Will Gwanda Finally Win?
He once was the annointed son, when Malawi's first head of state, Ngwazi Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, left the mantle of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) presidency after the 1994 defeat at the hands of Bakili Muluzi's United Democratic Front (UDF). That would later see him, after a long spell in prison, vie for the country's presidency in 1999.
It came through a political marriage of sorts with Alliance for Democracy's leader, Chakufwa Chihana, an alliance that ended in defeat for Gwandanguluwe Chimkazi Chakuamba Phiri, a defeat rejected on suspicions of vote
rigging by the UDF. How could a single party defeat two giants- AFORD in the Northern region and MCP in the Centre? That was his line of thought, which made more sense then.
He then became a prodigal son, after he moved out of the MCP after a long protracted battle for the MCP top leadership position with current party president, now standing in the May19,2009 presidential and parliamentary elections, John Tembo. It was described as unheard of for someone who had been personnally 'annointed' by the Father and Founder of the Malawi Nation himself, Ngwazi Dr. Banda. That was betrayal, throwing a royal robe in a pit just like that, and making out for the unexplored world. That was in the run up to the May20,2004 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Later, he formed his own party thereafter, which political analysts described as his (Gwanda's) expression of disappointment at the victory chalked by Tembo during a high-tension Party Convention held at Blantyre's Motel Paradise. The tension was evident in the beer bottles that flew in the air in the convention room, replacing oxygen and other gaseous substances with bottles, some of which smashed delegates' noses. Others went home with physical bruises, others bruised egos. None was, apparently,more bruised, politically, than Gwanda.
It was a bad end to a good beginning for a man now christened 'The Lower Shire Giant'. He formed the Republican Party (RP) at the eleventh hour, a party that surprised both common people and political analysts by scooping 16 parliamentary seats. So rare for hastly-formed political parties in Malawi, even more rare for a party formed out of anger, withing the last ten months of a national election. That was Gwanda for you, the Lower Shire Giant.
It was a classic move, from prodigal son to giant.
Then, on a day like many other days, dead or alive, Gwanda became a political 'prostitute', as analysts summed up as jump-jumpy behaviour. That is because soon after RP won 16 parliamentary seats out of the 193 slot in the 2004 election, where, again, he stood as presidential candidate for Mgwilizano Coalition- an alliance of various political parties, most of them small, formed out of political convenience to churn the temperature a bit higher
for the UDF- he dumped his Mgwilizano patners to join President Bingu wa Mutharika. Mutharika had contested in the presidential polls on the ticket of the UDF, but had just left the party, accusating it of coalition. Gwanda saw the opportunity and jumped ship- which became the beginning of the political prostitute brand name.
That might have pleased Gwanda, who, soon after, jumped ship again to work with Muluzi's UDF. That, too, was unheard of. Even though Gwanda evidently hated the UDF, he had joined its ranks in 1993, after being released from prison due to political pressure from parties in the likes of UDF and Aford, he joined the Yellow party. People said it was a decision borne out of lack of choices. He couldn't go back to the MCP, a party that was responsible for his imprisonment. Neither could he wear Aford colours; the party was more regional than national. So, he joined the UDF, but was soon to be invited back into the MCP by Kamuzu- who was convinced Chakuamba would make a good presidential candidate in 1999 then Tembo.
Kamuzu had said so many times, all the times publicly, that he did not want Tembo to become party president. Tembo heard it. Gwanda knew it. Others sensed it. In all, one thing was for sure, it registered in their minds and, for others, formed part of their onviction that nobody but the Ngwazi, a visionally leader, would be more right.When he finally went back to the MCP, a party he had once heartfully served, his hatred of the UDF became evident. Too evident to be burried in political diplomacy, or lack of it. For him to go back to the UDF now, remember that this was in 2004, just after the national elections, all the more after dumping government, a place where the aspirations of the Malawian people bundle up to form common goals- goals reflected in national development strategies and budgets- that was going too far with political; prostitution. Too far, also, because he had deregistered his RP to become part of the team that formed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the party Mutharika formed after dumping UDF.
