MALAWI Goes Into High-stakes Presidential Rerun Amid Corona Virus Pandemic

Malawi Colonial History

  • 1891: British Colonialists occupy Nyasaland (Today Malawi)
  • Rebellion against British Colonial Rule began on January 1915 led by Reverend John Chilembwe (the Chilembwe Uprising) .Chilembwe’s Revolution was short-lived as he was captured and killed on February 1915. His Revolt for a Free Nyasaland however continued
  • Nyasaland Pro-Independence Nationalists led by Levi Mumba and Frederick Sangala formed the ‘Nyasaland African Congress’-NAC on October 1944 as a Vehicle to agitate for Independence
  • October 1953; British Colonialists merged the Territory of Nyasaland with their Northern and Southern Rhodesia Territories (Today Zambia and Zimbabwe). Nyasaland Nationalists began protesting against the Merger and On July 1958, Kamuzu Banda who had just been elected to lead the NAC led Street Protests against the Merger. The Protests led to a deadly Confrontation with British Authorities who banned the NAC and all other Nationalist Organizations in Nyasaland. Kamuzu and many other Nationalists were arrested and detained under a State of Emergency declared on March 1959
  • Soon after his release from Prison; Nyasaland Nationalist and the first Nyasaland African Lawyer Orton Chirwa and other Nationalists in consultations with Kamuzu whho was still in Prison formed ‘Malawi Congress Party’-MCP (a leading Party in Malawi to this Day) late in 1959.MCP’s Objective was to take over where NAC had reached in the Struggle for Independence
  • On April 1960 Kamuzu Banda was released from Prison and was immediately rose to lead MCP. Independence Negotiations began in Earnest and on August 1961 Legislative Elections were held in readiness for Independence. MCP won all the elective Seats against UFP and CLP Parties
  • On February 1963, Nyasaland became a Self-governing Territory with Kamuzu Banda as the Prime Minister. On July 6,1964 Nyasaland Regained full Independence as Malawi.

Malawi Post-Independence History

  • July 1966; Malawi became a Republic with Kamuzu Banda as the first President of the Republic. By as early as September 1964, Kamuzu Banda then a Prime Minister had already started his unleashing Authoritarian Traits by Firing his Cabinet Ministers who differed with him a move that other Cabinet Ministers resigning in Protest against his Style of Administration leading to a Governance Crisis in a very Young Nation. Upon rising to Power as President in 1966 Kamuzu Banda declared Malawi a One Party State to enhance his Authoritarian Rule.
  • In 1970 the MCP made him its President for Life. Later in 1971 Kamuzu Banda declared himself Malawi’s President for Life.
  • President Kamuzu Banda Violent Clampdown on Opposition and Dissidents increased. At one time he was quoted saying those who oppose him should be “Food for Crocodiles”. His Rule was largely an Authoritarian One-Man Show.
  • Banda’s Health started deteriorating in 1993 amid increasing Protests over his Repressive Regime then being led by Catholic Bishops.
  • A Constitutional Referendum on System of Governance after intense Pressure for Multi-Party Democracy was held on June 1993 and 67% Voted for an End of Kamuzu’s One Party Regime.
  • The first Multi-Party Democracy Elections in Independent Malawi were held on May 1994. The United Democratic Front-UDF that had also participated in the Push for Multi-Party Democracy under its Founder and Leader Bakili Muluzi won both the Presidential and Parliamentary Vote. This marked the End of Kamuzu’s 31-Years Regime. After his humiliating Defeat in the 1994 Elections which he Vied in his 90’s; the sickly Banda finally retired from Politics
  • On November 26,1997 Kamuzu Banda was announced Dead in a South African Hospital where he was being treated for a Respiratory Illness. Although his Regime is largely remembered for his High-handedness, Violent Clampdown on Dissidents, Arrests and Torture of those who Opposed him and even Summary Executions of his fierce Critics; Kamuzu Banda is also remembered as Malawi’s Founding Father and Independence Negotiator, he is also credited with laying some Basic Foundation Infrastructure for Malawi and establishing a New Capital City of Malawi in Lilongwe from Zomba although his Critics say his Regime was tainted with Corruption. His Loyalists say he was simply a Strict Ruler and an Advocate of Women Rights.

Bakili Muluzi Regime

  • Upon assuming Office, President Bakili Muluzi a Businessman promised Democratic Reforms and Freedoms and he began his Rule by freeing Banda’s Political Prisoners. These Reforms helped Muluzi to Win a Second Term in Office in the June 1999 Elections. Credited for introducing Democracy and Fundamental Freedoms in Malawi and the Revival of Malawi’s Diplomacy, Muluzi’s Regime was also tainted with Corruption that would see him arraigned in Court by his Successor later on July 2016. His Attempt to run for a controversial Third Term in Office and Succession Wrangles within his UDF Party also marred his Legacy. After the Succession Wrangles, the Party finally settled on Bingu Wa Mutharika as its Candidate for the May 2004 Elections. Bingu Won against 4 other Candidates to become Malawi’sThird President.

