Main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) has announced the postponement of its scheduled national convention, which was to start on April 8 2018 at Mary Mount Private Secondary School in Mzuzu. This follows courts’ decision to reserve determination on the way forward regarding a court injunction obtained by some leaders of the party, restraining MCP and its leadership from conducting the national convention.
The MCP, through its deputy secretary general, Eisenhower Mkaka, has expressed optimism that the courts’ determination on the national convention may come sooner, especially that “court injunctions are a temporary relief”.
However, whatever the courts decide on how the party proceeds, the protracted wrangles in MCP epitomizes a poorly run political organization whose leader seriously lacks good leadership and negotiating skills. Almost exactly one year before the 2019 crucial tripartite elections, the party leadership must seriously be dealing with the fragile situation because voters do not want to support a party that is fractious and at war with itself.
MCP internal squabbles are becoming inherently damaging to the party and it is now a matter of urgency that the leadership takes on more responsibility to avoid eminent political thumping at the elections in 2019 if the status quo does not change. Indeed, it is a huge risk for Malawians to give the most challenging task of running government to a divided political party.
Dr. Lazarus Chakwera, the erstwhile President of Malawi Assemblies of God Church, is leader of the MCP. He is accused making unilateral decisions on matters of policy. He also stands accused of wooing, without thorough consultation, a ‘rank-outsider’, Sidik Mia, to join the party and become MCP vice president and, ultimately, Dr. Chakwera’s running mate during next year’s presidential elections, at the expense of the incumbent vice and Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya.
Mohammed Sidik Mia is a former longtime cabinet minister and wealthy Lower Shire politician. Some people believe that Chakwera’s decision to opt for Mia, and not Msowoya, may have been driven by his desperate ‘thirst’ for resources to mount an effective campaign ahead of the 2019 tripartite elections rather than any political intellect.
Chakwera is also accused of blatantly sidestepping the MCP constitution in the manner he ‘dismisses’ or ‘suspends’ senior party officials. He (or is it the party) suspended or fired Msowoya, secretary general and deputy, Gustav Kaliwo and Chatonda Kaunda, respectively, treasurer general, Tony Kandiero, publicity secretary and Salima North-west outspoken legislator, Jessie Kabwila and Salima Central MP, Felix Jumbe for alleged disobedience. Chakwera has since replaced these leaders with his suspected ‘bootlickers’ who will sing his praises and those of his bedfellow, Sidik Mia.
Jumbe has since left MCP and recently announced he had joined the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.
He has also been at loggerheads with most of the party’s influential District Chairmen (DCs) for his alleged nepotistic and dictatorial tendencies. He has replaced all ‘rebellious’ DCs with ‘loyal’ ones.
It is suspected that the dismissal and suspension of these leaders is a strategic intention to recruit ‘loyal delegates’ to rubberstamp Dr. Chakwera’s personal interests at the MCP national convention, which include proposed contentious constitutional amendments that suit his individual political tastes and the election of Sidik Mia as his vice and running mate in 2019.
But the Msowoya ‘camp’ is having none of such maneuverings. They have mounted a formidable challenge through the courts to stop Chakwera and Mia from running the party as they please or as if it were their own personal property.
Whatever the courts’ determination matter would be, the endless internal squabbles promise to inflict irreparable damage upon the party ahead of the next elections. Indeed, excessive amount of time, resources and energy is being spent on court battles instead of party building and promotion exercises.
As a Chancellor College political scientist, Mustafa Hussein, said recently, MCP had other options to resolve their misunderstandings before they escalated to this level. Hussein, renowned for his objective analyses, observed that courts tend to determine who is right and who is in the wrong and that exacerbates factionalism and misunderstanding. He envisaged a weak MCP ahead of elections, next year, because many members are frustrated and may leave the party to join other stronger and united political parties.
Indeed, Chakwera is squarely to blame for this mess. Intra-party feuds at the highest level of the party signals the lack of negotiating skills on the part of the head of the party. Political science scholars agree that internal political party conflicts hinge on lack of internal democracy in the parties. This is immensely evident in MCP where accusations have grown louder of a prevalent dictatorial environment. Suspected ‘rebels’ are not allowed to participate in decision-making, fired and hindered to contest in elections.
There is an urgent need on the part of Chakwera to take an active role in addressing internal squabbles and find a long-lasting solution to internal wrangles in MCP. Otherwise the 2019 elections will be a walkover for the DPP and President Mutharika.
But the unfortunate part is that such squabbles are not a new occurrence in MCP. The history of internal power struggle and infighting can be traced back to the post-Kamuzu Banda days in the late 1990s. A serious leadership struggle existed between the late Gwanda Chakuamba, who succeeded Kamuzu when he retired after the first multiparty elections in 1994, and John Tembo, the widely-believed Kamuzu’s heir-apparent. It cost the MCP past elections and the party has remained in opposition for over two decades.
Political quarrels among MCP leaders are now deeply entrenched in their mental psyche. Public humiliation, court litigation and violence have become the most accessible tool to MCP leaders who feel that their interests are in jeopardy.
As one observer said recently, it is now absolutely time that Chakwera’s realized that managing a political party is not just about eloquence and fancy language expressions, but that it requires one to possess real, detailed and comprehensive transformational leadership qualities.
Chakwera has been caught wanting as a leader. As things are now, the future of the party looks bleak, again. It is not too late though to throw in the towel and make way for genuinely transformational leader to save the party from yet another electoral humiliation in May 2019.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :