In what promises to be a drama of the proportions of the David vs. Goliath tussle, political upstart Honourable Moses Karongashawa Kunkuyu has taken the fight to veteran Honourable John Zenas Ungapake Tembo, on the road to 2014, for the Dedza South Constituency parliamentary seat.
While Honourable J.Z.U. Tembo needs no introduction; being the longest serving member of parliament in Malawi, and arguably the most powerful man after Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda long before Moses Kunkuyu was born, Moses Kunkuyu is, in comparison, a toddler. In Chichewa, timati nthumbidwa.
This is why Kunkuyu’s challenge is as good as an expedition of an angel daring to tread where even devils fear to tread.
Who is this “David”?
Honourable Moses Kunkuyu is the current Minister of Information and Civic Education and also a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly of Malawi for Blantyre City South Constituency.
His political career started in 2009, forty six or so years after Hon J.Z.U. Tembo made his parliamentary debut.
Moses Kunkuyu was elected Member of Parliament for the Blantyre City South constituency as an independent MP defeating, on the way, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate Jimmy Lupiya Bruce Banda – who was also the incumbent.
Before delving deeper into his political career, let us start from genesis. Honourable Moses Kunkuyu was born in Blantyre on April 16, 1980 and grew up in Blantyre.
After attending various secondary schools around Blantyre, he sat his Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) at Michiru Private Secondary School. His initial ambition was to study law.
Looking at him now, one can say, he “almost” made it. He may not have studied law – but he is a lawmaker, and at least from 2009 to date, he has been “making” laws. And what’s more, he is now day in, day out defending someone’s gaffes. From this perspective therefore, Honourable Kunkuyu is a “lawyer” but not in the strict sense of the word.
His real dream – in the strict sense – having failed to materialise, he studied Information Technology with the Institute of Chartered Management (ICM); and was before the May 2009 elections in the UK training as a pastor.
Asked by Malawi Voice’s Justice Mponda whether his entry into mainstream politics was by design or default, he said;
“I don’t know. But I am someone who was raised up by a politician. It could be that I am treading in the footsteps of my late father, who was a veteran politician from the days of independence up to the introduction of multiparty politics in 1994.”
“I came back (from UK) to join politics because I saw the need to help change things and engage in development activities. I did not like the opposition’s role in the 2004-2009 parliament when the government was heavily undermined with the blocking of important bills for development.
People in the constituency also wanted a person who had knowledge about the constituency. Someone who was born there and grew up in the area and the writing was on the wall that they needed new blood, not only any young person but one who could deliver.”
Kunkuyu’s litmus test vs. Puludzu resilience – the 2009 Elections:
“The campaign in the Blantyre City South constituency was very challenging because I was competing against candidates who had material and financial resources more than I had.”
Moses Kunkuyu’s competitors were:
- Chinemba Kaka wa Kaka Ali of CODE,
- Jimmy Lupiya Bruce Banda of DPP,
- Louise Chakhame of UDF,
- Mozes Chikoko of MCP,
- Morgan Chirombo of NRP,
- Medson Harry Chiume of NUP,
- Mcphysily Mlauli – an Independent,
- Effie Liabunya Somanje – an Independent, and
- Don Beston Khonje of PPM
Out of the forty one thousand eight hundred seventy seven (41,877) votes cast; in his favour were eighteen thousand eight hundred and twenty seven (18,827); representing 45%. The next candidate, DPP’s Jimmy Banda got ten thousand three hundred eighty nine (10,389) votes representing 25%.
An impressive start for a novice, and obviously not something Honourable JZU Tembo should take lightly.
But then since it takes two to tango, these formidable statistics will be incomplete if we do not cross over to Dedza South to see how veteran JZU Tembo faired in the same election.
John Tembo competed with:
- Ellinet Fatima Bauti (Mrs) of UDF
- Lucy Chitenje of DPP
- Gerald B. Kampanikiza of PPM
- Lameck Livingstone Phepo Phiri – an Independent, and
- Lawrence Wachepa – an Independent
And, out of the forty one thousand three hundred sixty seven (41,367) votes cast, in his favour were eighteen thousand four hundred and eighty one (18,481); also representing 45%. The next candidate, DPP’s Lucy Chitenje got ten thousand two hundred eighty three (10,283) votes, again representing 25%.
