Looking very dapper in DPP blue colours, both Mutharika, waving a blue hat, and the First Lady Gertrude Mutharika arrived at the decorated Kamuzu Institute for Youth ground in a triumphant mood in an open vehicle and enthusiastically waved to a sea of blue-clad supporters who thronged the well-decorated venue.
He said: ”The DPP has delivered since 2005 and we will continue to leave no one behind.”
Recalling how the DPP came from the opposition to win the 2014 poll, he said he found a bankrupt Capital Hill because of Cashgate—the theft of government funds from state coffers which saw donors pull the plug on financial support to the budget.
“The country was in a crisis. But we made the promise to fix the economy and we have fixed the economy.”
He said his administration had made positive strides in a number of economic activities, including stabilizing the economy, the cost of living , infrastructure development, bringing power to rural areas and creating jobs and wealth through skills development and social cash transfer programmes.
“We have done more than any other government in the past,” Mutharika said. “We are ready to do more development programmes, we are ready to serve five more years to take Malawi from poverty to prosperity. We want to grow the economy that makes life better for everyone.”
The President, speaking calmly and confidently, said his party was not moved by empty promises of the opposition, but will not allow for anybody to “experiment with the lives of Malawians.”
“People’s hopes lie in the DPP. We want to continue to improve the economy that creates more jobs. We want to create more companies that create jobs for our youth and women.”
He said: “We pledge to do more, we are ready to serve five more years. We mean well.”
We want to defend the next generation and empower vulnerable people. We are unshakeable, unbreakable and unstoppable because we are DPP.”
He said his party had been “tried, tested and trusted since 2014. We want to renew our promise for continued development. Our manifesto is not on paper, but our real manifesto is what we have delivered.”
He underlined his continued drive to modernize and industrialize the agriculture-powered economy through infrastructure development.
Mutharika says a good network of roads is a panacea for economic development.
The May 21 poll, he said, is a vote between continued development or sliding backwards.
He said the DPP, founded in 2005 by his sibling the late Bingu wa Mutharika, has undergone a rough patch since that time, including a move to impeach Bingu by the opposition and what he called “criminal society organisations” and not civil society organisations.
And when Bingu died in 2012, the DPP was like an orphan after many people deserted the party. “But you did not leave me,” he told the mammoth crowd, adding that DPP leaders faced many problems outside government, including being jailed and charged for treason.
He promised the supporters that he will not “leave you…we shall move together from May 21 to 2024.”
Testimonies of how the government had performed in opening up the economy were given by various people, including farmer Felix Jumbe who hailed the launch of the national agricultural policy and an investment bank, which will see increased food security and farmers “harvesting more and exporting crops.”
One beneficiary said he opened a construction company which has 300 workers on its payroll, while a young woman bricklayer who was taught the skills at a technical school was able to build a house using “my own hands.”
Veteran politician Brown Mpinganjira, who chaired the manifesto and campaign launch committee, said Mutharika will have an “easy campaign because through his development agenda he had already campaigned.”
“The campaign is done because Mutharika has been distributing development throughout the country,” Mpinganjira said.
Scores of clerics prayed at the function which was spiced with choral and dance music by hip-hop artist Ty Grin, who is a shadow MP, and Dan Lu, one of the country’s top artists.
Other attractions included a drone bringing a ribbon-covered copy of the manifesto to the ground and Mutharika, the First Lady, DPP running mate Everton Chumilirenji and his wife, releasing pigeons to symbolize peace. Scores of blue balloons were also released into the air.
Other contenders in the sixth poll since the introduction of multi-party politics in 1994 include Lazarus Chakwera (MCP), Saulos Chilima of (UTM), Atupele Muluzi (UDF) former vice president Cassim Chilumpha (Tikonze Party) and Professor John Chisi (Umodzi Party).
Two credible polls including the UK’s Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) have predicted a win for Mutharika.