Windhoek – Southern African leaders have applauded Malawi’s strong democratic systems, and warmly welcomed the newly-elected President Lazarus Chakwera to the comity of leaders steering the region’s development agenda.
President Chakwera was sworn into office Sunday after an election re-run triggered by a Constitutional Court ruling annulled the outcome of the May 2019 polls that had seen Mr Peter Mutharika controversially declared the winner.
In the re-run that was held last week, Mr Chakwera took 58,57 percent of the vote and the electoral commission duly declared him the winner, paving way for his inauguration.
President Chakwera will make his maiden speech at the SADC Heads of State and Government Summit in August, and leaders from the region have been quick to welcome him into the fold.
The Chair of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe, commended the people of Malawi for turning out in large numbers to exercise their civic and democratic right in the June 23 re-run, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“SADC congratulates Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party for winning the re-run Presidential Election, and commends the people of Malawi for the political tolerance and maturity demonstrated throughout the electoral process, and since the May 2019 disputed Presidential Election results,” he said in a statement.
He also applauded the Malawi Electoral Commission for the efficient and effective organisation and management of the elections, and said SADC stood ready to render any post-election support to Malawi should it need any.
“SADC urges the candidates who took part in the re-run Presidential election in Malawi and their supporters to accept the official results of the election as announced by the Malawi electoral commission, and to observe the national electoral and constitutional processes should they have grievances regarding the electoral process,” said President Mnangagwa.
Namibia’s President Hage Geingob weighed on: “Indeed, the success of these elections demonstrates that democracy has come of age as an integral corner stone of the political culture of the people of Malawi and SADC as a whole.
“I look forward to working closely with you (President Chakwera), to further deepen and strengthen our bilateral co-operation, as well as advancing our regional and continental development agenda.”
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the Chair of the Africa Union, offered his congratulations to President Chakwera on victory, and hailed the integrity of Malawi’s democratic system.
“I commend and congratulate the people of Malawi for conducting peaceful elections which have served to deepen democracy in Malawi. I re-commit the Union to continued closer working ties with the government of Malawi to enhance cooperation and pay particular attention to strengthening economic development and integration,” he said.
Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu said the election outcome was an affirmation of the trust and confidence the people of Malawi had in President Chakwera.
“Zambia and Malawi share strong brotherly bonds of friendship based on mutual respect. I, therefore, wish to take this opportunity to reaffirm my country’s commitment to maintaining strong bilateral relations that our two countries have continued to enjoy, for the mutual benefit of our two peoples.”
President Chakwera (65) won the election on a Malawi Congress Party ticket after getting into an alliance with Mr Saulos Chilima’s United Transformation Movement.
The MCP led Malawi to independence in 1963 under Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who would go on to lead Malawi for 30 years.
President Chakwera had been opposition lawmaker after resigning as Assemblies of God overseer in May 2013.
Born on Aril 5, 1955, he spent most of his adult life as a clergyman, was a professor at the Pan African Theological Seminary from 2005.
Reporting by Timo Shihepo in Windhoek and Jeff Kapembwa in Lusaka