MCP battle for Chakwera deputy

…. new kid Mumba attacks Speaker, party veep

…can the three-help unpopular president?

There are party owners, and there are untrustworthy politicians who move to every ruling party, says political novice Vitumbiko Mumba, himself a political nomad, as he launched his political campaign to become President Lazarus Chakwera’s deputy in Mzuzu on Tuesday.

Malawi Congress Party (MCP) deputy president Harry Mkandawire and Speaker of Parliament Catherine NyaHara Gotani have been named, by the party faithful, The Investigator Magazine has surveyed in the Northern Region, as probable candidates the party members would want to become Chakwera’s running mate in the 2025 tripartite elections.

The fourth probable candidate is rising political star, Nkhatabay South MP Ken Zikhale Ng’oma who is loved by the party grassroots and hated by senior officials for his bullish populist approach to politics. Zikhale Ng’oma has told us he has “never thought about it, I am here to serve the President and the mighty MCP in any capacity,” ruling himself out of the contest.

Mumba’s association with the first family has been part of political gossip within the MCP with senior executive members ruling out that he could master enough support across regions to win at the party convention.

But his indirect attack on Harry Mkandawire popularly known as “a Chikoma” and Speaker Gotani Hara, means battle lines have been drawn and excited the MCP base in the region as the party searches for votes in 2025.

50 +1 vote and the Northern region

The adoption of the 50 plus 1 voting majority by Parliament after the 2020 Constitutional Court ruling, both the MCP and the erstwhile ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which are the parties with majority seats in parliament will need a good majority in every district in the region to win the presidency.

Vice President Chilima and his UTM had a majority of over 60 percent in the northern region during the disputed 2019 general elections. The UTM still enjoys popular support in many districts, our survey found, which could propel the party to second position in 2025 if it gets a majority again.

In 2019, the Electoral Commission registered 95 698 voters in Chitipa, and the district voted for vice president Chilima giving him 43 727, followed by Chakwera with 16 232 and DPPs Peter Mutharika attained 13 975 votes. UDF’s Atupele Muluzi amassed 499.

In Karonga, out of the registered 146 386, Chilima won again with 55, 567, while Peter Mutharika was second in the district with 30 658 and President Chakwera came third with 26 209 and UDF got 1 628 out of the 115,808 people that cast their votes.

A woman casts her vote at CCAP Primary School polling station during the Malawi Tripartite general elections in Mzuzu, on May 21, 2019. – Malawi went to the polls on May 21 in a high-stakes election with a charged opposition and two serving cabinet ministers challenging President Peter Mutharika for a chance to govern the aid-dependent country for the next five years. (Photo by PATRICK MEINHARDT / AFP) (Photo credit should read PATRICK MEINHARDT/AFP via Getty Images)

Saulosi Chilima was game again in Rumphi amassing 41, 256 out of the 76 252 of those voted. Chakwera was second with 19 285 and Mutharika got 14 596. UDF in Rumphi got only 551 out of 96 610.

In the Northern Region’s largest district of Mzimba which had 375 095 people who cast vote out of 478 233 registered, Chilima garnered 161 872 votes, followed by Chakwera second with 144 974 votes, and Mutharika as sitting president only got 56 014. Atupele Muluzi managed 3319 votes.

Nkhatabay voted Chilima again giving him a majority of 35 106 from 77 979 votes cast. Peter Mutharika was second with 21 082 and Chakwera came third with 19 393. The total number of registered voters was 106 074. Atupele Muluzi was fourth with 790 votes.

The smallest district in Malawi, Likoma gave Peter Mutharika 2225 votes followed by Chilima with 2063 and Chakwera managed 1353. The Islands had the highest turnout rate as 6973 people registered and 5797 cast their votes.

The figures show that the MCP must work extra hard in the region to convert UTM’s Chilima and Mutharika votes into their own and a running mate from the region could boost their chances.

