Many have frowned upon and written off the new party formed by Dr. Cassim Chilumpha—the People’s Assembly for Democratic Development (PADD)—saying the country already has 40-something parties with the majority of them only existing as names. Some have wondered what new ideas the new party will bring on the country’s political landscape with its founding president having served in the United Democratic Front (UDF) as secretary general and People’s Party (PP) as vice-president for the Central region. Yet others have described Chilumpha as a political castaway.
But I will not jump on the bandwagon of bashers for Chilumpha. I have a lot of respect for this man. He may have been inactive politically for some time now, but get it from me he is not a spent force, and surely not riff raff.
I have known Chilumpha since the era of the transition from single party to multi-party politics around 1992—1994 alongside the likes of the late Mapopa Chipeta, Matemba Mzunda, and many others. Very eloquent people who played a crucial role in the fight against single party politics in the country.
Chilumpha is one very intelligent and calculating person. Some people are intelligent but not clever. Some are clever but not intelligent, but Chilumpha is both clever and intelligent. These attributes have made him what he is: a distinguished lawyer, academician, former state vice-president of the Republic of Malawi. His political astuteness has made him serve as publicity secretary of the United Democratic Front (UDF), cabinet minister, UDF secretary general, vice-president of the People’s Party for the Central Region and the litany of titles goes on and on. Not too long ago, he surprised many of his contenders for the position of vice-president of the PP for the Central Region when some took him as an underdog but beat them all to the position. Such that when I learned that he had formed a political party I said aha! Let us see. He must be up to something.
I am, therefore, not very clueless as to why he has formed a formed a new political party. My hypothesis is that he has an agenda for which the party is the platform.
To start with, Dr Chilumpha who is a very good friend of mine is a very affable person. That is a plus for him. He relates well with people from many backgrounds. He is fluent in Chichewa, speaks very good Chitumbuka and I think he also understands ChiYao. So he will be at home with audiences of many language backgrounds.
I will also not be fooled by the choice of words that make his party’s name which some say is a mouth full. Many will definitely struggle to mention it. But the abbreviation is conveniently short and easy to remember—PADD. That is what will eventually gain currency, or simply People’s Assembly. How many people still remember that DPP stands for People’s Democratic Party?
The newest party may not be more democratic than those already on the ground, nor with better development plans than the other 46 or so on the country’s political registers. But I tell you it has been formed for a purpose. And it will go on to achieve that goal, noble or not.
Chilumpha is also not just trying to reposition himself in the political playground already overcrowded with what some describe as briefcase parties. I tell you forming a brand new party is a well-calculated strategy that will gain him more mileage than if he just joined any of the many dormant ones.
That said, given that the majority of Malawi’s politics have strongholds in the region and districts of their founders, I would be worried if I were Dr Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi Congress Party president. Chilumpha comes from Nkhota-kota which is in the Central Region where MCP holds sway.If my memory serves me well, PADD will be the second party in the Central Region after the good old MCP whose president is from the Centre. Compare that with the many political parties in the North and South.
Given also that religion plays a role in political party affiliation in the country, I have good reason to believe that PADD may command a good following from members of the same faith as its founder—the Muslim community. But I will return to this later.
For now, let me dwell on the issue of PADD as breaking into a territory that has been dominated by MCP for over 51 years. Some call it Chipani cha makolo. My hypothesis is that PADD has strong links with the DPP.
There is no question that DPP is struggling to gain a foothold in the Central Region where the party has only a handful of MPs. This is the region where one MCP candidate is challenging a sitting DPP MP. When the court ruled that a rerun be held in a constituency in the Capital City, where results are being contested, a whole Malawi Electoral Commission warehouse in Lilongwe was gutted by fire. Shouldn’t Malawians be afraid, indeed very afraid? But I digressed.
DPP would, therefore, do everything and anything in its powers to sponsor a political party with the potential of decimating its strongest rival the Central Region.
DPP’s first scheme was to bury UDF. We all know the story. Having done that, the party now has its sight set on how to get the Central Region. And helping to form or support a party in the region that has the muscle to split the MCP vote should be a very welcome idea for DPP.
On his part, Chilumpha has nothing to lose. With such an arrangement he could soon be eating at the high table. As for the senior Muluzi, who is pulling the shots in the UDF, he is already home and dry. The K1.7 billion case is still dangling in front of his nose and he will do everything possible to ensure it never sees the light of day under the DPP. In short, there is so more for Muluzi to benefit by mortgaging the UDF to DPP than to remain in the opposition. It’s a win-win arrangement for the two parties.
To complete the equation, by supporting DAPP, and eventually going into an electoral alliance with it, DPP stands to gain the Muslim vote where UDF is strong. That is why I said at the beginning that MCP be ware. Chakwera et al should try and visualise the bigger picture. Think not that DAPP or the People’s Assembly, is a headless millipede. It’s a snake lurking in the grass. Chilumpha is a good tactician. MCP will write him off at its own peril.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :