1: Rags to national celeb: the opportunistic Rasta



By Tobias Fwiya

As we look forward to the long-awaited verdict on the elections case, it is important to revisit and honor men and women who trended on social media because of the disputed May 19, 2019 general election. These are men and women who gave people something to laugh or gossip about – on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp – as we approached May 19, 2019.

Without following a particular order, these distinguished individuals are as follows:

  1. Ras Chikomeni:

His case started like a prank. “A filthy Mzuzu-based Rastafarian plans to revolutionize the Malawian political system,” was the talk of the town. “Did you see his creepy raven? He’s just joking.” But as the saying goes, “mbewu ya kalulu inakula ndi tazaoneni.” Ras Chikomeni’s anti-establishment philosophy began to resonate with some Malawians with time. Particularly, his PanAfrican ideas and his promise to shift the country’s economy from tobacco-dependency to marijuana. His ability to quote the constitution and the Bible to justify his perverted ideas about Babylon’s scheme earned him numerous followers. Suddenly, truncated clips of his statements began to spread over social media like wildfire on a daily basis, as every media house flocked to interview him. Later, he trended because of his inability to garner 10 signatures in all the 28 districts, his failure to submit the MK 2 000 000 registration fee, and his controversial decision to ingratiate himself with the DPP administration.

  • Nyusensi:

All individuals on this list went viral on the country’s social media platforms ahead of May 2019 elections. But one thing unique about Nyusensi is that his popularity was not restricted within Malawi. The clip in which he appeared to brief the press on why Malawians were flocking to the “Chilima Movement”

trended on social media in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and even Tanzania! What followed this overnight celebrity status is that he couldn’t make public appearances without being harassed for selfies and interviews – much to his chagrin. Opportunists went as far as capitalizing on his fame by manufacturing merchandize off his image. Nyusensi’s image was on Tshirts, mugs, cups, and even music artwork. Talk of becoming a celebrity overnight. Later, Nyusensi disappointed UTM zealots after the paparazzi spotted him at a UDF rally. He left them asking themselves if UTM is also a comba….a combining of nyusensi.  

  • Nyakayange:

It would be criminal to talk about Ras Chikomeni without honoring Mai Agness Nyakayange. Unlike most individuals on this elite list, she did not gain fame as a result of making despicable political statements. Rather, she came in the limelight for simply looking out for her son. Here is a lady who impressed Malawians with her unwavering support of her son’s ambitious presidential aspirations. Through her presence at most of her son’s public appearances ahead of the elections, she really demonstrated that though retired from the civil service, she is far from tired to serve the nation. Later, Ras Chikomeni’s decision to reward her with the running mate position simply completed the romanticization of this short-lived journey of a son and his mother in pursuit of liberating Malawi from Babylon.

  • Chimulirenji:

Apart from bona fide cadets, few people knew Chimulirenji’s existence before President Mutharika appointed him as the Minister of Civic Education, Culture, and Community Development in November 2018. But even with this appointment, Chimulirenji continued to cultivate a low profile until Mutharika chose him as his running mate ahead of the May 2019 elections. Malawians will never forget the crestfallen expressions that DPP top dogs cultivated at the Comesa Hall while coming to terms with the fact that Mutharika had omitted them from the prized position for an unknown sasamba from Ntcheu. Suddenly, owing to this appointment and his alleged poor mastery of English, Chimulirenji became a household name on social media. That the name Chimulirenji would later become a street name for a bottle of Castel beer is a testament of the popularity that the disputed May 2019 elections bestowed on Everton.

  • MacFarlane Mbewe:

Inquisitiveness is often heralded among the main characters of a great journalist. However, what differentiates top journalists from wannabe journalists is the ability to detect situations where inquisitiveness is appropriate and where it is not. The same applies to the usage of uncalled compliments as ice-breakers. Unfortunately, young Mr. Mbewe, who purportedly had had a drink or two ahead of a MEC press briefing, did not detect that this particular briefing was not the occasion to start on “a lighter note” by complimenting Jane Ansah’s looks and earrings. With his protruding eyes, Mbewe tried to soften the tense atmosphere in the room by soliciting a smile on Jane Ansah’s face. Unfortunately, the longer he tried, the worse he dug himself in trouble. Madam Ansah was in serious mode and failed to entertain the young journalist’s misplaced compliments. What followed is that Mbewe gained a short-lived celebrity status on social media, having embarrassed the Malawian journalism fraternity. Luckily for him, the feminists did not connive to “smash the patriarchy out of him” by taking to the streets.