Balancing this equation, given the heavy bombardment that John Tembo suffered at the hands of a well-oiled DPP campaign machinery, this was not a small feat and makes one wonder if Moses Kunkuyu will not rue the day he made the decision to migrate to Dedza South – the lion’s lair.
And while Hon JZU Tembo should watch out because Kunkuyu seems at his best when fighting giants; Kunkuyu should also watch out because John Tembo, it seems, takes little boys like him for breakfast – in as far as elections are concerned.
Kunkuyu’s Achilles Heel: “migrant genes”:
“You won as an Independent, but soon after that you switched to Democratic Progressive Party. Why?” – this was again, Malawi Voice’s Justice Mponda doing the honours in his interview with Moses Kunkuyu.
“The problem of being in opposition especially in Malawi is that members spend a lot of time practising opposition politics every day. You find that immediately after the general election, opposition members start campaigning for the next elections. This practice deters the government development agenda,” was Moses Kunkuyu’s response.
Ironically, this (immediate campaigning for the next elections) is exactly what the DPP, the party whose bandwagon he joined, did.
May be he can redeem himself by saying that fighting this, is why he formed the Hope Alliance, whose membership would fluctuate from, according to Kunkuyu, forty one strong to “an army of one marching in the wilderness” – depending on who you asked.
But as you will see later, with Kunkuyu, you do not know which party you are voting for.
Development projects done in Blantyre City South constituency:
“I introduced an ambulance, which runs literary from my pocket. I have two drivers for the ambulance and they are busy most of the time ferrying patients, especially expectant mothers to Queen Elizabeth Hospital. On average, I spend K10, 000 every day for fuel. I also bought cars that are used as a driving school for jobless youths. I have also set up an organisation known as Friends of Blantyre City South Constituency to champion development agenda of this area, which has a rural and urban setting.”
Not something to scoff at, but irrelevant to Dedza South, is my take.
And again, this why in his shoes, I would stick to the devil (the constituency) I know. But apparently, according to the young lawmaker, the people of Dedza South were starving of a football trophy; hence his quickly launching one.
Whether this (watching and playing football) is all Dedza South needs will be known in May 2014.
“Analysts” vs. Wise One on Kunkuyu:
Several analysts have decried and described his migration as motivated by greed.
Whatever the reason, and whatever the real motivation, my take is that if this decision is indeed a personal decision, not influenced by a desire to please someone high in the Peoples’ Party (PP) ranks who wants to square an old debt with JZU Tembo, I do not care where Moses Kunkuyu contests – as long as it is in Malawi, up to the eastern shore of Lake Malawi.
My worry however is that someone is sending a boy to do a man’s job and I have my reservations, if this boy has what it takes.
Again, what I have not liked about Moses Kunkuyu’s career, and what he may have trouble selling to the Dedza South electorate is the fact that: elected in Blantyre City South as an independent, he quickly turned blue, and today he is comfortably orange.
Have I just described a chameleon or an opportunist? The choice is yours.
The truth is that the party which Honourable Moses Kunkuyu will be paying allegiance to in June 2014 – is something only God knows.
And lack of constancy in the Chewa culture, is not an asset.
Mwana akalira nyanga ya msatsi msemereni, is a well-known Chichewa adage. Translated it goes: if a baby cries for a China toy when durable toys are readily available, let him/her have it and face the music when it breaks.
I therefore conclude that let us sit and watch Honourable Kunkuyu’s attempt to make a name as a ‘giant killer’ – or be forced to stick his tail between his hind legs, after losing this gamble.
In the same Chichewa language, we also say pakadafunda padajiwitsa galu. Put in black and white, this scenario is potentially a double edged sword.
If Honourable John Tembo’s exceptionally long parliamentary career ends at the hands of this youthful migrant politician, then perhaps his hanging-on despite all the signs of the times is ill-advised.
Winding up, I wish both contestants the best of luck. Because I have always had a soft spot for Dedza South Constituency, I want no one but the best to win! If anything, charming Dedza Township is a very convenient stop over on the M1. It deserves if not better, the best.