The reason why UTM is spreading like fire- By Patseni Mauka
Why is the United Transformation Movement (UTM) led by Vice President of the Republic of Malawi Dr Saulos Chilima spreading like fire? Why has the Malawi congress Party (MCP) emerged as one of the noisy opponents of UTM? The answer is very simple. MCP led by Dr. Lazarus Chakwera has been caught napping. They have been in deep slumber for four years and it has taken the roar of Chilima for MCP to wake up. The national issues that Chilima is highlighting are resonating well with Malawians of all walks of life.
The role that Chilima is playing just a few weeks after launching UTM is the role that Chakwera and MCP were supposed to be playing for the past four years but have failed miserably. For the past four years, Malawians never felt like they had a solid opposition responsible for holding the government accountable. This is because Chakwera is an uninspiring leader. What more evidence does one have to look for apart from that members from his own party had no confidence in him? Chakwera failed to resolve wrangles in MCP for a long time.
Perhaps the most disappointing part about Chakwera is that as a leader of opposition, he failed to inspire Malawians to fight back against ruling Democratic Progressive (DPP) evils. He has no charisma. He is so used to clergy life where you basically have no opposition and are not expected to fight a high power within the Church. The only battle in church is against Satan. As a Christian, I know that one of the most effective strategies for fighting against Satan is to pray without ceasing. On the other hand, in politics, especially if you are a leader of opposition, the church tactics simply can’t work. A political leader needs to have facts, strategy, timing, charisma and perfect execution ability. This is where Chilima and UTM has beaten Chakwera and MCP hands down.
I will be the first person to admit that some of the issues highlighted by Chilima, were once said by Chakwera but there is a huge difference in the manner and the feeling you have when you hear Chilima speaking. Chilima has also brought other better proposed policies. Chilima has shown that he means business. When Chilima speaks, you pause and listen well. When Chilima mentions corruption in some government departments, even the responsible officers know that their time is up and that their days outside prison are numbered.
Chilima does not talk about corruption as if it’s some kind of English short story reading competition where you have to imitate American English in the best way possible to win. Chilima leaves no room for doubt that the corrupt culprits or apumbwa as he calls them, will have their time in the cooler for denying this country the necessary resources for improvement of people’s livelihoods and general development. This is why the people have turned their attention to the only hope among all, Dr. Chilima.
On alternative development agenda, Chilima has been emphatic. He has articulated some of his suggested policies with clarity and leaving no doubt that he knows what he is talking about. On the other hand, sorry to say this, I don’t remember any alternative development agenda that Chakwera ever mentioned. Not that he has never mentioned any, but his delivery is so flat that no one apart from his diehard supporters believe he knows the stuff or whether he can truly lead the nation towards the necessary transformation.
In 2012, when Joyce Banda assumed power due to the death of Dr. Bingu Wa Mutharika (may his soul rest in peace), she had a lot of goodwill because the nation was experiencing a difficult political situation. Joyce Banda squandered the opportunity with the famous cashgate which happened under her watch. The result was that in the 2014 elections, there was a considerable number of voters who decided not to vote for her. They had to make a decision between voting for Chakwera, Atupele Muluzi or Peter Mutharika.
Due to the good work that Bingu Wa Mutharika did in his first term with DPP as the ruling party, many people, including yours truly, thought DPP was a better alternative. This was Chakwera’s first time to face the ballot. He was so uninspiring such that people decided to go for other alternatives including DPP and UDF. He lost the elections. However, I believe he still got a better proportion of the voters who wanted something different, just something different.
The bad news for MCP and Chakwera is that during the past fours years, he has failed to inspire even those that trusted him in 2014 because of his shambolic performance as the leader of opposition. His leadership has been full of knee-jerk reactions and inconsistencies on important national issues. Just look at the mysterious 4 billion Kwacha funding issue. The government and opposition decided to share money which the government was caught trying to distribute to constituencies for Members of Parliament who voted against a bill on implementing the much needed electoral reforms. The way the whole issue happened, you could think the country had no opposition.
One of MCP’s weapons against Chilima is the question; why is he coming up with corruption allegations against the government he was part of for the past four years? Well, when an organization is rotten and you don’t agree with it’s way of doing things, there are two things you can do; fight from within or leave the organization and fight from outside. Chilima chose to fight from within until he noted that the rot was so bad he had to leave and lead Malawians in fighting corruption from a new movement owned by the people. He found MCP sleeping, took the fight to DPP and Malawians have joined him with so much enthusiasm. Instead of joining the fight against corruption and showing Malawians the alternative development agenda, MCP is now busy fighting Chilima and UTM. So much for a changed party that is responsible for the worst atrocities the country has ever witnessed since independence.
Another weapon for MCP is the allegation that Chilima may be getting funding from people who stole money while in DPP. Since MCP has been in opposition for an excruciating 24 years, they believe they are clean and can play the ‘dirty funding card’. Well I have news for you and let’s get the myth out of the way. Lazarus Chakwera and MCP gets funding from Simbi Phiri, the Mchinji billionaire. The vehicle that Chakwera uses, a Hummer, was bought by Simbi. Every time Simbi has a big family event, the whole MCP goes to Simbi’s home in Mchinji to show their faces, the same way people go to the airport to show their faces when a President is traveling outside Malawi. Simbi has MCP in his pocket. Simbi is a businessman. What do you think he expects in return? He expects government contracts if MCP wins elections next year!
Thus, MCP is already making deals to plunder our resources even before they get into government. This is why Chakwera and MCP can’t oppose the multi-billion Kwacha Salima-Lilongwe water project despite obvious red flags in the awarding of the contract to Simbi’s Company Khato Civils and the questionable cost of the project. Khoswe wakhala pamkhate. Most of the knee-jerk reactions to national issues by Chakwera are a result of wanting to be seen to be doing something for fear of loosing the funding that comes from Simbi. My advice to Dr. Chakwera and MCP is; try selling us your vision and wake up from your slumber with better strategies. Otherwise, UTM is spreading like fire and so far you are playing miserable catch up.