Bingu Wa Mutharika Regime

  • Bingu; an Economist launched an Anti-Corruption War immeadiately after taking over. His War against Corruption did not augur well with some UDF Honchos who felt threatened. Disagreements within the Ruling Party over Mutharika’s Style of Leadership saw Mutharika resigning from the Party to form his own ‘Democratic Progressive Party’-DPP on February 2005. The UDF launched an Impeachment against Mutharika on June the same Year but he survived. Mutharika started cracking the whip after surviving an Impeachment by firing, arresting and charging his Vice President Cassim Chilumpha who was the then the Leader of UDF with Treason. Later on October 2009 the Court reinstated Chilumpha as the Vice President.
  • On May 2009 Bingu was Re-elected for a Second Term. Instead of fixing an ailing Economy, Bingu started engaging in Populist Activities like his July 2010 Attempt to Change the National Flag of Malawi a move that Angered Malawians. His High-handedness within his DPP Party also angered a section of Malawians. All these led to Street Protests against his Regime in 2011. His attempt to quell the Protests led to the Deaths of at least 20 Malawians a move that again strained Malawi’s Relations with its biggest Donor the UK who reacted by stopping Donations to Malawi a move that did hurt and already hurt Economy.
  • On April 5,2012 at the Age of 78, President Bingu Mutharika suffered a Heart Attack and was Pronounced Dead on arrival at a Hospital in Lilongwe. Malawi’s State Media said he had been flown to South Africa for Treatment. Although the self-styled Chief Economist of Malawi did not live up to his Economic Hype, he is remembered for his Revival of Tobacco Farming in Malawi. His Anti-Corruption War would later be put on the Spot by a 2009-2012 Audit Report by NAO that said over K90 Billion was lost through IFMIS between that Period.
  • Joyce Banda the then Vice President assumed Power immediately as per the Constitution.

Joyce Banda’s Short-lived Reign

  • Upon assuming Office, President Joyce Banda continued with the Purge on Corruption. She at one time on October 2013 sacked her entire Cabinet after Revelations of Malawi’s biggest Financial Scandal in History; the $ 32 Million Cashgate Scandal.
  • This particular Scandal that is believed to have started in the Government of her late Predecessor started marring her Adminstration dimming her Chances of getting Elected in the May 2014 Presidential Election. The Opposition then being led by Bingu Mutharika’s Brother Peter Mutharika who she had sacked from Cabinet used this Scandal to campaign against her Administration accusing her of masterminding it to fund her Election Campaign a Claim she termed as Baseless.
  • On the May 2014 Peter Mutharika; a former Law Professor Lawyer and former Minister in 3 different Ministries through his late Brother’s Party DPP defeated Incumbent Joyce Banda with 36% to Joyce’s 20%. Joyce actually came Third after Lazarus Chakwera who garnered 28% of the Vote.

Peter Mutharika’s Regime

  • Although his first Term was faced by National Challenges of devastating Floods and Famine; Peter Mutharika’s Regime has also been marred by Unfulfilled Promises he used to sway Malawian Voters notably his Promise to Construct 5 New Public Universities, Completion of the Shire-Zambezi Waterway, Revival of Rail Transport among others. He has also been adversely mentioned in Corruption for instance in the Zameer Karim Scandal. Various Audit Queries at Capital Hill MDAs have revealed loss of Public Funds. His January 2019 Promise to build 2 Stadiums for Malawi’s Oldest Football Clubs (Nyasa Big Bullets and Forward Wanderers) largely seen as a Populist move to get him Re-elected on May 2019 received widespread Condemnation from the Public with Majority asking him to first fix the Essentials like the Country’s ailing Healthcare.
  • These among other Controversies of his first Term in Office saw Mutharika’s falling out of favour with Malawians as evidenced by the Results of the Controversial May 2019 Presidential Election that he narrowly Won with 38% against 35% from his Main Challenger since 2014 Dr. Lazarus Chakwera. The Results of this Election were highly disputed with Widespread Mass Protests against Mutharika’s controversial Victory. The Chair of the Electoral Commission-MEC Jane Ansah who was being accused of rigging in favor of Mutharika resigned amid Pressure from the Public.
  • MCP’s Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and MTP’s Saulos Chilima who had been Announced Third in the May 2019 Election filed a Petition to have Mutharika’s Victory Annulled. In a Landmark Historic Judgement of February 3,2020; Malawi’s Constitutional Court Overturned the entire Election and ordered a Fresh Presidential Election that is now set to be held on June 23,2020.
  • Mutharika’s controversial Moves have increased towards this Election. He for instance on March 13 sacked his entire Cabinet, later on March 19 he sacked the Country’s Chief of Defense Forces Lt.Gen Nundwe who was widely acclaimed for protecting Malawians in their Protest against Mutharika’s May 2019 Victory. This was the 4th time he was changing the Country’s CDF.  Mutharika’s Government is also on the spot for trying to force the Country’s Chief Justice into an early Retirement 18 Months to his due Retirement. Justice Andrew Nyirenda led the Court that Annuled President Mutharika’s Re-election on May 2019 Victory. This Move has however been blocked by the High Court. Although his Government has brought down the rate of Inflation over the Years;These among other recent Controversies like Importation of K3.2 Billion Cement from Zambia and Zimbabwe against the Policy of ‘Buy Malawi-Build Malawi’ have continued to lower his ratings and Chances of securing Re-election ahead of an Election that is set to be hotly contested.

