Lessons for Malawi political parties from ANC: ‘Give us a signal mama’

Former first lady Calista Mutharika has opened a succession debate in DPP. She has openly challenged President Peter Mutharika to relinquish power and let his vice, the youthful Saulos Chilima, stand as a presidential candidate for Democratic People’s Party (DPP) in the 2019 tripartite elections. Calista says at 80 Mutharika will be too old to govern effectively.

Callista Mutharika (right) with  diplomat Aglina Mussa

Her remarks has not only triggered a debate within the DPP, but she has incurred the wrath of DPP zealots including fellow women who have denounced her and baying for her blood. Such reaction is not new or strange in Malawi.

Individuals who challenge or criticize political leaders within the party endure all forms of insults and branded all sorts of names and are punished in various forms including suspension and expulsion. This is one reason some individuals gravitate to other political parties or form their own political parties.

Lack of intra party democracy is one the major weaknesses of Malawian political parties. They do not tolerate dissenting views within the party or certain issues to be challenged. UDF, DPP, Aford, MCP and PP all suffer from this political disease.

For example, MCP expelled its vice president Richard Msowoya and others because they challenged Lazarus Chakwera’s style of leadership. Bakili Muluzi ensured that his son Atupele Muluzi takes over the UDF presidency from him. This led to the formation of Labour Party.

Although Malawian political parties talk about democracy they do really practice it within their parties. They can learn one or two things from the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa. ANC has no founder syndrome or “I am in charge syndrome” or “who are you to criticize the president?”. The president of the party does not take the ANC as a personal property. The party, not an individual, is supreme. Leaders follow the ethos of the party or what has been agreed by the party. Hence, they are criticised openly by party members if their conduct is below the expectation of the members.

For example, President Jacob Zuma was openly criticised by party members for his conduct and calls for him to resign were echoed within the party a few years ago after it was revealed by the public protector that he used some tax payers to upgrade his homestead in Nkandla which was an act of abuse of office. His woes were compounded by further revelations from party stalwarts and other interest groups that he was involved in corrupt relationship with the rich Gupta family which was accused of winning government and parastatals tenders through corruption and state capture.

Prominent ANC members openly piled pressure on Zuma to resign and took part in national wide anti–Zuma demonstrations organised by NGOs, opposition parties and ANC itself. The new executive committee elected in December 2017 gave him an ultimatum in February either to reign or face a vote of no confidence in parliament. Zuma resigned on 14 February. The point here is that no ANC member was victimized or expelled from the party because they criticised Zuma or called for his resignation or participated in anti-Zuma demonstrations.

When it comes to voting for national executive committee, members openly campaign for positions. In fact they form groups to contest in the election. For example, during the 2017 national party elections vice president Cyril Ramaphosa had his own faction, Nkosazana Zuma also led another faction. They freely campaigned for party positions.

After Ramaphosa won the election as ANC party president all the members came together and rallied behind the new executive. In Malawi, it is a taboo to challenge the president from within the party. Those who do that risk their lives or are insulted. Where is democracy?

Transformative leaders do not fear to embrace change or to be criticised or to be challenged by party members on any issue. Calista or any other member of the party should not victimized for expressing their views that Chilima should replace the aged Mutharika. DPP should openly allow its members to discuss the succession debate without threatening its members. Freedom of expression is good for democracy and should jealously be safeguarded

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13 Comments on "Lessons for Malawi political parties from ANC: ‘Give us a signal mama’"

