Challenge the system like Sidik Mia

If you are anything like me then you will already have had enough of all the political manoeuvring and posturing in the past three weeks of this new year. The thought that we have another 15 months or so of this before the next elections is just stressful.

Someone recently asked an interesting question. Apparently, at a rally organised by one of the country’s political parties, the names ‘MCP’ and ‘Lazarus Chakwera’ were mentioned dozens of more times than the name of the political party holding the rally or that of its president. The question was, was it an MCP rally or a rally of that political party? But I digress…

So we all have heard about how all hell has broken loose in the Malawi Congress Party. The ‘culprit’ in this case is one Sidik Mohammed Mia. Rejoining politics from retirement, rumours about his plans to join the MCP sent tongues wagging. He hinted that his eyes were set on the vice presidency of the party and ultimately of the state. This didn’t sit well with some members of the party who felt he was trying to use his wealth to jump the gun.

Well, he eventually did join the party and all hell broke loose. Mia didn’t seem to mind. He made a promise to help MCP win a by-election or two and he delivered. Party president Lazarus Chakwera was emboldened. He used the victory to bring everyone together and it seemed to work… for a while.

Then months later came the announcement – Sidik Mia would be competing for the position of vice president of the party at the next convention. Those old wounds have been opened again! We wait and see how party president Chakwera will work this one out.

Malawi National Assembly speaker Richard Msowoya, Malawi Congress Party president Dr Lazarus Chakwera and Mohammed Sidik Mia

Malawi National Assembly speaker Richard Msowoya, Malawi Congress Party president Dr Lazarus Chakwera and Mohammed Sidik Mia. Photo credit: facebook.com/sidikmia.malawi

Raising the barriers to entry

So what’s my point? Every industry dominated by established players who are reluctant to innovate will always try to put high barriers to entry for newcomers. They make it hard for new players to operate with ease. History has proven that small companies with minimal resources, and big ones too with an abundance of money, come in and displace established players. The MCP old guards are weary for a good reason.

Now, recently the Malawi Congress Party has welcomed its fair share of defectors among them Sosten Gwengwe, a former presidential running mate to former president Joyce Banda. Before rejoining the party, he carefully packed his ambitions away, made his return and like an obedient student, took his place and sat down. He now waits in line for his turn, should it come.

MCP vice president, Richard Msowoya, seemed to similarly be following the rule book. But when Sidik Mia made his appearance, he publicly expressed his interest to pair up with Chakwera again at the next general elections. He made all the right noises but no one seemed to take notice. He has now allegedly penned Chakwera pointing out that the president is not following the constitution. I haven’t seen the letter and neither do I know what provisions Chakwera is said to have broken. But word on the street is that Chakwera has done nothing out of the ordinary.

Disruption is real

Disruption is real. You can’t predict it and you can’t escape from it. A challenge to your position or authority can come from anywhere. The industry is there to be disrupted and challenged. David Whitehead and Sons was disrupted by a second-hand clothes market. MalawiNet’s dial-up service was disrupted by wireless internet. Stagecoach was disrupted by minibuses who are themselves being disrupted by taxis and tuk-tuks. Many other industries continue to face a challenge every day!

After Mia announced that he would be competing for the position of the vice presidency at the convention, a political commentator suggested that Mia should have been more sensitive in his approach. But challengers don’t work that way. The industry is there to be disrupted and challenged. And a nicely nicely approach, unfortunately, doesn’t work.

In business, we need to adopt dynamic models that can deal with changes in the market – entry of new players, advances in technology, less expensive products that compete with ours. The world is in a state of continuous innovation. Fighting changes and demanding new entrants play by the rule book won’t win us many sympathisers.

The industry and it would seem now, political parties, are there to be disrupted. Let’s get disrupting!

Disclaimer: If I had the choice between Sidik Mia and Richard Msowoya, my pick would be the latter. He just has so much more depth and character. But in a democracy, it’s the majority voice that wins. That’s what we signed up for in 1992!


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