The Rise of Lazarus A look at Malawi’s sixth President

news-image

Jimmy Kainja

On June 23, 2020 Malawians elected Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera as the country’s sixth president, replacing Arthur Peter Mutharika.

Dr Chakwera received 58 percent of the vote while Professor Mutharika got 38 percent.

This was a historic victory for a very specific reason: these were fresh elections ordered by the country’s Constitutional Court after it nullified the May 2019 elections.

The court had found that the elections were marred with widespread irregularities, including the use of correction fluid, which is against the country’s electoral laws.

Dr Chakwera (65) of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) led a coalition of several political parties including the UTM led by his running mate, Saulos Chilima, and Joyce Banda’s People’s Party.

The coalition’s campaign message centred around three main issues: job creation, a universal fertiliser subsidy, and ridding the country of tribalism, which is one of the main vices that the Mutharika administration was accused of.

The coalition called itself “Tonse”, meaning all of us, to reflect the coalition’s unity and a one-nation Malawi. Dr Chakwera made sure to drive this point home at his swearing in ceremony on June 28 in the capital city, Lilongwe.

Peter Mutharika, a renowned and well-respected academic, had overseen perhaps the most nepotistic and tribalistic administration in Malawi’s history and it was clear that the majority of Malawians were tired of his rule.

Despite the stability of the country’s currency, the kwacha, the economy has been struggling. The Covid-19 pandemic was the final nail in the coffin.

 

Difficult tasks ahead

President Chakwera’s tasks of reviving the economy and reforming the civil and public sector will not be easy ones.

What are his chances of success?

Although President Chakwera never worked in the civil service, he has vast experience in leadership elsewhere.

Until he turned to politics in 2013 he was president of the Malawi Assemblies of God, an association that brings together different Pentecostal churches in the country.

Former colleagues talk of him as a worker and someone who favours independence over dependency.

 

Rise from poverty

President Chakwera was born in a village west of Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, on April 5, 1955 to a peasant family.

In the wallowing poverty of colonial Malawi, two of his older brothers had died in infancy and the community believed that there was a curse in the family.

His father named him Lazarus after the biblical story of Lazarus of Bethany whose life was restored by Jesus four days after his death. Chakwera’s father had a vision that Lazarus was going to escape the fate of his two brothers and, like Lazarus, that he would survive against the odds.

He was one of three boys from Malembo Primary School to be selected to go to Mtendere Secondary School. He went on to the University of Malawi where he studied Philosophy, graduating in 1977.

He followed this up with a degree in Theology at the University of the North in South Africa and later earned a doctorate from Trinity International University in the United States.

Perhaps this is where he obtained his distinct American accent.

Chakwera married in 1977. He met his wife Monica through activities organised by the Student Christian Organisation of Malawi whilst they were both students.

They have four children, some of whom are also pastors running their own ministries.

It, therefore, came as a surprise to those close to him when he decided to enter politics. In his answer to this question, he says that he sees politics as an extension of his mission to serve people – this time on a bigger stage than a pulpit.

 

Respecting democracy

His background will resonate with a good number of Malawians – Malawi prides itself as a God-fearing nation.

Yet, if Dr Chakwera is to get things done as President, he needs to learn quickly that Malawi is a constitutional democracy, not a theocracy.

He has to accommodate everyone, believers and non-believers. Those who break the law in and outside his administration will have to face punishment.

President Chakwera is a family man, but the compassion of a loving and caring father will not be enough.

Malawi is like a serious patient in an intensive care unit and bitter pills are needed to heal it – this includes overhauling the civil service, employing and appointing people on merit and curbing corruption, nepotism and cronyism.

The latter will be particularly pertinent as many people will be waiting in the wings to be rewarded for their role in getting President Chakwera elected. – New African

LEAVE A COMMENT

Comments

image

Poachers have broken into Botswana’s p Read more...

10 Aug, 2018 at 01:58 PM

image

In a sign that Botswana is likely to cli Read more...

02 Jul, 2018 at 09:26 AM

image

Gaborone - Poachers have broken into Bot Read more...

04 Feb, 2019 at 07:35 AM

image

DAR ES SALAAM - DIRECTIVES on online for Read more...

02 Jul, 2018 at 01:24 PM

image

SADC leaders meeting in Tanzania this we Read more...

19 Aug, 2019 at 01:51 PM

image

Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter does Read more...

09 Aug, 2020 at 11:15 PM

image

The 40th Southern African Development Co Read more...

09 Aug, 2020 at 11:13 PM

image

Harare - Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC) has cance Read more...

09 Aug, 2020 at 11:10 PM

image

Timo Shihepo Windhoek - The Southern Af Read more...

07 Aug, 2020 at 12:14 PM

image

Harare – Newly-crowned English Premier Read more...

07 Aug, 2020 at 12:13 PM

image

Lusaka - Amid myriad criticisms from soc Read more...

14 Dec, 2018 at 06:28 AM

image

FORMER Liberation Movements (FLMs) in So Read more...

16 Sep, 2019 at 12:36 PM

image

Heads of state and ministers who travell Read more...

30 Jul, 2018 at 02:01 PM

image

Windhoek - The European Union National I Read more...

01 Apr, 2019 at 12:33 PM

image

Windhoek - More than 1 000 languages are Read more...

27 May, 2019 at 12:44 AM