On May 21, the national elections in Malawi will mark a quarter of a century of multi-party democracy in this developing sub-Saharan African nation.
Prior to that, most published reports in the western news media negatively defined the nation as a democratic “dictatorship.”
When all of the votes are counted this month, Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, a top contender for the presidency, hopes to unify and provide strategic progressive leadership for this landlocked African nation of nearly 19 million citizens.
“We are winding up what’s been a wonderful campaign by going all over this country and talking to people,” Chakwera told NNPA Newswire in an exclusive interview where he also noted the global importance of America’s Black Press.
“We have a message of super high-five servant leadership that’s uniting this country and making sure everyone prospers alongside everyone else,” Chakwera said.
A longtime religious leader who has played a prominent role in helping to change the self-perceptions of his countrymen, Dr. Chakwera said that the past history of corruption in Africa is ending through more democracy and participation by all the people of Africa for a better more sustainable economic, social and political future.
“We need to follow the rule of law because a whole lot of impunity is going on, and for Malawians everywhere, we promise to start building a new Malawi at the end of this month,” he said.
Prior to running for the presidency, Chakwera helmed the Malawi Assemblies of God for more than 25 years – a position that he was democratically elected to seven consecutive times.
A renowned author, mentor and administrator, Chakwera also chaired the Board for Pan African Theological Seminary; All Nations Theological Seminary, and he has served as board member for Global University in Springfield, Missouri.
Born on April 5, 1955, Chakwera once chaired the Association for Pentecostal Theological Education in Africa and he served as a member for the Public Universities Working Committee of Malawi.
With a Bachelor of Arts degree from Chancellor College of the University of Malawi and a Bachelor of Theology with Honors from the University of the North in South Africa, Chakwera also earned a Masters of Theology from the University of South Africa in Pretoria and a Doctor of Ministry from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois.
“I tell you what, we’re really talking about issues of character, about issues to do with a vision and what I’m offering is somewhat different from what is usually the case,” Chakwera said.
“We want to really have the developmental state that is able to protect our citizens and make sure that each one has a chance to prosper so no one is left behind,” he said.
Malawi is small enough that if “you did something consistently and well enough within a couple of years, it should show something has changed,” Chakwera said.
“What we’re doing now is to make sure we get everyone on board so that we do exactly that,” he said. “Most people come here and look at what we have, and they will not fault so much in the policies and the laws, but it is just the implementation that really needs to improve.
“We want to have the political will which is what everybody says we have a shortage of,” Chakwera said. “So, this is why it’s the issue of character that we want to follow through on.”
Growing up, the presidency wasn’t exactly what Chakwera aspired to attain, but he said his decision to run really came from a much higher source.
“Sometimes, when you look back and you piece things together, you see how God was leading you,” said Chakwera, who’s now 64.
Chakwera’s personal epiphany occurred in 2012.
“That’s when things came to a head. I had thought about serving the nation in many ways and I thought what I was already doing was sufficient,” he said.
He enjoyed hosting a weekly and national radio talk show and then did likewise on television where he said some of the more encouraging results manifested itself when of his countrymen began building homes and feeling more empowered.
Attitudes improved and self-esteem rose in the country based on what Chakwera had accomplished through his church, he said.
“I believe it’s extremely important for the Black Press of America to have a relationship with Africa. It brings the kind of linkage that should always be there but that hasn’t been manifested,” Chakwera said.
“We need to link up because surprisingly we have a kindred spirit and I believe all of us coming together and putting everything on the table will be helpful to our African-American friends and all of Africa and to realize that we’re meant to be better than we are,” Chakwera said.
The presidential hopeful also reflected on the 400th anniversary of the infamous Transatlantic Slave Trade.
“Right now, we need to say what lessons can we learn,” he said. “Four hundred years is a long time, but it’s theologically possible that God’s providence permitted for us to come to this stage where we can now take control of our future and destiny. We can’t change the past, but let’s get ahold of our future and shape it the way we want to shape it.”