“What happens in Malawi remains in Malawi”, understanding strange political miracles of Nyasaland

Although President Peter Mutharika lost power this year, the man is politically heavy as he is a former law professor who taught in the US before becoming a cabinet minister, was first elected to Malawi’s top office in 2014 and two years earlier his brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, was and died while serving as republican president of Malawi. From our end, we have identified five political miracles that may help to explain what happened in Malawi to see Dr. Lazarus Chakwera into power and President Mutharika out of power:

  1. In June, 2020, Malawi became the first country in Africa where a former ruling party, one that liberated the country from colonial rule in 1963 bounced back into power after being out of government since 1994 when President Kamuzu Banda was democratically ejected on the ballot. The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) was forgotten and politically buried by many citizens after losing power in 1994 following the introduction of multiparty politics in that country but today, it is the vehicle that has brought Dr. Chakwera into power.
  1. The former Nyasaland is the first country in Africa where the opposition has won power after the court nullified the initial results where the sitting president was announced winner. In Kenya where Africa witnessed the first nullification of presidential, the sitting President, Uhuru Kenyatta and ruling party still won a ‘rerun’ as the main opposition boycotted.  
  1. Malawi is the first country in the world where the initial presidential election was legally held on the “First Past the Post”, simple majority electoral system as per constitution while the ‘rerun’ was held on a different electoral system i.e. 50% + 1 established or imposed by court judges and not their national laws. In 2019, the electoral authority declared Mutharika the narrow winner of the May 2019 election with 38% of the vote, followed by Lazarus Chakwera with 35% and Saulos Chilima with 20%.

To the contrary, the judges while analyzing the presidential petition surprisingly challenged the simple majority constitutional electoral system and declared it wrong and illegal. But even then, an imperative political miracle is that, the new unwritten 50% + 1 electoral system as imposed by the court is deemed legal and was used to declare Dr. Chakwera winner while the constitution still retains the simple majority system as legally binding too. This seems to have happened in Malawi only among the 54 African states.

  1. The former Nyasaland has made history by becoming the first State in Africa to have a full-time ‘Man of God’ and pastor to be elected by the masses to become a Republican President of a Country. Dr. Chakwera is Malawi’s prominent pastor and clergy who led the Malawi Assemblies of God church for 24 years as a Man of God and teacher of theology before retiring at the age of 58 in 2013 to join full-time politics. With very few years of political life and experience, he was elected Republican President.
  1. In addition, after winning the presidency, President Chakwera became the first new leader in Malawi and Africa where the same people who supported and voted him into power staged an instant public protests against  ‘their own ruler’ demanding a “NO voice to bad governance” of appointing friends and relatives into cabinet and top government positions. Malawi’s new President Lazarus Chakwera has named relatives as ministers in his new cabinet, sparking criticism.

The president’s former running mate in the 2019 elections Sidik Mia has been appointed minister for transport while his wife Abida Mia is the deputy minister for lands. Kenny Kandodo is the new labour minister while his sister Khumbize Kandodo is the health minister. Businessman Gospel Kazako has been appointed information minister and his sister-in-law Agnes Nkusa Nkhoma is the deputy agriculture minister. In addition, President Chakwera’s cabinet has been criticsied for comprising more than 70% of people from the central region which happens to be his political stronghold, hence denounced as Malawi’s ‘worst tribal and nepotistic cabinet’ since independence.

When you critically analyze what happened in Malawi between 2019 and 2020 concerning the presidential elections, the observations and conclusion is the same: “what happens in Malawi, remains in Malawi” where the miracles of strange politics are both evidently real and legally acceptable. If you travel from Cape Town to Cairo by road or air, you will soon realize that the political miracles of Malawi remain a peculiar phenomenon of Nyasaland, a distinguished democratic experiment for Lilongwe alone and nowhere else.  

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