“The phoenix
must burn
to emerge”
– Janet Fitch

The Rev. Lazarus Chakwera, the cleric-turned-politician who traded his collar to have a go at the country’s top-most job, has just unveiled his backroom staff ahead of the epoch-making 2014 polls.

The list makes for some interesting reading. Conspicuously missing on it are veterans in the oldest party in the land. The likes of Joseph Njobvuyalema, Daniel Mlomo and Makala Ngozo do not make the list.

Let us get back to the veterans later.

There is an interesting addition to the MCP National Executive Committee list – my good friend Jessie Kabwila.

Wow! Jessie is now the public face of the MCP!

If truth be told, whoever proposed Jessie’s name must have put a serious thought to it. The vocal activist brings to the MCP the swag the party lacked after being ejected from three-decade stranglehold on power in 1994.

Here is a woman who stared down the country’s eccentric leader for a good eight months until he blinked.

That is no small feat. Bingu was as stubborn as he was ruthlessly arrogant, but, during the academic freedom stand-off, Jessie showed the Big Kahuna what sterner stuff she is made of. Raphael Tenthani

That is no small feat. Bingu was as stubborn as he was ruthlessly arrogant, but, during the academic freedom stand-off, Jessie showed the Big Kahuna what sterner stuff she is made of.

Bingu tried to scare her off with a public sacking but she did not relent until the leader stuck his proverbial tail between his legs and gave in.

Jessie’s “speak truth to power” crusade did not end on Bingu; she had a very public duel with his predecessor as well, a fellow woman, when Abiti reportedly derided divorced women rights activists at a public rally.

The public fight between Jessie and her comrade-in-arms Seodi White, on one hand, and Joyce Banda, on the other, was quite intriguing.

So if you want a fearless poster-girl for your cause you cannot get wrong with Jessie.

But is she the right material for the MCP?

Jessie is now the public face of the MCP. But is she a character you would ordinarily associate with the MCP?

I have written on these pages before about our political parties lacking ideologies but the MCP is clearly a conservative party, built on the tradition of the famed four-corner stones – Unity, Loyalty, Obedience and Discipline.

Jessie is a Liberal to a fault

Jessie is certainly nowhere near conservative. She is actually the antithesis of conservatism. She is a liberal to a fault. Is she not the woman who publicly defended women’s right to use vibrators? Did sheJess not openly advocate for women’s right to abortion?

She also publicly faulted Joyce Banda’s glorification of marriage. And, hey, Jessie is for gay rights to boot!

Does all these attributes resonate with what the MCP stands for? A big NOO! if you ask me. MCP is a conservative party built on traditional values.

I know the fix Rev. Chakwera was in. He wanted to sculpture a new-look MCP, a brave MCP ready to confront emerging issues. After all, he is campaigning on a reformed MCP, a re-born party.

Will Jessie help midwife the re-birth of the party? Proof of the pudding, they say, is in the eating.

Let us now turn to the old guard Chakwera has left out in the cold. This is a risk the good pastor has to think through seriously because the veterans he has left out know all the corners of the party’s support base. Being left out of the executive might mean that if – and when – the MCP gets into power, these folks may not be considered for the plum jobs in government.

This presents a discouraging factor for this old-guard to commit itself to the new leadership. The old guard may not work hard enough to mobilise the support Chakwera needs for his new-look MCP to make it all the way. They may, in fact, turn nihilistic and exude negative energy to frustrate the efforts by the new team.

Chakwera should have blended his team with a good proportion of the old and the new. After all the old guard has the all-important ‘institutional memory’ the party will need re-energise itself.

If truth be told, there are still pockets in the MCP strongholds that still believe that the Ngwazi is still at the helm of the party. Never mind the old man has been dead for a good 16 years. Raphael Tenthani

If truth be told, there are still pockets in the MCP strongholds that still believe that the Ngwazi is still at the helm of the party. Never mind the old man has been dead for a good 16 years. The still energetic Njobvuyalemas and Makala Ngozos of this world know how to work this base.

Chakwera is a man of the collar and so is his right-hand man Chris Daza. The temptation to surround the party with advisors of the evangelical type may be irresistible.

That may be a cardinal mistake that may derail the MCP gravy-train. The MCP, being a conservative party, believes in discipline. Discipline must be enforced sometimes, sometimes brutally. The real MCP knows how to brutally enforce discipline.  

Chakwera has his work cut out for him. He still carries the hopes and aspirations of many Malawians who are frustrated by our traditional politicians. But to actualise his dream of leading this country into the next half century via the MCP he needs to be realistic with what the party stands for.

And that starts with the people he chooses to work with.

 

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