Tonse’s long walk into ‘Canaan’

 It’s been a long, tempting journey. A journey that started with a protracted legal battle against electoral injustice. Every time the court took a break, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Dr. Saulos Chilima of UTM, sat on a bench under the shade, waiting for electoral justice.

Perhaps, it’s their wait for electoral justice–while sitting on that wooden bench– that nudged the two into reality: that their cause was singular.

They both meant well for democracy and Malawi. They both put on impressive campaigns for the country’s presidency, something they eventually felt robbed of. With their joint undying quest for Malawi’s liberation, the two seemed to have finally come to an understanding that they needed each other as soon as before 2019 polls.

And it was not just the two leaders who started considering joining hands against the dark forces of corruption, nepotism, impunity, and lawlessness that had long bedeviled the country.

MCP and UTM supporters outside the court joined forces to support anti-Jane Ansah’s seven month-long protests organised Human Rights Defenders Coalition. Carrying their parties’ paraphernalia, the supporters of the two political parties were seen easily mingling with one another.

No wonder, soon after Chakwera and Chilima’s victory against the electoral injustice, a pressure group from both MCP and UTM emerged, asking the two leaders to join forces ahead of the court sanctioned polls on 23rd June 2020. Within days, notable figures in the two parties started campaigning for the UTMCP coalition.

“Went Chakwera and Chilima together,” said Madalitso Kazombo, MCP parliamentarian for Kasungu West and First Deputy Speaker in Parliament.

It didn’t take long for the two parties to issue two separate statements, indicating they had initiated talks for a possible coalition ahead of the fresh presidential poll.

The culmination of everything was the official signing ceremony of coalition at Masintha Ground on 19th March, 2020.

Reacting to the development, former President Dr. Joyce Banda described the ceremony as a dream come true. She said the coalition is for the good of the country.

“When some critics saw Dr. Chakwera and Chilima sit on the bench at the court, they thought the two leaders were simply wasting their time. I am now happy to see that the solidarity they showed during the court case has led to this coalition,” said Dr. Banda.

But, as it surfaced, it wasn’t just a UTMCP coalition. Six other political parties; Peoples Party, Alliance for Democracy, Peoples Progressive Movement, People’s Transformation Alliance, MAFUNDE, and Umodzi Party endorsed and joined the coalition which later came to be known as Tonse Alliance.

UTM leader, Saulos Klaus Chilima assured the mammoth crowd that came to witness the big occasion that Tonse Alliance would ensure that manifestos of all the political would be developed into one document that speaks to wishes and aspirations of Malawi.

“We will be remembered for selflessly putting together our resources of wisdom, virtue and zeal to liberate our people from the bondage of poverty, impunity, hunger and lawlessness,” said Chilima.

So, when the official campaign got underway on 19th April, 2020, Tonse Alliance had  a well thought-through manifesto. Major promises like reducing the price of fertilizer to K4495, removal of water and electricity connection fee, creation of one million jobs, raising of the minimum wage to K50 000 and increased a tax-free threshold to K100 000, seemed to have resonated well with majority of Malawians.

This was anchored by Chakwera’s super Hi-5: servant leadership, uniting Malawians, prospering together, fighting corruption and rule of law.

The team crisscrossed the country with the campaign messages, convincing Malawians why Tonse Alliance deserves their votes.

However, the campaign wasn’t without obstacles. Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on several attempts tried to prevent Tonse Alliance from campaigning in the Southern Region. The party had to hire thugs to physically assault Tonse Alliance followers.

The highlight of the dark spot during the campaign period was the political violence allegedly sponsored by the DPP was the torching of the UTM office in Lilongwe, killing three people in the process.

But despite all the violence motivated by regionalism and tribalism, Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, Tonse Alliance torch bearer remained steadfast of his message of unity. Speaking during the final day of the campaign in Lilongwe, Chakwera reiterated his promise to become the president for all Malawians, once elected.

“Lazarus Chakwera will not be the President of MCP, neither Tonse Alliance. He will be the President of all Malawians including those in DPP and UDF,” he said.

And as he is set to become the country’s sixth President, one hopes that all what Chakwera and Chilima have promised Malawians should into fruition. That way, Malawians will really have reached the much-awaited promised land, Canaan.