Malawi’s June 23,2020 Presidential Election

  • In this particular Rerun President Peter Mutharika has chosen the Son of the Country’s second President one Austin Muluzi who is the current Leader of UDF as his running Mate in a bid increase his Chances of securing his second and last Term against a strong united Opposition. Mutharika now 80-Years old has promised to develop Malawi to the Levels of US,UK and Canada. During the May 2019 Presidential Elections Campaign he had promised to develop Malawi to the levels of Singapore and South Africa.
  • Mutharika will be going head-to-head against a strong united Opposition;’Tonse Alliance’ under his Arch-rival 65-Years old Theologian and MCP Leader Dr. Lazarus Chakwera and his running Mate 47-Years old Saulos Chilima who is the current Vice President of Malawi and Leader of UTM. Chilima came a strong Third behind Chakwera on the May 2019 Election. Chilima was reinstated as the Country’s Vice President by the Constitutional Court on its February 3,2020 Ruling; President Mutharika had fired him on November 2018.
  • The other little known Candidate in this Presidential Election is an Accountant one Dominico Sinosi Kuwani of the MMD Party.
  • 6.8 Malawians are registered to Vote in this Election across Malawi’s 28 Districts. Half of all the registered Voters are Young People under 35-Years.
  • This particular Presidential Rerun will take place under a New Electoral Commission-MEC now being led by Dr.Chifundo Kachale.

Malawi’s June 23,2020 Presidential Election Results

On June 28,2020 at Midnight;Lazarus Chakwera was Declared the Winner of this Election with over 2.6 Million Votes-59% beating the Incumbent Peter Mutharika who came a Distant-second with 1.7 Million Votes-39%. This was a Historic Feat for both Malawi and Africa. Dr.Chakwera and his Vice President Dr.Chilima were Sworn in later the same Day as President and Vice President. Although Peter Mutharika did not Concede Defeat,he bowed out peacefully.

Malawi Fact-File:

  • Malawi is a Land-locked Country in South Eastern Africa Great Lakes Region bordered by Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique.
  • With a GDP Per Capita of $389 according to recent World Bank Data; Ranking Position 172 out of 189 World Nations on the 2019 Human Development Index; Half of Malawi’s 19 Million People live below the International Poverty Line of $1.25 a Day.
  • Malawi is still classified as a ‘Least Developed-Low Income’ Country. The Country’s main Economic Activity is Agriculture which accounts for up to a Third of its GDP.
  • Tobacco is Malawi’s main Export accounting for over 55% of its total Exports.
  • Lake Malawi or Lake Nyasa and Lake Malawi National Park which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site are among Malawi’s Top Tourist Destinations.
  • Malawi’s National Languages are English and Chichewa of the Chewa People who are the largest Ethnic Group in Malawi.
  • Over 80% of Malawians are Christians although other Faith/Religions like Islam are still practiced in the Country.
  • Malawian Kwacha-MK is the Country’s Currency.
  • Lilongwe is the Country’s Capital City since 1965 when Malawi’s Capital City was moved from Zomba.
  • To-date; Malawi has reported over 750 Cases of the Global Corona Virus Pandemic and 11 Deaths. The Campaigns of this June 2020 Presidential Election have seen large Crowds milling around Campaign Caravans with zero regard to Anti-Corona Virus Pre-Cautions. This has raised Concerns of a possible escalation of this deadly Virus in Malawi.

(PHOTOS COURTESY)