Monday, 25 February 2013

Clearly communicated principles enhance your reputation - Thumbs up MCP
In the week 17th -23rd February 2013, Malawi politics offered an invaluable tip for the enhancement of an organisation’s reputation.
The country’s main opposition the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) denied Gwanda Chakuamba re-admission into the party as a member. Gwanda Chakuamba has been in Malawi politics for a long time and is founder as well as former president of the New Republican Party (NRP).
In 2004, while still in MCP (before forming NRP), he led a coalition of political parties that was facing the then presidential aspirant Bingu wa Mutharika who was being sponsored by the then ruling United Democratic Front (UDF). Gwanda was so popular that he was late president Bingu wa Mutharika’s fiercest challenger at the 2004 polls. Gwanda missed the presidency by just an inch. That is how high the old man from Nsanje had risen in Malawi politics. Ordinarily, one would not expect a political party to close the door for a man of such a stature if his 2004 political ‘achievement’ is considered.
In view of this, MCP’s rejection of Gwanda Chakuamba’s re-admission into the party is attention grabbing. The party argues that Gwanda has an unstable political mind, meaning he changes party membership at every available opportunity. Like so many other Malawian politicians, especially those in ruling People’s Party and former ruling Democratic Progressive Party, Gwanda has offered his allegiance to several political parties, not once but more than that. In other words, he has been all over the place, from party A, B, C and beyond. A few years ago, he announced his retirement from active politics, only to bounce back onto the political arena later.
Now when last week Gwanda announced that he was ‘going back home’ to MCP, the party clearly said the old man was not welcome due to his political prostitution.
This must be the first time for such a thing to happen in Malawi’s politics. Political parties have always pursued an open door policy, one that welcomes whosoever wishes to join, regardless of their political career background. It is such a policy that left many a Malawian disappointed with the composition of the National Executive Committee of President Joyce Banda’s People’s Party. With the exception of the party’s Secretary General Henry Chibwana, the former Polytechnic Principal, the rest are figures that have camouflaged several times between mainly the United Democratic Front and the Democratic Progressive Party.
The UDF and the DPP too have politicians that have recycled themselves in their desperate attempt to make themselves relevant to Malawi politics. Such recycled politicians do not hold any unique philosophy. They do not live any distinct principles that can earn them any respect from those that value principles in politics.
MCP’s rejection of Gwanda Chakuamba’s membership is the most prudent thing any party that cares about its reputation could ever do. An organisation that is concerned with its public image and reputation never compromises anything, especially its values, for anything else.
If he were accepted in, Gwanda would obviously come to the Malawi Congress Party with several, a hundred or possibly thousands of sympathizers. That would grow the party’s membership which is political parties’ most pursued strategy for achieving their ultimate goal i.e. to rule. 
In rejecting Gwanda, MCP looked beyond this immediate membership growth. MCP looked at the real value Gwanda’s rejoining of the party would bring. Deducing from his political prostitution, he would bring zero value to the party. And it is not just about failing to add value to MCP. Gwanda’s rejoining would bring down the public’s perception of the party from whatever levels. In other words, the party’s reputation would be significantly traumatized and deformed.
Every organisation needs to have its members focused and have all their efforts point in one direction. It is that sense of unity of purpose that helps the organisation achieve its goals. However, it is hard to have that unity of purpose if members do not have a firm belief in, and conviction about, the mission of their organisation. Gwanda’s propensity for different political colours signifies he is not capable of holding onto a particular purpose. He just cannot be trusted in any political organisation as someone who can fully commit himself to that organisation’s core mission.
MCP may face or may be facing other reputation challenges but surely, such challenges do not and will not emanate from the pursuit of an open door policy to accommodate every Jim and Jack. Managed well, MCP’s rejection of Gwanda is a big plus for the party’s reputation. And that’s what every political organisation ought to do – have principles, communicate them clearly and live them.