Chilima would have likely pulled more votes had he opted for a running mate from the region. Richard Msowoya, former Speaker of Parliament and MCP vice president was allegedly left in the cold last minute as he opted for dramatist and political novice Michael Usi who failed to make a dent in his base of Southern region.

However, the present unfulfilled promises especially Mombera University, Mzuzu Airport, Rumphi-Chitipa via Nyika and Nthalire road, and the now damaged Chiweta M1 roads are likely to play a significant role in MCP fortunes in the 2025 elections.

Chiefs in Chitipa and Karonga have told Chakwera in his face that should he construct the roads, he might not need to go and campaign in the two districts as he will win, and failure to do the same, he should stay away as he will lose badly.

Gotani Hara is a political asset but…

Catherine NyaHara Gotani, the first female Speaker who has staged a political comeback before, after losing her Mzimba Northeast constituency in 2014 and has survived the political tsunami, making her one of the most experienced politicians in the region.

Gotani Hara a hot contender for the VP position

Her political profile has been cemented by her new role that would endear to most voters in the region who love the prominence and power, which the Speakership exudes. She would likely bring women to vote in the region as Joyce Banda did in 2014 when she pulled many of the votes in the region.

However, the Speaker who is considered a political asset, would find the MCP race challenging if she must face Water Minister Abida Mia from the Southern Region and several male politicians who are said to be vying for the first vice president or second vice presidency slots of the party.

MCP has only two vice presidents, first and second, unlike other parties which have regional vice presidents. UTM has only one vice president.

NyaHara Gotani would also need to work hard outside the Mzimba North base and be seen as a regional politician other than someone from Mzimba only. She needs to champion more women’s issues across the parties if she will have to make herself a leader.

“She is an asset, we believe she will represent the women well as MCP vice president, but we don’t know her well. We only hear about her,” a party official in Karonga South, told our opinion poll team in early July. 

The Speaker was reported to be in Cameroon when we tried to reach her when we were developing the story. She has never confirmed her intentions to vie for the post.

Harry Mkandawire the political godfather he never was…

Harry “Chikoma” Mkandawire is the “balala” (old man) of Northern region politics who some accredit to making and unmaking other politicians in the region. He is the current vice president of the MCP but has failed to use the title to build new followers.

Some of his closest loyalists silently point out that a 73-year-old politician who is older than President Chakwera would face resistance within the party as it would not want a deputy that would be compared to Peter Mutharika, should the former president want to run again.

“Ba Chikoma is a good man; he has looked after all of us for years. But we don’t think he should run again. But should he decide, we might vote for him because he is a familiar figure we can trust,” said a Northern Region committee member who attended Mumba’s unveiling in Mzuzu on Tuesday.

The region is torn between the three candidates and Mkandawire could pull himself a second to the Speaker should he decide to launch his campaign to defend his seat.

Ba Chikoma is a good man; he has looked after all of us for years

“Nothing stops him now. He is in Cabinet, and he is always well-resourced. He is also the most experienced among the three. The other one is a toddler who just got confused by some windfall he has now. He can’t go far and displace Chikoma,” said a staunch loyalist of Mkandawire at Rumphi Boma.

Mkandawire’s long-time friend and aide said he had indicated that he might be retiring soon. But politicians in Malawi, including Atupele Muluzi of UDF and Brown Mpinganjira now in MCP have always retired from their self-acclaimed retirement.

Harry Mkandawire could not comment on our findings in the region.

Mumba, the connected kid, joins the MCP race..

Vitumbiko Mumba, an engineer who returned from Botswana a while ago, seems to have struck gold with his association with the first family, that he has previously sued a social media influencer for alleged defamation and recently sponsored the party Mzuzu University wing. These are the few well-known public activities he has engaged in.

Very little is known of his political skills save that he served as one of the advisors to the President of Freedom Party and as President of the Polytechnic Students Union in early 2000, until Tuesday he was only known in social media circles. He now has come out in the open.

