Probing candidates vying for SG position at MCP convention

Campaign for various positions in the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has heated up amidst a ban the party imposed on its members not to start campaigning.

This follows an announcement by the governing Tonse Alliance main partner in January that it will hold its convention in August 2024. According to MCP Secretary General (SG), Eisenhower Mkaka, all the positions will be up for grabs except for the president, which delegates have unanimously given to sitting party leader and Head of State President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera.

Chakwera has, since May last year, received a string of endorsements from his party’s senior leaders, including Cabinet ministers as well as district chairpersons, especially from the Northern and Central regions.

The party’s second vice-president Harry Mkandawire was the first to make the declaration followed by Speaker of Parliament Catherine Gotani-Hara and Lilongwe Msinja North legislator Bintony Kutsaira.

But in August last year, Mkaka told NEC members and regional chairpersons that campaigning for any NEC position would not be allowed before the party comes up with regulations and guidelines for the holding of the convention.

Party supporters have demonstrated keen and increased interest in the candidates vying for various positions. Our spot checks in all the four political regions of the country – North, Centre, East and South – revealed that the supporters are following news about the nominated candidates more closely than they were a few months ago.

Particularly, the supporters demonstrated seriousness and keenness to know candidates being proposed or nominated to run for the position of the SG – an official tasked to run the affairs of the party on a daily basis.

Apart from the incumbent SG (Mkaka), there are four more candidates vying for the position. They include former Presidential Advisor on Strategy, Chris Chaima Banda, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Simplex Chithyola Banda, MCP Treasurer General Dr. Albert Mbawala and former Kasungu West legislator Alex Major.

Our spot checks in all the three regions revealed that despite imposing a ban on a campaign, Mkaka has been going around, persuading delegates to spare him a boot at party’s convention.

Chaima Banda, Mbawala and Major have recently followed suit and has been trotting around the country mobilizing delegates to vote for him.

During our survey, it was discovered that the supporters hold mixed views and thoughts about these candidates. And here are some of the reactions we got from the surveyed supporters:

1.   Eisenhower Mkaka

Current MCP SG  Eisenhower Mkaka

Diehard supporters of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) feel Mkaka does not deserve a second term in office. Among others, the disgruntled argue that Mkaka lacks leadership skills as evidenced by his failure to revive the party; reorganize and operationalize district party offices, and run day-to-day affairs of the party.

Mkaka is also being blamed for the dilapidation and desertification at the MCP Headquarters in Lilongwe. The bush surrounding the headquarters leaves a lot to be desired, yet Mkaka has been entrusted with responsibility to oversee its operations on a day-to-day basis.

He has failed to utilize resources to maintain the headquarters. Hence, the MCP supporters feel that Mkaka is selfish and a lone worker. They stated that during his term of office, the SG failed to unite the party. The former Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation is also facing criticism from the party supporters for his alleged involvement in Sattar-related corruption scandal.

2.  Chris Chaima Banda

President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera entrusted him with the position of Presidential Advisor on Strategy before he embroiled himself in suspected bribery and corruption scandal at the National Oil Company of Malawi (NOCMA).

Chaima Banda was arrested alongside former Minister of Mines Newton Kambala and Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) president Enock Chihana for allegedly trying to influence NOCMA to award fuel import contracts to particular suppliers in 2020.

The surveyed MCP supporters felt it would be inappropriate to give such a man power to run the affairs of a governing party.

“What would happen if the outcome of their court case does not favour him? Why should we trust him with that position when the court has not cleared him of wrongdoing?” asked a supporter in Lilongwe Rural.

3.  Dr. Albert Mbawala

Dr. Albert Mbawala

Dr. Albert Mbawala is MCP legislator for Ntcheu Central Constituency and the current Treasurer General of the party. Recently, President Chakwera appointed him Minister of Mining where his performance was very minimal to the extent that the President was forced to chuck him out of the Cabinet.

It is therefore doubtful that he can deliver in the position of the party’s Secretary General.

4.  Alex Major

Alex Chakwanila Major was MCP member of Parliament (MP) for Kasungu West between 2014-2019. He fell to Jailos Bonongwe in the 2019 tripartite elections. It is the views of the party supporters, therefore, that Major should have concentrated his energies on reclaiming his seat at the constituency level.

“We feel Major does not have the capacity to run the affairs of a party. If he was rejected by a few people in a constituency, do you think any serious party follower would entrust him with such a demanding position?” asked the supporters.

5.  Simplex Chithyola Banda

Felix Chithyola Banda

Simplex Chithyola Banda is the sitting member of Parliament for Kasungu South and Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. He has not come out in the open to declare his interest to run for the position of SG of the party. However, some delegates have proposed his name. Surveyed NEC delegates say Chithyola Banda is the right candidate for the position of SG because of his trustworthiness, humility, loyalty to the party, hardworking spirit, and dedication to excellence.

They cited his performance at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs where he has managed to alleviate the problem of foreign scarcity and ended fuel crisis within weeks.

When contacted, Chithyola Banda maintained that he would make his position known at a later stage.

“Of course, I am ready to serve in any position the party supporters feel would fit me,” he reacted.

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