Saturday, May 16, 2009

(NYASATIMES, BBC) John Tembo: Poised for power --BBC

COMMENT - At age 77, I am surprised the BBC doesn't demand that 'John Tembo must go', because he is 'too old'. In fact, The Sun (one of Rupert Murdoch's papers) even ran an article on the 'corruption' of Bingu wa Mutharika and his 22 Mercedes Bentz acquisition for ministers. I would like to like the man, but I know I don't like his friends. "The Malawi Congress Party is well-experienced, well-geared and determined to bring genuine socio-economic development to Malawi" - let's hope that means more than attracting foreign businesses to Malawi.

John Tembo: Poised for power --BBC
Raphael Tenthani, BBC 14 May, 2009 07:27:00

Will 2009 finally be the year of veteran Malawian politician John Zenus Ungapake Tembo after 15 years in opposition?

Mr Tembo, presidential candidate for the Malawi Congress Party, is banking on his long experience in government and the private sector during the MCP's uninterrupted 30 years under the late dictator, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, and a loyal vote from his stronghold - the tobacco heartland of Central region - to make it to State House.

"The Malawi Congress Party is well-experienced, well-geared and determined to bring genuine socio-economic development to Malawi," Mr Tembo told BBC News Online.

"And I am confident to win because I belong to the past, to the present and to the future."

At 77, Mr Tembo is the oldest among the seven Malawians vying for the southern African country's top job. His MCP has always come second best during the past three elections.

Old timer

JZU, as Mr Tembo is popularly known, is Malawi's longest-serving politician having been Dr Banda's right-hand man during all the three decades he was at the helm.

The MCP fought Britain's 70-year colonial rule and governed Malawi from 1964 to 1994, when Dr Banda's former protege, Bakili Muluzi, won power during the country's first multi-party elections.

Mr Tembo obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in political philosophy at Roma University in Lesotho 51 years ago.

He then taught at various secondary schools back home before entering politics as an MP for the Central Highland district of Dedza in the 1960s.

He was appointed finance minister in 1966 and later became the longest-serving central bank chief after being governor for the Reserve Bank of Malawi for a record 13 years.

In between he chaired many private and public institutions, including Malawi's largest conglomerate, Press Corporation Limited, as well as Blantyre Print and Packaging, the University of Malawi, the New Building Society and several banks.

During the 1990s, he became the all-powerful Treasurer General of the Malawi Congress Party.

He later became minister of state in the president's office during the twilight of the MCP stranglehold on power when exiled Malawian politicians started agitating for political change around 1992.

Power struggle

Following the death of Dr Banda in 1997, Mr Tembo wrestled power from his life-long political rival Gwanda Chakuamba, who had been anointed MCP leader by the late dictator.

Mr Tembo became leader of opposition in parliament in 2004.

"The MCP wants to develop a sustainable economy and state infrastructure that grow, provide jobs and make life better for all Malawians," he said.

He added that this will be achieved by reducing government expenditure, economic mismanagement and initiating projects and programmes aimed at growth and development.

Mr Tembo also said he wants to bring corruption down at all levels and "create a feeling and the spirit of loyalty, patriotism and pride to be a Malawian".

On democracy, he says his party will be committed to the propagation of a vibrant Malawi by nurturing the development of a robust democratic culture and fostering the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms.

"The MCP will consolidate the gains in the cultural and political field.

"The MCP is well equipped with the necessary sound insights, strategies and policies to make Malawi a better nation once again," he said.

Mr Tembo's chances of winning power next Tuesday were boosted when the second opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) of former President Bakili Muluzi endorsed him as a joint MCP/UDF coalition presidential candidate.

Mr Muluzi had been stopped from contesting the presidency by the Malawi Electoral Commission on the premise that he has already served his constitutional two five-year terms.


The UDF is strong in the populous southern region from where hails Mr Tembo's main challenger, the incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Mr Tembo has Brown Mpinganjira, a senior UDF member, as his vice-presidential running mate.

Mr Mpinganjira, who contested the 2004 elections as candidate for the UDF break-away National Democratic alliance, is also a southerner.

Mr Tembo is married to Ruth and has three grown-up children.

Asked to confirm that he is fabulously rich, the veteran politician laughs off, chuckling: "I cannot say I am rich but I thank God that at least I can afford a glass of wine every day and at least a glass of whisky every week."

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