Clergy were invited to ‘unite’ UDF—paper

Some of the country’s eminent clergymen, Bishop Dr. James Tengatenga of the Anglican Church and Reverend Dr. Felix Chingota of the Church of the Central African Presbyterian (CCAP), have failed to persuade Malawi’s former President Bakili Muluzi to completely retire from politics in order to enable the UDF to unite “because he is angry”.

A report in the ruling DPP-sponsored broadsheet Sky News on Friday said Dr. Tengatenga and Dr. Chingota were approached, and they accepted, to try to convince Muluzi to respect his decision to retire as national chairman of the UDF and allow the party to evolve without him, but he refused to continue with the talks, claiming he was angered after a document with some items for discussion leaked to the public.

The broadsheet claims that Muluzi had told the members of the clergy and other members of the discussion that he would invite them to the round table to resume the talks once his anger subsided.

Muluzi: Could not continue the talks

It quotes Bishop Dr. Tengatenga, the Head of the Anglican Diocese of Southern Malawi as confirming to have been approached “a few months ago” to help pacify the belligerent parties in the UDF but the talks collapsed.

“It is true; I was approached to help. I think I did. We made the attempt, but the talks collapsed,” Dr. Tengatenga is quoted to have said.

Tengatenga declined to divulge details of the talks, according to the newspaper, because he did not want to compromise his integrity.

On his part, Reverend Dr. Chingota also confirmed to Sky News that he asked by “some members of the UDF to intervene in the raging wrangle in the party. According to the cleric, the effort, however, caved in when Muluzi said he would not continue talking, because “he was angry”.

“The talks got interrupted when a document leaked and Dr. Muluzi said he was very angry and would not continue with the talks,” said Dr. Chingota.

“He, however, assured us that he would tell us to go back to the round table once he cools down.”

Chingota said that he interpreted the silence after several months of waiting to mean that Muluzi was still angry.

“The parting words were that he would call us once he cools down. If he has not called then I would assume that he is still angry,” said Chingota.

According to the newspaper, Chingota disclosed that the talks had five members, Muluzi, Friday Jumbe, Dr. George Mtafu, Dr. Tengatenga and himself.

“All the five of us attended the talks,” Chingota is quoted to have revealed, but could not remember how many times the meetings took place.

He said that he and Tengatenga were requested if they could help to persuade Muluzi to completely retire from politics. According to him, the issue had not yet been touched when the talks collapsed.

“That was the main item for our intervention, but we could not have gone straight to it. We wanted to deal with the small items first to ensure that we were able to built rapport before we hit the main issue on the head,” explained Chingota.

He added: “In mediation you need to be tactful. Had the one who leaked the document consulted us first, we would have advised him not do so. I think with the rapport built, we would then have been able to tackle the main issue.”

For the sake of democracy

Chingota said he agreed to participate in talks for the sake of democracy in Malawi.

“Democracy can only work when there are checks and balances. As a country, we need strong parties,” he explained, adding that as a clergy, they are always concerned when they see any political party getting weakened by infighting and it was in that sense that they accepted to try to help UDF mend its fences.

According to Sky News, a senior UDF member and former Speaker of national Assembly and cabinet minister during the Muluzi administration, Sam Mpasu, confirmed being part of those that approached Dr. Tengatenga and Dr. Chingota, “as a last ditch effort”, to ask Muluzi to completely step aside from active politics.

“Let me tell you, we have tried to get this man to his senses for a long time now. In the end, we had to ask Bishop Dr. James Tengatenga and Reverend Dr. Felix Chingota to talk to him, but he turned them down,” Mpasu is quoted as confirming.

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