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Africas political parties will only change once the voters are more educated and are aware of their own destiny. Voters have the power to change political landscapes anywhere in the world. Malawians get what they deserve so do all the Africans. “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims… but accomplices” George Orwell

winston msowoya
Malawi political Parties will not learn,leave alone from the ANC,but also from other progressive Parties in Sub-Saharan Africa.First and foremost,Malawian political leaders have put their ambitions on looting the tax-payers funds for their own interest and not for the struggling voters.Since the two crooked Muthalikas took power,Malawi has gone negligible.Right now,we are lacking committed and brilliant leaders who love Malawi at heart as the first leaders who led us to independence.To be fair,Muluzi in his first term as a President,he showed a sense of patriotism and sincerity especially when he opposed to tribalism and nepotism.He was the first President to… Read more »

malawi as the country funso langa ndilakuti munthalika 80 he will be 84..MUDZAVOTERA MALAWI AS THE COUNTRY? If your answer is yes
Ndekuti malawi needs civic aducation.. because we can see clearly kuti munthalika akulephera kuyendetsa dziko
kunena mowona iwould rather to see CHAKWERA AND MSOWOYA KAPENA CHILIMA KULAMU


Malawi doesn’t have enough educated and enlightened citizens to see what you’d term as obvious. Remember that Malawi has illiteracy rates of about 60% residing mainly in the rural areas. This is why the political messaging is geared towards the uneducated who are taken advantage of by unscrupulous politicians. A loaf of bread can change the shape of politics in the rural areas. 75% of voters are sitting in rural areas and peri-urban and ordinarily are uneducated and politically unsophisticated. This is where politicians are very smart in their approach to get votes.


Calista, the mama that has given us a signal with full network.

Jujus Sister
which Mama are you referring to?? definitely not the one am thinking about. you cant compare Malawi politics with south africa politics its a non starter. you cant compare the ANC with Malawi political parties coz that will be like comparing a great great Grand pa and a great great Grand child but one thing i know for sure is that politicians are the same every where they are there to serve their own interests and not the interests of the masses. chilima has Support from other quarters yes but the guy is just quite let him come out of… Read more »

that is realy true in malawi we say we are in democracy but we are not, we are giving the power to the president instead of people to have power

Misplaced comparison! Many Malawians (and Africans) have the wrong perception that South African political parties are FAR better than us. Whilst this is true to a certain extent, you need to remember that the only thing that binds ANC is the ‘apartheid historical construct’ – the fear that white people can take back power. Otherwise, people in South Africa are fed up with ANC – the party’s cadre are corrupt (not only Zuma but even Ramaphosa). They would have voted it out of power long time ago but they do not have an alternative, though Malema is starting to provide… Read more »
Check the status quo of those who are supporting Mutharika to stand in 2019. These are the guys who have no any career apart from the political career of stealing and rooting government resources at the expense of ordinary Malawians. For example. Does Dausi has a professional career apart from speaking Mwanza English? What about Goodall Gondwe?. He ate all the money from his retirement like tomatoes. He knows once Peter Mutharika is out he is finished. Check the qualification for Jappie Mhango, Ken Sanga, Vuwa Kaunda, the list goes. These are the people who never wish Malawians apart from… Read more »

Spot on Kaya. But then what’s the alternative and how do we change the course of our destiny for a better Malawi


DPP is not your typical political party but rather a family dynasty (family business/empire). If Malawians haven’t figured it out then we have ourselves to blame for not opening our eyes. We must be so dumb not to see.

Billy Chilewani
But ANC example is misplaced. South African politics the parties are more powerful than the President. Their political system is based on political parties contesting at an election and the party with more MPs forms the government and then goes on to an internal campaign process where the party chooses its own leadership. So borrowing from South Africa will mean a radical change about our current election system. In Malawi a President along with his running mate are elected based on their credebility and manifesto and the party though gives them support but the powers to run both the party… Read more »
Billy Chilewani, I think you got the Malawi electoral system all wrong. Malawians also vote for a party into power, just like they do in South Africa. The main difference is that, in South Africa they have a 50+1 versus the Malawi First Past The Post (FPTP) electoral system. In both cases, political parties hold their own National Elective Conferences, ahead of General Elections, to select their own respective party leadership and also endorse manifestos; debate & approve policies and adopt key resolutions. This then become the pillars for the campaign. The difference with Malawi, unlike South Africa, is that… Read more »

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