Speaker of Malawi Parliament, Henry Chimunthu Banda, on Tuesday faced a barrage of attacks from supporters of opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after he formally expressed his interest to run at the convention for the position of president.
Acting president of DPP Peter Mutharika will face a challenge for the leadership of the DPP in April from Chimunthu Banda, who observers say he has more political clout than the brother of late president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Chimunthu Banda confirmed he has accepted his nomination from the party members to stand as DPP leader.
Although there has been months of speculation that Chimunthu Banda would run against Peter Mutharika, his interview with Zodiak Broadcasting Services on Tuesday was the first confirmation that he would accept his nomination.
But after the announcement, DPP supporters loyal to Mutharika, mostly from his tribesmen in Lhomwe belt, took to social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter demonizing Chimunthu Banda.
They posted derogatory comments and others claiming he is a “sell out” to the governing People’s Party.
But Chimunthu Banda, known for his coolness, has said the party delegates to the convention next month “must be given a chance to express their free will.”
He said: “The destiny of our party is now in the hands of the delegates at the convention.”
Peter Mutharika has been described by political analysts as a “risk candidate” considering his treason charges. The party has been advised to have a ‘Plan B’ in case of the State successfully prosecuting him on the charges and obtaining a conviction.
Chimunthu Banda also touted himself as a leader who would change the battered image of DPP.
“An opportunity has been found to rebrand the party,” he said during the interview with Zodiak.
He also asked for prayers: “Pray for me, pray for the party and pray for our nation.”
Chimunthu asked DPP delegates to the convention to vote freely and wisely.
“I am appealing to all delegates to exercise their free conscious,” he said.
The Speaker said DPP needs a leader who can appeal to the electorate across the country, saying “I have no do doubt in my mind that I am such a candidate.”
Mutharika loyalists were hoping Chimunthu Banda would step back from challenging him in order to avoid worsening divisions in the party. But Chimunthu said he did not believe his candidature was divisive.
Many DPP parliamentarians Nyasa Times spoke to said they welcomed Chimunthu Banda’s candidature with great excitement and jubilation.
They called him “the hope of DPP and the future of Malawi.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :