The important role that political parties in Malawi must play in preserving and enhancing democracy to ensuring speedy social and economic development cannot be overemphasized.
Governing political parties are essential in ensuring that development plans and policies as contained in their election manifestos are adequately implemented for the benefit of Malawians. Opposition parties, on other hand, are obliged to provide the necessary checks and balances and hold government accountable for its acts and omissions, decisions and policies.
However, in Malawi, today, all the major political parties are characterized by fierce infighting, bickering, acrimony and intolerance to the detriment of national democracy and development progress.
It is also evident in some political parties that there is a glaring lack of intra-party democracy. Political scientists agree that internal democracy is, in most cases, a reflection of what the national political fabric looks like.
Parties represented in Parliament in Malawi are in a state of utter confusion of one sort or another, which is not a good indicator and demonstration of an admirable political environment. While internal squabbles within the major political parties impede progress on national democracy and development, they also have serious negative repercussions on individual political parties themselves with regard to retaining membership’s trust.
These squabbles and other noticeable leadership shortfalls erode people’s trust and, therefore, negatively impact on the parties’ chances of winning national elections. Surely, it is a waste of time electing a political party that is perpetually characterized by large and deep divisions.
Slightly over one year before national polls are held in 2019, the largest opposition political party, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) is at war with itself. The MCP is now split in two camps.
One camp is led by the erstwhile Assemblies of God President and now MCP President, Reverend Dr. Lazarus Chakwera while the other is led by Chakwera’s deputy and Speaker of Parliament, Richard Msowoya. The two camps are at each other’s throat, trading accusations and counter-accusations.
MCP Secretary General Gustav Kaliwo, acting on behalf of the Msowoya camp, has publicly rebuked Dr. Chakwera for alleged dictatorial leadership where he fires, at will, elected members holding dissenting views. The ‘rebel’ camp has been pressing for an immediate national convention, the highest decision-making body, to convene to iron out their differences and conduct fresh elections for all positions.
The Chakwera camp accuses Msowoya and his group of failure to toe party line and insubordination. A recent MCP national executive committee meeting fired elected publicity secretary, Jessie Kabwira and suspended Kaliwo and others.
But the group has since mounted a legal challenge against the NEC decision and the courts have granted them an injunction. It promises to be a long fight!
DPP and its challenges
Enough about MCP, do Malawians see any leadership struggle or squabbles in the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika? The answer to this question could be both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
NO because the DPP seems to the more disciplined and well-organized political party than the other major political parties. On the face of it, the DPP leadership seems to steadily and ably steer the party towards re-election in 2019.
YES because rumours are making rounds about divisions in the DPP regarding who should be APM’s running-mate during next year’s elections. Two names keep coming up-the incumbent Dr Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC) and Health Minister and United Democratic Front (UDF) leader, Atupele Muluzi.
The running-mate issue seems to be ripping the party apart, silently. Some DPP ‘old guards’ want APM to retain Chilima because he is DPP instead of roping in an ‘outsider’. Others think Atupele could be the most strategic and effective partner because he would bring to the DPP the much-needed numbers in the populous eastern region where his UDF is strongest.
Whatever choice APM and DPP make in this regard, they should tread carefully on both candidates because they individually command a considerable following among the youth, who are the largest voting bloc in Malawi.
But the most complicated scenario for the DPP is the public perception that its leadership has treated corrupt DPP officials with kid gloves. The most notable aspect is the George Chaponda Zambia maize scandal.
With one-year-and-a-half away from the polls, President Mutharika must yield to the ever-growing calls, from all corners of the country, including from within the DPP, to relieve Dr. Chaponda of his position as DPP Vice President responsible for the southern region. The presidential commission of inquiry’s report on the maize saga indicated clearly that there is a mountain of evidence against Dr. Chaponda, which gave rise to criminal charges and his dismissal as cabinet minister.
Indeed, Dr. Chaponda has been subjected to criminal prosecution and that he must be perceived innocent until proven guilty by a competent court but APM must be seen to be genuinely fighting corruption by replacing Chaponda as VP.
After all, a quick scan through the DPP constitution, the position of VP for southern region or any other region does not appear. It just ‘pleased’ the President to appoint him.
They say charity begins at home. It is only when the President is seen to ‘discipline’ Dr. Chaponda and others that he will rebuild Malawians’ confidence and trust ahead of the 2019 polls.
The President and DPP have the moral responsibility to discipline ‘one of their own’ when embroiled in any criminal allegations, let alone corruption, which is an enemy number one of social and economic progress. That would send a loud signal to the people of Malawi and the international community that the APM administration is not paying lip service in as far as the fight against graft is concerned.
Indeed, as if answering criminal charges alone was not enough embarrassment on the party, Dr. Chaponda put the DPP in further disrepute by informing the court recently that starches of cash in Malawi Kwacha and other foreign currencies found at his Area 12 residence in Lilongwe did not belong to him but the DPP. One can only take such a claim with a pinch of salt.
Dr. Chaponda is not DPP treasurer general. His position as VP for southern region does not give him any leverage to keep DPP finances unless it is ‘stolen’ money may be.
That claim, therefore, plunges the party in an extremely difficult situation as it tries to distance itself from alleged acts of corruption and abuse of public resources. Dr. Chaponda is a liability to the DPP and his continued holding of the position of DPP vice president for southern region would weigh in heavily on the party come polling day in 2019.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :