Members of Malawi’s opposition Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) meeting in Mzuzu city for the party’s national convention have controversially elected Enock Chakufwa Chihana as the new president.
However, his election is being challenged by another camp led by the Godfrey Shaba who was acting president which has issued a statement describing the entire gathering as illegal.
The party’s long awaited national convention had been swallowed up by disagreements ranging from party ownership to electoral procedures.
Chihana, who is also Minister of Sports and Youth Development in the Peoples Party (PP) led government, won the top seat after emerging a sole contender following the withdrawal from the race by four other contestants due to disagreements.
The four- acting president, Godfrey Shawa, secretary general, Khwauli Msiska, former acting president, Loveness Gondwe and a newcomer, Sad Kaseka Munthali, based in Britain- pulled out after disagreeing with Chihana.
After their withdrawal, Chihana and his camp went ahead with the elections as some people voted in absentia Msiska who had 45 votes against Chihana’s 516. Gladson Kaseka Munthali collected 15 votes while Shaba withdrew from the race .
Loveness Gondwe of the New Rain-ball Coalition (NRC)and other allied forces like the People’s Development movement (PDM) were barred from contesting on reasons that they were not eligible candidates because they had not dissolved their parties.
“ Am very happy that you chose me but this does not mean I have the brains than those failed. I will lean on your good advices and constructive critics.” Chihana in his acceptance speech told the ululating delegates.
He said his choice by delegates from all over Malawi including Nsanje, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Balaka Mulanje among others, signifies that the people are still royal to his late father who played a crucial role in bringing democracy in this country.
Chihana, whose father a freedom fighter Thom Chakufwa founded the party, has challenged those disputing his election saying the convention was legal as it had more than 50 percent of the National Executive Committee as stated by the party’s constitution.
Two camps have emerged in the party, one for Chihana and the other for Shawa, which threaten its ambitious drive to reclaim its status in the Northern Region as well as the country.
Several members have accused Chihana, who was the national chairman, of bringing confusion to the national convention.
The members also say Chihana is taking the party to Peoples Party to support President Joyce Banda for his personal interest to protect his ministerial position.
Chihana then accused former publicity Secretary Dan Msowoya for allegedly bringing the party into disrepute claiming he spoke his mind on matters affecting the party without consultation.
But Msowoya says Chihana was illegally chosen and will not respect his position as president.
Asked for his comments on the recent events at the AFORD convention, the party’s founding member and a well known campaigner for democracy Ahmed Dassu said: “I am deeply saddened by the events at this convention. Only by the north voting as one block and electing only AFORD MP’s can we ensure that after nearly 50 years of independence a president of Malawi is never ever again able to plunder the country’s resources and steal K61 billion and that we wipe out corruption, hunger and poverty once and for all .”
He said: “It was I who persuaded Enock Chihana to stand in the by election in which he was elected as MP and in fact funded his campaign on the understanding that he would devote his time and energy as an MP to unite the people of the north and to rebuild AFORD. Instead Enock sadly has ‘sold his political allegiance’ for a ministerial position and has not been able to cast aside his violent past as a Young Democrat and has once again used thuggery and violence to disturb and bring to end in a disarray an AFORD Convention, for this is not his first time.
Dassu added: “Enock had no history or connection with AFORD until he was selected to the position of Chairman of AFORD. I recall the same Enock calling the very same father whose memory he invokes as a ‘mad man’ at a UDF public rally in Kasungu when Bakili Muluzi was President. So he should stop cheating. The founders of AFORD would never condone Enock’s violent nature and his selling out of AFORD to PP indeed this is not his first time support another party do not forget he was a UDF Young Democrat. “
Dassu further said: “I know that the Chakufwa Chihana whom I first met at Mikuyu Prison in 1971 when we were both political detainees and whom in early 1990’s I joined to form AFORD in Lusaka would not agree with Enock’s politics. It is heart rendering for me to see that Enock bears no allegiance to the people of the north or to AFORD and that Enock has been the one most instrumental in wanting AFORD to be a personal to holder property of his family.”