CounterJab: Does growing external wings help Malawi ruling parties fly higher?

Malawi’s governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) launched its UK wing August 23rd. Patricia Kaliati, the party’s national director of women and Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, attended the event.

DPP top brass Chimwemwe Chipungu, Kaliati and Frank Mbela

DPP top brass Chimwemwe Chipungu, Kaliati and Finley  Mbela

Kaliati dancing before DPP UK members

Kaliati dancing before DPP UK members

DPP is not the first to do this. The erstwhile ruling People’s Party (PP) – its two year rule ended after a dismal performance in this year’s May 20 elections – did the same but the wing is now dormant. The wings falter once the party loses power!

What are they really? For starters, they are not think tanks, that is, as organizations they do not conduct research and advocate certain economic or political positions in line with party philosophy and they are not trouble shooters. The BBC or VOA do not call them when the governing party needs to explain something to the public. Comment is still sought from people on the ground in Malawi.

The Alliance for Democracy (Aford) and United Democratic Front (UDF), which in 1992 were pressure groups as they could not exist in one-party state Malawi, once had vibrant external wings led by intellectual heavyweights. In fact, the late BinguwaMutharika was a founding member of UDF external wing in neighboring Zambia.

Unlike exiled political parties such as the League of Socialist Malawi aka Lesoma and Malawi Freedom Movement, in short Mafremo, and pressure groups Aford and UDF which lobbied influential individuals and groups to ask their governments to lean heavily on the Banda regime to implement democratic reforms, what do these groups bring to the table where 50-year-old Malawi sits facing myriad of serious problems?

Notwithstanding challenges caused by colonialism, as a country we face difficulties caused by you and me – us. We are part of Malawi’s problems which we must help fix and not add to them.

One can unmistakably say that with this new DPP wing, some of the people queuing to sign up as members banged the drum for PP not long ago.

That type behavior mirrors that of national leaders. A case in point: Former Malawi vice president KhumboKachali was a DPP stalwart before he was expelled from the party together with Joyce Banda who at the time was serving as vice president for the party as well as Malawi’s. It was not long before the two formed PP and the next government following the sudden death of Bingu in 2012.

Judging from his pronouncements when he was vice president, Kachali hated DPP with a passion. But after President Banda chose somebody else for running mate in the May polls, a dejected Kachali left, sought a new political home but could not find any. At the eleventh hour, Kachali began cozying up to DPP leader Peter Mutharika who won the election.

Like many others, Kachali has no shame in his game and views critics as haters.

Last year, a couple in the Diaspora joined the wing of a party out of frustration which stemmed from their failure to get what they wanted back home. They had played it straight but it did not work. They then greased the palms of some civil servants which still failed to produce results.

The lady said her sick mother could not get a passport so she could travel out of the country for medical treatment and the gentleman had been waiting for a number of years to be allocated a piece of land. By joining, the couple hoped to gain access to the movers and shakers.

You must pay to play, hinted the man who is now getting ready to break ground for his house in the capital Lilongwe.

Regrettably, the system is rigged against anyone who wants to play by the rules. We know corruption is not right and we like to talk about it but we do nothing to address the problem in any meaningful way. Granted, Malawi should not wonder why at 50 it still does not know whether it is coming or going.

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