‘Thank you, Jesus’, Malawi’s new president says about election win

Lazarus Chakwera, a former pastor and church leader, beat incumbent president, Peter Mutharika

They say politics is a dirty game but for Malawi’s new president, Lazarus Chakwera, the story may be different.

In a re-run election held late last month, the Malawi Electoral Commission declared Rev Chakwera the winner after he beat Peter Mutharika, who has been in power since 2014, with a dominant 58.57 per cent. In last year’s election, Mr Mutharika won with 38 per cent against Chakwera’s 35 per cent. However, evidence of electoral irregularities led to nullification of the results by the country’s Constitutional Court.

Malawi becomes the second country in sub-Saharan Africa to nullify the results of a presidential election after Kenya, whose August 2017 election results were nullified by the Supreme Court, which also ordered a re-run.

Chakwera, who was sworn in on June 28, led a nine-party opposition coalition known as Tonse Alliance, which had the backing of former President Joyce Banda and Vice President Saulos Chilima as his running mate.

A Twitter post reading, “Thank you, my Lord Jesus,” from the new president after his win continues to be retweeted alongside congratulatory comments from Christians and non-Christians alike.

Born on April 5, 1955 in a poor village in the capital city of Lilongwe, Chakwera has been an opposition leader since 2013 under the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which is credited with fighting for freedom from British rule in the early 1960s.

The former pastor was president of the Malawi Assemblies of God – from 1989 to 2013 – before becoming the MCP leader, and has also worked for many years as a governance advocate with the Public Affairs Committee. He ran for the presidency in 2014 and 2019, coming second in both elections.

The 65-year-old father of four said as a born-again Christian, he was determined to build Malawi on five pillars: servant leadership, unity, prosperity for all, ending corruption, and judicial independence and the rule of law.

“One day God spoke to my heart, and God was not saying, ‘I am pulling you out of ministry’; God was saying, ‘I am extending your ministry so that you are able to pastor a whole nation’,” he said during a campaign rally.

In an interview with Stories of Grace YouTube channel, he said his was a story of grace.

“I look at myself and all that I have become as a result of grace,” he said. “I have preached to five people, 50, 5,000 and then 50,000 in a large stadium, and it has taken God’s grace. The decision to run for president was a struggle that involved a lot of scripture reading and prayer.”

In November last year, during a court recess in the hearing of the election petition he and Mr Chilima had filed against the 2019 election results, the Nyasa Times reported that Chakwera travelled to Jerusalem for a time of prayer and fasting for “victory over wickedness and for good leaders and truth to reign in Malawi”.

He confirmed this in a tweet, saying: “I took a break from the court and visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Israel, where I spent some time praying for our beautiful country.”