Mumba, who is likely to contest in Mzimba central constituency, is reported to be loaded with cash and has already donated K19 million for the rehabilitation of the Euthini Health Centre in the area.

On Tuesday, dozens of supporters of Mumba from Euthini and others mobilised in Mzuzu and gathered at MCP regional offices in Mzuzu where he was “presented” to the regional committee, a very odd event considering he has been MCP since 2020 when President Chakwera ascended to power.

Eng. Vitumbiko Mumba with his supporters

Senior MCP officials claim the “presentation” was confirmation that he would be taking up leadership roles in the region, which he could find tough as he started his political journey with unsolicited attacks.

In a self-promotion video released after the “presentation,” Mumba says, “The last group, be careful with them. This is a politician’s group. They just do politics. Every party in government, they join. They literally jump there. Even when you have a funeral, they leave and jump. When choosing leaders, avoid these politicians.”

This has been interpreted as an indirect attack on the Speaker and Mkandawire who have been associated with all previous ruling parties including the UDF, DPP, and PP in various capacities. 

“For a newcomer in the party, his message missed selling his capacity as a new broom for change. People do not respect politicians who have the same foul mouth as Mchacha (DPP governor for the south). Instead of being a leader, he split the party instantly,” said a senior party official in the region, who attended the “presentation.”

The Investigator Magazine had reached out to Mumba earlier in July when it gathered that he was set to launch a campaign to become the party’s vice president. He denied the ambition and asked the magazine to give him time to come back to it.

Though Mumba’s name is welcomed favourably by the young party members, most of the voters to the party convention slated for 2024 are old loyalists and he would have to convince them to ditch the people that have supported them for years.

“He should learn to be humble. Being close to the Chakwera does not give someone automatic votes. Most of the party officials close to the President are being blamed for the mess the country and party is in. Within MCP most of them will lose at the party convention,” said an MCP official, who said Mumba is unlikely to get a country-wide vote.

However, one of his supporters said, old people fear the young people, but as elections and new structures are being put in place, people like Mumba will find more new supporters by the time convention comes.

Mumba speaking in Mzuzu on Tuesday as he was launching his campaign to become President Chakwera’s right hand man

“The old people want to be worshipped and eat alone their money. They neglect the party structures until the next election. People like Mumba are giving them a wake-up call. If he goes around the whole region, he will convince most of the party followers he can look after the party,” said a supporter of Mumba.

Mumba, who sued a social media influencer for defamation and paid him K4 million, will now find himself at the centre of scrutiny, especially his display of opulence and financial muscle as done in Mzuzu, which could make his stay in politics hotter.

2025 elections, beyond

The MCP’s record in power has been disastrous and money, as both the DPP and Peoples Party realised after elections, does not translate into votes.

Hunger, unfulfilled promises, and perceptions of tribalistic appointments have damaged the party’s standing in the region, our pollsters were told in a survey whose results will be published soon.

The Investigator Magazine’s monthly political surveys indicate that Vice President Chilima still enjoys sympathy in the region with MCP accused of mistreating him, while the DPP is being seen as a party that could end hunger and manage the economy.

Though the three potential candidates have billion of kwachas resources between them, winning the party vice presidency is not likely going to guarantee them to become running mate to the President, as he needs strong crowd pullers, just like Chilima did for him in 2020, for MCP to get a second term.

The President and MCP popularity are at their lowest, pegged at 11 percent by Afrobarometer in 2022 and recently the London-based European Intelligence Unit (EIU) predicted the party is likely to lose in 2025.

The three could be fighting over a bird, that has already flown away.

Editors Note: Our Political analysis is based on monthly surveys we conduct every month across several districts. The Investigator Magazine offers due diligence and specialised survey services to any policy, political, economic, and social services. We will soon launch Private Investigations Services. Email should you require any of the services.

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