As things fall apart in UDF

Atupele Muluzi’s stated wish to stand on the United Democratic Front (UDF) ticket as the party’s 2014 presidential candidate in 2014 has more than stirred a hornet’s nest.  While the UDF has in the recent past invested its energies in in-fighting, the aggression that has followed Atupele’s announcement has taken the UDF to a new low.

Everything is now more intense and the fighting itself is full of twists, drama, and suspense, and it is quickly turning into a no-holds barred “ali ndi mwana agwiritse” beer-hall brawl!

There is seemingly no hope for an end.  And the outcome, whenever and if ever an end will come, is difficult at this point to predict, save for the fact that these developments will either make or break the party.

UDF: Getting torn apart

If the UDF’s godfather, a.k.a. the political engineer, Bakili Muluzi successfully disentangles the two brawling camps, the UDF (and Atupele) could come out of this stronger in readiness for 2014.

If, on the other hand, political engineering fails, the UDF will break; this time irreparably like curtains that Bakili Muluzi used to like to refer to when talking of other political parties. And taking of curtains, I doubt if right now, Bakili would even want to hear anyone talking about them.

The bone of contention is whether or not Atupele is being propped up by his father, so that he (Bakili Muluzi) can continue manipulating the party and indirectly ruling the country in the event that his son, Atupele, is elected. Even without looking outside the party, within the UDF hierarchy itself there are three schools of thought on this.

Responding to the question of his independence from his father, which keeps coming up, Atupele Muluzi’s has said more than once that he is his own man: Bakili is Bakili and Atupele is Atupele. This sounds naive, and knowing Bakili Muluzi, not many people are buying it. And, unless Atupele ensures that his father’s hand is absent from his campaign, no-one will believe him.

The first school of thought does not give a damn. In fact, this school of thought would welcome Bakili Muluzi ruling again, any day and any time. For this group, if Bakili is fronting Atupele so that he can rule from the backseat in 2014; so much the better.

This might have failed with the ungrateful Bingu wa Mutharika in 2004 and with John Tembo’s loss in 2009, but with Muluzi’s own son, this group is confident that nothing can possibly go wrong. This lot is generally made up of people with vested interests in the Muluzi family and they are incapable of thinking beyond their pockets.

There is a second school of thought which has taken Atupele’s word and genuinely believes that, indeed, he is his own man. While this group would not want Bakili Muluzi back, directly or indirectly, they are willing to give Atupele the benefit of doubt. Why punish the baby for the sins of the father?

Then there is a third group, diametrically opposed to the first. This group does not want to take any chances at all. Once beaten twice shy is its motto and to this group, everything Atupele is saying about being his own man is total baloney.

For this group, putting Atupele in power, “Agenda for Change” or not, is as bad as reinstalling Bakili Muluzi as president because a hyena begets a hyena.

Several questions come to the fore. Is it possible that Atupele, if elected, could govern independently, free from his father’s meddling? And would Bakili indeed, seat back and not try to tinker? Is it humanly possible to expect Atupele to tell Bakili off, if Bakili attempted “to ring the bell from the carrier”?

These are very difficult questions, and some do not want to even think about them for fear of opening a pandora box. But with developments in UDF, the pandora box has already been opened and what remains for us is to take a peek at what lies therein.

Events from the time Atupele made his bid to date, are revealing a pattern or patterns. First, Dr Nga Ntafu, a very uncompromising individual, inexplicably changed his views on Atupele. Not that Ntafu is not entitled to a change of mind, no, not at all.

But since Ntafu was the most vocal and in fact wrote off Atupele as “politically immature”; after his change of mind, in the least, he ought to have come back with an explanation to the public as to whether his initial assessment had been wrong or IF, all of a sudden, Atupele has become “politically mature”.

And, when obstinate people like Ntafu change their minds and fail to explain themselves, they cannot blame anyone who draws the wrong conclusions.

As the drama continues to unfold, the party’s Secretary General, Mr. Kennedy Makwangwala, another hitherto hardcore anti-Atupele character, came up with a unilateral decision dissolving the national working committee, effectively lifting Atupele’s suspension imposed by that committee.

And this is not all, the plot is getting thicker. Mpasu the other day “explained” Makwangwala’s behaviour with allegations that Makwangwala has been palm oiled by Atupele’s father.

“I can tell you a secret. He [Makwangwala] was at Dr Bakili Muluzi residence at BCA. Our investigations are that he has been given K3 million cash and a twin cab car. He has been told to go and hide it. It’s a way of getting Dr Muluzi back as national chairman,” Angoni Mpasu is reported to have said.

As if all this is not enough, the ruling DPP has reportedly joined the fray – making it literally, a free for all. According to reports reaching Nyasa Times, typical of the saying that in politics there are no permanent enemies; it has recruited none other than Humphrey Mvula to throw spanners into Atupele Muluzi’s presidential ambitions.

Where does all this take us? Before we answer this question, let us quickly recap:

1.      we have in UDF two camps: one strongly opposed to and another strongly for Atupele’s bid,

2.      we have some people (two so far) from the opposing camp changing their viewpoints rather curiously,

3.      we have allegations of palm-oiling meant to shift the balance of power in the party, and

4.      now reports of people being hired as mud-slinging mercenaries.

1 (above) in a democratic political party is very normal: what is missing for UDF, is a conflict resolution mechanism that can be binding and acceptable to both parties. 2 and 3 smell heavily of “political engineering”.  There is an unseen hand that is manipulating people. 4 is not surprising and the UDF (and Atupele) should brace for more.

From these points, two things are crystal clear. Firstly Bakili Muluzi is at it again. His interference will however not assist Atupele. It will be counterproductive because he (Bakili) has many enemies and Malawians have not forgotten that he has always wanted to continue ruling one way or another and that this power-hungry nature of his is why we have Bingu wa Mutharika today.

My Christmas gift to Atupele: Tell your father off or be prepared to face the music. His meddling invalidates your claims to being your own man.

Secondly the DPP scheming, if true, will not succeed. If the DPP wants to win the 2014 elections it has its work cut out. It should quickly address the remaining points of the July 20 Petition; stop arrogance, and ensure that the corrupt big fish it is harbouring are quickly apprehended and brought to trial.

Christmas package for the DPP: Stop practicing nepotism or else come 2014, you will get votes ONLY from the Lhomwe belt; and these will not see you through!

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