee which in turn reported to the reginal committee. The seat of power within the party was the central executive committee chaired by none other than Dr Banda himself.

Fast forward to 2021, the MCP is back in power after many years in opposition. The current MCP is nothing but a shadow of its former self. It is now a regional party. The party has become so diminished that without the coalition with the UTM, they most likely would still be in opposition today.

Before we get too harsh on the party, it is important to recognize that MCP has actually done something very remarkable, if not unheard of in these parts of the world. MCP has managed to survive in opposition for nearly 30 years. Most parties would be dead by the tenth year in opposition. That they have survived this long, is a testament of how well organized the party was under Dr Kamuzu Banda.

Still, gloomy clouds are gathering on the horizon for the party. MCP got into power because of a coalition. Essentially, they are in power today because of the UTM. And the UTM is Dr Saulosi Chilima (SKC). Without SKC at the top there will be no UTM. The problem is that SKC cannot be the coalition’s vice president in 2025 because he would have already served two consecutive terms. He has always harbored ambitions to become president, and the only way he can do that in 2025 would be to break away from the coalition. And so, it is quite fair to conclude that the MCP/UTM coalition will collapse in or before 2025.

Therefore, to remain in power in 2025, MCP have two foreseeable options: form an alliance with DPP or go out on their own and win by extending their reach. The first option is almost dead in the water. There will be no coalition between MCP and DPP.  The only realistic way for them to remain in power is extend the party’s umbrella to the south.

Can MCP win on its Own?

Can the MCP win an election on their own? With a lot of creativity, they can do it. They attempted to do this in the previous election. They had Hon. Sidik Mia covering Nsanje and Chikwawa. If they had carried these districts with a large margin, they would have come close to winning on their own.  Unfortunately for them, DPP carried those districts.

MCP failed to carry those two districts because of a poor election strategy. Just like all Malawian politicians, the MCP leader Dr Lazarus Chakwera (LC) does not know the power of retail politics. LC spent almost the majority of his time campaigning at the center. I must have had lost count of the number of times he returned to Mchinji to campaign.

There was no need for the MCP leader to spend precious time in Mchinji, Kasungu, Dowa etc. Those people are already so dedicated to the MCP that they will always vote for the MCP even if a pig is elected MCP presidential party candidate. Instead, LC should have gone out to Nsanje and Chikwawa and camp there. I mean literally find a temporary home there; and go to every market, shake every hand, and attend every church service he could. Leave surrogates to travel around the central region to keep the embers burning. That’s how you win national elections.

And that’s a word to the wise in both MCP and DPP.

Before I go, allow me to offer my heartfelt condolences to the MCP leader on his bereavement this weekend.

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