Cracks are emerging in the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) over an electoral alliance with UTM Party which has opened multiple fronts, seriously threatening the existence of country’s oldest party.
On Friday, MCP national executive committee met in Lilongwe where tempers flared and the divisions deepened over the issue.
On the agenda was the alliance with UTM, particularly who should be the presidential candidate for the alliance between MCP president Lazarus Chakwera and UTM presidential hopeful Sales Chilima.
At the meeting, veterans of the party strongly dismissed any suggestions of Chilima representing the alliance as torchbearer.
“They were angry and they put their foot down. According to them, having Chilima as presidential candidate will spell the end of MCP and they have vowed they won’t allow it at any cost,” said a NEC official who was at the meeting.
According the source, the veterans accused Chilima of being a betrayer, cunning, over-ambitious and untrustworthy.
“They said DPP picked him, trusted him with the vice presidency and within the first term he ended up plotting to remove President Mutharika and take over DPP. They said if he becomes president he would annihilate MCP,” revealed the NEC official.
On the other side of the ring was the Kasungu faction – also known as Kamuzu family faction – which includes the likes of Ken Kandodo a blood relation of country’s founding President Ngati Kamuzu Banda.
This faction also stood by their earlier stand that Chilima should be torch bearer for the alliance.
They argued that the alliance had more realistic chances of winning the election with Chilima leading as he is more popular than Chakwera.
But the Kasungu faction is rooting for Chilima with the ulterior motive to disengage MCP from the stranglehold of Chakwera and his Lilongwe gang, according to other sources.
Nearly half of MCP top NEC positions are occupied by people from Lilongwe, to the dissatisfaction of the Kasungu faction which feels that they are rightful heirs to the leadership of MCP which was ‘owned’ by their own patriarch, Kamuzu Banda.
At the meeting first deputy president for MCP, Sidik Mia emerged as another divisive figure.
As the meeting started, it was discovered that he had been sidelined from attending. It is not clear why he was sidelined.
Another section of the NEC protested his absence and demanded that he should be present. He came in later.
Mia has been key to MCP since he joined the party in 2017. He is one of the party’s chief financiers.
But also, he has his own solid constituency in the party as more than half of NEC officials were brought in by him from People’s Party where he was a senior member before he quit in 2014.
His deputy presidency complicates the issue of running mate even further.
The constitution of MCP says the deputy president shall be the automatic running mate. This relegates Chilima on the pecking order.
However, the NEC turned knife on Mia as it resolved that Chakwera should pick Chilima as running mate.
This opens another battle front for the protection of MCP constitution should Chakwera opt to pick a runningmate outside the party.
There are now fears that Mia will react brutally — legally or otherwise — after all he has sacrificed for the sake of the party.
While MCP is rocked by divisions over the alliance, UTM is also on the brink as its top officials and ordinary members are against the alliance.
They are giving two reasons:
One; they have been clear in public domain that they will accept the alliance only on one condition that Chilima is presidential candidate. It is either this or no alliance will happen.
They have even threatened that they will not vote or will join DPP if Chilima is not presidential candidate for that alliance.
Two; some top officials are bluntly refusing any alliance with MCP whatever the condition. At one of their NEC meetings last week, UTM Secretary General Patricia Kaliati told Chilima that MCP will kill him once they get into power as an alliance.
Not a compatible pair
Analysts say that MCP and UTM are ideologically and practically not compatible such that an alliance between them would be a forced marriage which will never last.
They say the alliance is being forced on them by the Constitutional Court judges who made a ruling in the election case that suggested to the two parties to pair up for the sake of unseating DPP from power.
Chilima himself has raised serious questions about the alliance.
At a rally in Lilongwe last Sunday, he said; “Kuchita mgwirizano mkosavuta koma nkhani ndiyakuti kodi mumgwirizanomo tikagwirizanamo?”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :