In what can best described as a daring but successful incursion, the United Transformation Movement (UTM), Sunday, held a public rally that attracted a large crowd at Namphungo Primary School Ground in Mulanje, which, together with Thyolo, Phalombe and Chiradzulu which forms the grassroots axis of power for the ruling Democratic Progressive party (DPP).
But defying all odds, thousands of people packed Namphungo, the venue of the rally, in the Mulanje West constituency where UTM's leader, Saulos Chilima, was the main speaker.
In days and hours leading to the event, the whole nation waited with betted breath, anxious to see how people of Mulanje would respond to UTM's foray.
The rally was preceded by a vicious mobilization campaign by DPP gurus led by Regional Governor for the South, Charles Mchacha, where they conducted dozens of meetings around Mulanje and Chiradzulu, last week, dissuading people from patronizing the UTM meeting.
"They begged the people not to come but what they did not know is that we, the Lowes, are very smart people who think for ourselves, just look at this crowd," said master of ceremony Bon Kalindo, addressing Chilima.
Lhomwe is the dominant tribe in the said four DPP stronghold districts, collectively known by the moniker Lhomwe Belt.
Over 15 sitting members of Parliament have joined UTM since its inception some two months ago, including those from Mulanje, namely, Kalindo and Patricia Kaliati who is also Secretary General of UTM and in whose constituency the rally was held.
The Namphungo rally was UTM'S first to be held in a rural setting as the movement embarks on a nationwide rural outreach following completion of its launch series which started with the first rally held in July this year in Lilongwe followed by four more held in Blantyre, Mzuzu, Mangochi and Zomba.
Unlike UTM's event in Mangochi that saw two cars belonging to the movement being petrol-bombed, no violence was reported before or during the Namphungo rally.
In his speech, Chilima pledged that if elected to the presidency in the 2019 Tripartite Elections he will push for the release of land for the landless people in Mulanje and Thyolo districts.
"Without land people cannot do anything to develop themselves. As such when we take over the running of government next year, we will engage some big land owners to release part of their land to landless people," said Chilima.
He added: "We will not allow this selfishness to continue. You only have one home and it is in your localities where you should feel at home."
Chilima also pledged to develop the tourism sector in the district, which he described as having potential to contribute significantly to the country's economic development.
"We intent to uplift efforts of making Mulanje a tourist attraction hub. Because of that, we need to plant more trees to make Mulanje Mountain greener.
"We will also ensure that people here have potable water, well-equipped hospitals that are closer to their localities and ensure that no child drops out of school because of lack of school fees." Chilima added.
Earlier, Kaliati said UTM has made inroads at the grassroots of the Lhomwe belt and promised to win seats in the next year's elections, saying even in Thyolo where President Mutharika comes from people are supporting Chilima.
And George Saonda, a relation to President Mutharika, also spoke at the rally, saying he has quit DPP to help UTM get into power.