  • Mary Chilima:

Like Honorable Jean Kalilani’s son below, Mary Chilima was already famous before the elections. Her elegance, impeccable countenance, and her public appearance beside her husband had already gotten people talking. However, her popularity spiked immediately after she dropped some bars in support of her husband’s bid for the presidency. It’s fair to say that the track split people’s opinion. While others acknowledged her lyrical prowess and forced rhymes, others cringed over her delivery and found the decision to step in the studio to be utterly ill-advised. That her music career ended as soon as it began probably supports the latter group’s opinion. Nevertheless, a good section of Malawians are still waiting for her maiden album or at least a mixtape. Maybe she will drop one ahead of the 2024 general elections or – better yet – in preparation of the fresh elections.

  • Smart Swila:

We will never know if Mr. Smart Swila really meant to contest for the presidential elections. What we know for sure though, is that he showed up to submit his registration forms, only to be let down by a combination of Blantyre’s inconsiderate traffic jam and the sluggishness of his running mate.

Allegedly, Mr. Swila had travelled from Chitipa to honor the time MEC had allocated him to submit his papers. But when his turn came, the running mate, who happened to be in possession of the registration documents, was nowhere to be seen at the venue. Stranded and running out of time, Mr. Swila frantically dialed his running mate to give the running mate a sense of urgency. And it is his angry outburst over the phone that made him go viral because his predicament resonated with most Malawians who use public transport. It is no secret that every Malawian who uses public transport has had their plans inconvenienced by a minibus at one point or another. However, the difference is that the majority of people whose plans get compromised by minibuses do not end up trending on social media. 

  • Ah Shadow a Kalilani:

Two facts: First, granted his phenomenal music career, Jean Kalilani’s son was already famous before these elections. Second, there’s a general consensus out there that Madam Kalilani’s son is a pompous chap. For instance, before the elections fever took off, a video clip had circulated on Twitter and WhatsApp in which he appeared to distance himself from the misery that regular Malawians face on a daily basis. Iyeyo sizimamukhuza. Or at least then. Heading towards the elections, his abhorrent opinion made an 1800 turn when he realized that he would need public sympathy in his pursuit of the Lilongwe Center parliamentary seat. All of a sudden the chap began to make moves to make him get closer to the common folk. He engaged a PR team that began releasing strategic images that showed him doing goodwill in his constituency. The Malawian Twitter community had a field day with the images, including the ones in which he was seen assisting with grave digging and garbage collection. To an extent, his failure to win the parliamentary seat proved that karma still has the ability to be a beach.

  • Peter Kuwani, Reverend Kaliya, and Prof. John Chisi:

In addition to undermining the country’s democratic dispensation, President Mutharika’s decision to boycott the presidential debate denied Malawians the opportunity to be entertained by his broken Chichewa. One can only imagine the number and nature of clips and memes that would have been harvested from the debates. Luckily, aware of what Mutharika’s absence represented, Peter Kuwani (Mbakuwaku Movement for Democracy), Reverend Kaliya (Independent), and Prof. John Chisi (Umodzi Party) stepped up to give Malawians the fun that President Mutharika had resolved to deny us. We will never know if these guys really thought they had realistic chances to triumph come May 19. But certainly the tremendous effort they put in to entertain the general population during the presidential debates was remarkable. Peter Kuwani’s restlessness on the podium, Reverend Kaliya’s monotonous voice that would make you confuse him for a home cell leader at your local church, and Prof. John Chisi’s Tumbukarized Chichewa added an interesting dimension to the presidential debates.

  1. Sheriff Rango:

Campaigning for a presidential bid usually brings a different kind of pressure on spouses of aspirants. In a judgmental society like Malawi, where people conjecture an aspirant’s relevance in the election based on the appearance of their spouse, this pressure is multiplied tenfold. And so, to withstand the pressure, spouses turn to the services of top notch fashion designers and makeup artists – unless you are Chimulirenji’s wife, of course. But as it has been proven over and over, fashion designers and makeup artists tend to have a knack of scheming to embarrass their clients now and then. Madam Professor fell victim to such scheming when her fashion designer decided to model her looks off Sheriff Rango. The photo collage that juxtaposed the Madam’s face and Rango’s went viral instantly, proving that the resemblance between the two is cunning. That the authorities moved to deter Malawians from sharing the image by threatening detention proved that the resemblance was super blatant. Though the deterrent worked to an extent, some bold Malawians did not flinch. They continued to poke fun at Sheriff Rango for resembling the Madam. Or was it the other way round?






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