Balancing act during election time

Balancing act during election time

Jannes van der Velde Country manager View profile

The usually friendly and relaxed atmosphere of Blantyre, Malawi’s main business town, is becoming more tense by the day. It’s election time in one of Africa’s smaller countries, this May 2019. Groups of mostly young people daily crowd the streets for their election rally’s. One group in blue, the other in red, yet another in green or yellow.

And getting to the street on an election rally doesn’t just mean cheer for the leader and listen to his or her speech, no it means ‘action’. The atmosphere turning hostile and sometimes violent. So the convoy of cars, coaches and lorries driving through Blantyre’s Glyn Jones Road, is on its way to the house of one of the political opponents to ‘intimidate him’, as one of the participants names it.

It is in circumstances like this that the work of the Employers’ Consultative Association of Malawi (ECAM) becomes a real balancing act. Who to address with a policy paper, a business agenda or a simple suggestion? Approaching the future opposition may turn out to be ‘lethal’ for the advocacy strategy, because the then government – the election’s winners -  may have hard feelings.

So, the wise strategy is to wait and approach all parties, but only after the outcome of the vote and addressing them in the appropriate way. ‘Excellency’ for the – new – minister, ‘honourable’ or even plain ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ for the others.