The DPP was unique, because it was formed by an incumbent president while serving office. At least political analysts agree that one forms a party in order to get into government. Mutharika got into power (government) to form a political party! So,Gwanda's move from governmentcame to be called political 'opportunism'. Gwanda had become a political opportunist, in the eyes of many. To others, in the impervious Lower Shire, still a giant.
He has been with the UDF since then, even forminmg part of the parties that tatooed a political alliance with the UDF, albeit without any blue print in form of MoU. four weeks ago, the Gwanda- meaning, his soul- shook alittle bit within him, reminding him of the past. He was a political adventure, the soul within may have implored him, so it was time to try the tricks again. It started as a process; the registration of another party, the New Republican Party (NRP), a party he formed after reminants of RP (people who refused to wear the life-jackets with him and jump out of the opposition ship into the vast waters of government politics, had fought tooth and nail to reregister the RP (an effort that bore fruit). That move started with his NRP vice president, Ken Zikhale Ng'oma announcing two months ago his party would support the DPP, and that that was because it had discovered that the UDF was merely another different form of a dictatorship- a dictatorship practiced in opposition, where the powers that be exist in quarters and halfs. The UDF was making unilateral decisions, not consulting its alliance partners- the Malawi Democratic Union (MDU) of Amunandife Mkumba, Malawi Democratic Party (MDP) of Kamlepo Kalua, The Congress for Democrats of Ralph Kasambara, which happened to be the first to jump ship from the UDF when Kasambara alligned himself with the MCP.
Gwanda may have been tasting the waters because. two days after, he announced that Ng'omba made the announcement in his personal capacity, and that he was the only one who had joined the DPP, not the NRP per se. People who take his
sentiments for the literal sake saw nothing wrong with Gwanda; those who see beyond the muddy waters so something coming. It came Last Week Monday, when Gwanda announced he he support Mutharika's DPP, with or without Mutharika's approval. Gwanda said Tembo, whom the UDF National Chairperson Bakili Muluzi had just endorsed to represent the aspirations of the UDF, too, on May19, was no good leader.
"I will support Mutharika because I can't support Tembo. Kamuzu made me make an oath before he died, imploring me to promise I would never ever support Tembo for President. He even promised that his (Kamuzu's) spirit would haunt me forever if I ever supported Tembo. So, this is it. When I was in Prison (during the MCP era) I read the Holy
Bible 50 times and know fully well the consequencies of disobeying dying, old men (like Kamuzu). I wouldn't be the one to suffer. I don't want to die a disgraced man," said Chakuamba at his Nyambadwe Residence last week.
But, those who know him well knows it pretty well he may not be finished with his political overtures. The big question lingers: After standing for the presidency twice, and when all those times Gwanda seemed the odds -on-favourite to emerge victorious and go the way of all the honour and glory in Malawi (Sanjika or the New State House) and yet he failed, will he be on the winning side this time around? What could be the implication of his support for Mutharika, whom he once served as Agriculture Minister and dumped, now? Will it be, as twice before, diastrous for the DPP and end in sadness- the desperation that comes with a loss- like ever before?
Others say Gwanda is accustommed to losing, and is thus psychologically prepared. Even more others say Gwanda may now be part of a winning team, at last, having joined a 'winning side'. By that they seem to mean the various development unitiatives Mutharika has carried out during the past five years. But, looking at the calibre of the opposition, as well, which says it is sure of victory, this year's elections may be more interesting than others.
Gwanda may not be standing in the presidential race (though he is standing for MP in Nsanje (why has he started vying for less; has he discovered his worth?): his presence on the political scene can not be ignored. Which side will he be on- the winning or losing side?- and which side will he jump over to, thereafter.
This,and more, is a puzzle hidden in an answer-bag called May19. Then, and after, will the answers begin to unravel.