By Chalo Mvula
As I found myself sitting down and watching the final rally of Tonse alliance running mate Dr Saulos Chilima at Njamba on that Saturday afternoon, one thing came to my mind. Here was a patriotic Malawian who was taking a bow after delivering yet another masterclass of campaigning. It is a common secret now that Chilima is arguably one of the best Campaigners Malawi has ever had. Often times , politicians come and make their promises, others use handouts to try to convince people to vote for them, but rarely do you find a politician who blends in passion for his country like Chilima does.
But what makes Chilima tick and connects well with the people? Well , he is a good orator. and an excellent communicator. Public speaking is not just about delivering a high pitched statement to the people , it is about engaging the people, connecting with them so that they understand what you are saying and connects with what you are saying. Chilima speaks the language of the people, a boy in the village will connect to Chilima speech just as a boy in town will. His ability to know his audience cannot be underestimated. Small things like speaking a little Tumbuka when he is in the North, some Yao or Lomwe when he is in the South matters and psychologically opens up the audience to welcome whatever he has to say. In summary he knows how to get the attention of his audience.
The 2020 Campaign has been an interesting one. It has probably worked to the advantage of Chilima as somebody from a Marketing and Sales background. The alliances that were formed meant the parties had to sell a new brand at the back of their own political party brands. Who can do it better than the master marketer himself Chilima? He knew that his party alliance with MCP was not 100% welcomed by his supporters and he knew he had a huge task to convince the disgruntled and those who had no faith in the alliance. He knew, his message has to be cleverly crafted. As a salesman, he quickly devised a slogan “ Mfana oganiza bo!” There was so much power in this slogan, as it was a direct message to anyone who was doubting and questioning his decisions. It was a clear message to them that they should not worry as he’s had to take much careful thought in whatever decisions he has made. It didn’t take long after this that all those who doubted him quickly got onboard of the alliance train.
The next task for Chilima was to sell the Tonse alliance brand. He had to make sure that his supporters didn’t feel like the promises that he made in his 2019 manifesto were now all gone . From this we saw Chilima embark on his usual whistle stops. Displaying so much vigour and energy, going into unreachable areas, he would do a number of whistle stops in a day . Visual representation matters and as such it was not surprising seeing Chilima carrying a bag of fertilizer on his shoulder while trying to hammer through his flagship promise of reducing fertilizer to K4495.00. He cleverly used this opportunity as well, to introduce the candidacy of Dr Lazarus Chakwera to his loyal supporters.
You can never be a strong politician if you cannot stand heat from your opponents. Stand out moments of Chilima campaign was his ability to hit back if opponents attack him with ungrounded accusations. One man to feel that wrath was a fella called Everton Chimulirenji. At Masintha, where Atupele Muluzi addressed a rally, Chimulirenji whose vice presidency ended after Court nullified last year’s election results introduced himself as a campaign director of Mutharika/Atupele team. Chimulirenji thought it was his opportunity to hit at Chilima, accusing Chilima that he is the one who made him lose his vice presidency when he went to court to challenge last years election results . Chilima has one word for Chimulirenji and that was a reminder that Malawi history will never remember Chimulirenji as Vice president. Poor Everton was not seen in public again since.
Another battle was between Chilima and former President Bakili Muluzi. Bakili unleashed silent war with Chilima. Initial arrangements were that Bakili would join Atupele on the campaign trail , Chilima unleashed a bombshell- accusing the former president of pocketing over 500 thousands dollars from a foreign tobacco company deal. Infact Chilima threatened that Muluzi should pay back . What followed were attempts made on Chilima life with attacks on his convoy in Phalombe and Liwonde that was allegedly engineered by Bakili . While at a rally in Zomba , Chilima made another revelation, that Bakili had arranged for a Mr Mtenje to kill him when he goes to Mangochi. Well , in summary Bakili Muluzi never came out of his hiding place . Chilima’s public criticism of him and reminder of the corruption cases that he is due to answer made Muluzi never dare to go public and campaign for his son Atupele.
The campaign is over and people will be voting , but Chilima should be applauded for delivering another excellent campaign. The patriotism he showed by his display of the Malawi Flag and how he would do anything to defend the freedom of Malawians , the human side that he showed that just like any other person he can face threats but has to stand up and be fearless, his public display of his faith in God and not forgetting his sacrifices for the good of Malawi in accepting to be a running mate to Dr Lazarus Chakwera. Chilima has once again proved that he is an asset to Malawi and Malawian politics