Why DPP should hire a professional Campaign Manager

So, Dr Lazarus Chakwera is about to announce his running mate (rumour has it that it will be Sidik Mia) for the 2014 Presidential elections in Malawi.

Atupele Muluzi has just selected one Dr Godfrey Chapola to be his running mate. And the troubles have already began. One reader on a news website alleged that Muluzi and Chapola are in fact blood relatives…???

atupeleMeanwhile President Joyce Banda has been linked to a new radio station, Ufulu radio, and yesterday some rumours were circulating that Brown Mpinganjira will be Joyce Banda’s running mate…all of which seem to indicate minimally, if we are to separate speculation from fact, that the campaign trail is bustling with activity.

But what exactly is happening at Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)? Why are they not in the news as much as the other parties? Is DPP really finished as some commentators have said lately? The last I heard was that Peter Mutharika had returned from his trip to the US, and was rubbishing the ignorant comments over his green card.

Before I answer the first question, I must categorically state that I am not a DPP supporter nor member. That while I did support Bingu Wa Mutharika at one point, and liked his independence of mind – to an extent, my interest in talking about the party is merely as a commentator fascinated by the going on’s within the party, which are increasingly appearing bizarre and chaotic.

For one, a little bird tells me that even though they are undertaking all these whistle-stop tours, there is no concise strategy within DPP. Further, when Peter Mutharika returned from the US, it is said that he procured funds to the tune of ~ US$5million for his election campaign, and apparently, a considerable tranche of these monies have been given to one Bright Malopa to use as campaign funds. And it gets worse, the strategy document from which DPP is drawing its campaign strategy was not professionally done by a political strategist, not even by someone with significant knowledge and experience of running political campaigns. Which makes me wonder, how can Henry Mussa their Treasurer-general  say they are confident of winning the election when they don’t even have an organised election campaign?

Now, while $5 million – if you know what to do with it – is probably a decent amount of money to run an election campaign in a small economy such as Malawi, my queries are who exactly is Bright Malopa, and why haven’t DPP employed a professional political strategist?

Most Malawians know that Malopa was Director General of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), and in some respects botched up the institution in his quest to please Mutharika, only to be fired by Joyce Banda, and funny enough, compensated to the tune of K62.5 million for unfair dismissal. But even though his appointment as DG was questionable at the least, with others here claiming that the man has no experience and credentials for such a high-profile job; that he was handpicked to primarily be a political appointee, I’d argue that this election is a totally different challenge.

So, is Malopa a professional campaign strategist then? Has he been trained in managing and planning political campaigns? What qualifies him to be the man running Peter Mutharika’s campaign?

From my brief digging, there is no evidence whatsoever that Malopa is qualified or has experience of running political campaigns. None.

But if you want to stretch it, and ignore these reservations over his qualifications and character, it seems the guy has a media background (CIM) and could at best be described as a lucky (“zogwelamo”) broadcaster with a marketing bias.

From the somewhat incoherent ramblings on his previous blog here (which was abandoned in 2011), he says:

I am a Malawian of youthful years with a postgraduate understanding of Marketing. I’m on the lower-left of the political spectrum, but I’m often tempted by those on the lower-right. They’ve got this beautiful capitalist theory where the people who do work get paid and society automatically adjust things for the greater good, and everyone lives happily ever after. My problem is that it doesn’t work: capitalism gives cash to those who exploit the system, pays people for different tasks than those I consider good, and assumes people are intrinsically bad and need to be corrected. I call that POLITICS OF NKHWENZULE

Er, capitalism gives cash to those who exploit the systempays people for different tasks than those I consider good, and assumes people are intrinsically bad and need to be corrected.?? Is he an anti-capitalist? Or a communist??

A look at the information on his newest venture,here, is also not too helpful in ascertaining whether he can hack an election campaign:

Is the former Director General of Malawi Broadcasting Corporation. He has numerous years of experience in TV production, rebranding and repositioning. Whilst working for MBC, he was responsible for a creative turn around strategy, which saw MBC increasing its market share from 43% to 72%. MBC also increased local content by 78%, business growth by 17%, and income by 46% under his leadership. He was behind the programme, OUR PEOPLE OUR PRIDE, which was featured on other broadcasters and received a bronze award for creative management from Association of African Public Administrators. He is also the former trustee of the Southern African Broadcasting Association, Coordinator of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, and former Vice-President of the African Broadcasting Media Partnership against HIV/AIDS (ABMP), a body of 38 broadcasters.

Whatever you make of the accolades, this is hardly anywhere near political strategist wizardly… Or is it?

Unfortunately, this is the kind of leadership Malawians find themselves at the mercy of…Forget the scandals Joyce Banda has been accused of, forget the problems in UDF, if Malawians do not begin to do things properly, how can the country ever improve?

If one is ill and in need of a doctor, they don’t go to visit a Vet?? No matter how knowledgeable the Vet is, you go to a hospital or clinic and request to meet a Doctor, who is the appropriate person to attend to you. But had the situation been different such that you had a dog that was ill, then the Vet’s door would be the appropriate door to knock on…

DPP for their own sake need to hire a professional strategist to run their elections campaign professionally, and there are many companies out there that offer this service, and whose employees are professionals schooled in the craft of political strategy. If Peter Mutharika can raise $5 million for a presidential campaign, then surely his camp can find a decent political strategist to do the job well. Why leave a serious election campaign which he may never run again to amateurs who have no idea what they are doing?

As for the lessons, they are many, including Obama’s own election campaigns, which are littered with best practices: what to do and what not to do, so much so that even the Conservative party in the UK, as unsightly their reputation may be in certain quarters, have hired a political strategist who previously run Obama’s campaign.

Yes, Malawi is a whole different ball game, totally different atmosphere, and cannot be compared with the US, or Britain, for all sorts of reasons. But don’t you think using a professional improves your chances significantly as a candidate and can minimise mistakes? Don’t you think that a trained or qualified strategist would have a better chance at adapting their craft to a new environment, than untrained handpicked individuals who are expected to figure it out as they go along?

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  1. I believe the author of this story is out of tune. If you failed to notice the succesful Blantyre tour, what were you doing if you follow local politics? APM is way ahead of most of the aspirants. Today [he] was is LL presenting certificates to Dpp candidates and tomorrow will be in Mzuzu so what do you want him to be doing??? Comenting from what you see on social media will get you shocked on May 21. Check on dpp’s website my brada


    • RK, thank you for your comment. I’ll assume that you know that there is a difference between touring randomly and having a carefully planned and deliberate political strategy. Maybe I wasn’t too clear about this point in my article. As a matter of fact I do have regular updates from people all over Malawi about what is happening politically, and know for certain that DPP doesn’t have a clear campaign strategy. And that they haven’t employed a professional strategist to run their campaign. Which should be a cause of concern to the DPP leadership. That’s not to say the other parties have employed professional strategists… But my argument is if you can raise $5 million for an election campaign, why not just do it properly? Employ a professional Political strategist, to be assisted by the people on the ground who know the local terrain. Knowing the politics on the ground and being an effective campaign manager are two different things. And in case you didn’t know, even some DPP people are off the record doubtful about their party’s strategy. Maybe you need to speak to some of the senior people within DPP. And finally, yes, we’ll see what happens come May.



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