The political air is getting more exciting in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as days draw closer to July 1, the day the party is slated to hold its national convention. It is at the national convention where position holders will also seek a fresh mandate from the delegates to continue serving in their positions while others will vie for completely new positions.
There are also new ‘entrants’ who will also be contesting for various crucial ruling party’s national governing council (NGC) positions.
In a new twist of events, the party has decided to ration positions based on regions to gain regional balance, and to ensure top positions are spread to all the political regions of the country than to be concentrated in one region. For example, the Treasurer General position has gone to the northern region whereas the position of Secretary General will go to the central region.
Based on this arrangement, people like Henry Mussa will not be able to defend their positions because they have been taken away. It means there will not be Henry Mussa the Treasurer General because he comes from the southern region. This has caused the emergence of various ‘tribes’ and strategic groups in the party trying to campaign for various positions.
There is obviously excitement in some quarters and also panic in others, particularly at the realization that some so-called gurus may likely come back from the indaba without any position and with tails in between their legs. The social media has particularly been the battleground and campaign arena for many, and flush with posters of various members canvassing for various positions.
However, none of the positions has generated more excitement than the battle of the southern region vice presidency position. Initially, it was only Local Government and Rural Development minister Kondwani Nankhumwa who had showed courage to challenge Dr. George Chaponda, the self-made southern region guru and member of the presidential inner circle and one who is often accused of giving President Peter Mutharika bad advice.
Then Minister of Agriclture Joseph Mwanamvekha came into the picture before Henry Mussa joined the fray following the decision to take away the Treasurer General position to the northern region. Four party gurus are therefore gunning to become vice president for the DPP responsible for the southern region.
There is a Chichewa adage that goes ‘fisi amalowela pomwe pavunda khola’ (literally meaning a hyena always breaks where the kraal is rotten). As much as the position of southern region vice president may be influential, the fact that there are four contenders point to only one thing: Dr. George Chaponda is a weak leader and it is where the ‘kraal is rotten’.
Chaponda is likely to lose if he insists on contesting against the three leaders because he has exhibited all the hallmarks of being a weak leader who is hated among the rank and file of the party.
According to recent analysis by a group of image management consultants “Dr. George Chaponda is still an image risk for the DPP due to his close association and linkage to corruption and theft”. His maize scandal has ruined the Image of the party and government, and could be one single factor causing many members to flee the party.
Chaponda is also believed to be the mastermind of the violent activities the party has been involved in the recent past, particularly when Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) marched over the 4 billion Kwacha development fund for constituencies. His name also features highly in the torching of the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters soon after the maize scandal was exposed.
Indeed, Chaponda is the weakest among the four candidates for the position, and his losing is almost a foregone conclusion. Ironically, he will be facing the same opponent who defeated him for the position of Treasurer General at the last convention for the party in 2013. Henry Mussa trounced Chaponda who got six votes against many for Mussa.
It is, however, hard to tell whether history may repeat itself as this time Mussa will face other formidable opponents particularly the youthful and charismatic Kondwani Nankhumwa. Nankhumwa is also MP for Mulanje Central and Leader of Government Business in Parliament.
Nankhumwa is one of the workaholics in the DPP believed to be the master of strategy. He is said to have been the master of DPP’s election strategy, which won the party government coming from the opposition in 2014.
Nankhumwa is also fearlessly loyal and proved his mantle when President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika appointed him Leader of Government Business in Parliament. Nankhumwa replaced the same Chaponda he is facing now, after he was fired as Minister of Agriculture for his alleged involvement in the ‘Maizegate’ scandal.
Contrary to Chaponda’s confrontational politics when he was Leader of the House, Nankhumwa has exhibited a more conciliatory approach, and his exceptional leadership skills could be the reason MPs have conducted themselves well and with maturity during the time he has been at the helm so far.
According to one opposition parliamentarian, Nankhumwa has displayed a great measure of level-headedness. He has given latitude to the opposition to articulate its agenda, which was a substantial departure to the often knee-jerk and ‘scatter gun’ approach of his predecessor, he said.
Apart from having the clout and also considerable sway among the national convention delegates and the rank and file of DPP, Nankhumwa’s youthfulness will also be his biggest advantage since the party is currently trying to adopt a youthful outlook to appeal to young voters who make up 64 percent of the voters.
Nankhumwa will be the youngest among the four contenders, and this fact coupled with his skills as an astute campaigner gives him the edge to win and become the next DPP’s vice president responsible for the south.
Mussa seems to have decided to run for this position on a hunch, particularly after the position of Treasurer General was apportioned to the northern region. This will be his biggest disadvantage.
As for Mwanamvekha, he is still on baby steps in politics from the corporate world. He still has a role to play in the executive.
It is therefore likely that Nankhumwa will be ‘the man to beat’ for the position of Vice President for the southern Region for the DPP.
- Kelvin Masambo is a Blantyre-based social and political analyst