“Blind party loyalty will be our downfall. We must follow the truth wherever it leads.”― DaShanne Stokes-an American thought leader, sociologist, author, public speaker, and a scholar of politics, culture, and civil rights.
USA President Barack Obama once said strongest democracies flourish from frequent and lively debate, but they endure when people of every background and belief find a way to set aside smaller differences in service of a greater purpose.
And Abdullah II of Jordan said if everybody is happy, then something is wrong with the democratic process. The words from these two ring true to the current situation in Malawi’s political parties as the country goes to the polls in May 2019.
It is a fact that as a way of positioning themselves for the forthcoming elections, there would be hot undercurrents within the rank and file of various political parties as people ‘jostle’ for positions to get the best within the party’s hierarchy. Such jostling for position could end up weakening or strengthening individual parties-depending on how the party handles such happenings.
Democracy is an expensive undertaking and this is not only in terms of financial resources but it is also about personal sacrifices. In true democracy debates, differences of opinions, as well as fighting and jostling for positions are things that can never be avoided; if there are no such things then such claimed democracy would be just a fallacy.
People who subscribe to ethos of true democracy know that the democratic political game is a give and take affair not getting everything your way and as per your ambitions and desires. In a democracy, such understanding and appreciation of democracy should always start at a political party level, short of that then our political parties would only serve as breeding grounds for autocratic leadership that eventually manifests itself through the style of leadership and arrogance that we have seen from those we have been voting into power since 1994.
The infighting in the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and the ‘peace’ that characterizes our ruling party the Democratic progressive Party (DPP), provide good lessons as to what it means to have democracy entrenched deep in political parties.
I believe in both parties there are people with political ambitions. Now, the silence within the DPP as we go towards 2019 worries me. It is worrying because, as the party talks of holding a convention soon, there is no single individual who has shown interest to contest on any position. The silence means either people are afraid of the powers that be to openly come out and proclaim their ambitions, or that there are already some ‘untouchables’ within the party who cannot be challenged in the positions they are holding. These people are just waiting for an endorsement from a few ‘godfathers’ within the party to continue with their mandate without facing any competition. The only edge that these ‘untouchables’ have over their colleagues is either their proximity to the ‘sole proprietor’ of the party or they come from the Lhomwe belt. For this it does not matter what the majority of party membership think about them.
If you ask me there is nothing to celebrate on this supposedly peace and coexistence within the DPP rank and file, it is a ‘negative’ peace and forced coexistence which is dangerous to the party as the anger from such imposition will certainly manifest itself soon or later when it is too late to make amends. Above all else it is also the nation that would eventually lose.
If political party members are given a chance and the freedom to put leaders in positions, this country would eventually purge itself of ‘godfathers’ within the political system and in the end we will have capable people being catapulted into national governance institutions. On my mind is our own vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima, who if truth be told, is a man who has all it takes to lead, but the ruling DPP has made sure that the man should be left in the peripherals and squeeze him hard that he can hardly find space to flex his political muscle. I am even so doubtful that Chilima is within any DPP plans for 2019.
Now even if Chilima is within the DPP equation, we throw the Atupele Muluzi and UDF jinx into the mix. An even bigger political bomb awaiting to explode. At the moment there is clear bitterness among UDF members over Atupele who is showing no serious interest to be on the ballot paper to lead the UDF in 2019. Some party officials have already declared that in any deal UDF will not settle for anything lesser than being the running mate.
On the other hand, Balaka North Member of Parliament Lucius Banda is also putting pressure on Atupele. This is a bomb that if not handled well threatens to destroy the entire DPP fabric. As we go towards 2019, DPP is banking on having the UDF and the rest of its eastern region base on its side to competitively fight the MCP. However, where everything gets tricky is: with other senior members within the UDF pulling the other side will it be possible for the DPP to convince the whole UDF and its eastern region block to support Peter Mutharika’s campaign for a mere ministerial position, and just for one man.
Now where things gets tricky for the DPP to solve is whether the DPP senior members will indeed allow Mutharika to pick Atupele as running mate at the expense of Chilima or any other within the party. Now, even if the UDF as a block agrees to stick with the DPP, taking Chilima as running mate will certainly lead to a collapse of any deal between the two. Atupele and his party could definitely make last minute surprises and decide to go it alone meaning Mutharika will also forgo the much-needed votes in the eastern region. Leaving Chilima out, even for anyone else apart from Atupele, is also another disastrous ball game all together.
On the other hand, the MCP is indeed grappling with a crisis. Sidik Mohammed Mia has already come out in the open declaring that he wants nothing less than being elected the party’s Vice President, of which some have concluded as meaning he is gunning to be running mate to Dr Lazarus Chakwera. At the other corner is the incumbent MCP Vice President and Speaker of the National Assembly Richard Msowoya who by hearing what he has been saying lately, is also eager to maintain his position. And there are other smaller fights on the sidelines.
I believe all this is health for intra-party democracy and on a larger scale beneficial to the nation. To begin with, I am taking Mia as just an aspirant, his aspirations could be thwarted at the convention or supported, it all depends on how well he plays his cards. This also applies to his ambitions of being a running mate to Dr Chakwera. It would be political naivety, pettiness and immaturity to make conclusions that since Mia has declared his interests then the MCP has dumped Msowoya. It is also a sign of political immaturity and a sign of not understanding democracy itself for Msowoya and his team to cry foul and start throwing accusations on the party’s leadership for favoring Mia. I have gone through the MCP convention and there is nowhere suggesting that the party President has the powers to choose a Vice President. His choice is limited to the running mate, but if history would be our best tutor we have seen in the past that when choosing the running mate the MCP President has always been respectful of the choice of the party convention.
In democracy, it is never a sin to declare one’s interests and ambitions. Let Mia and Msowoya plus whoever is aspiring for any position go to the convection where people will vote for their rightful leaders democratically. I believe that Msowoya is just being unfair to himself to act frustrated politician who has already lost the battle even before the real fight goes into the ring. Someone, has wondered whether Msowoya expected Dr Chakwera to announce that no one should contest on the position of Vice President because there is Msowoya or announce that Mia is not welcome to MCP just because he has openly stated his ambitions. If indeed that is what Msowoya expected then it is a sign that he is indeed not yet refined for democratic politics at the highest level.
At the moment, I am even waiting for the rise of a ‘serious’ challenger to Dr Chakwera. An MCP Presidency challenger who could really give Dr Chakwera a good run during the convention. This is what could in the end make the party stronger and eventually benefit our national governance standards. Such open competition over positions gives a chance and the freedom to party members to put people of desirable character and integrity in positions and not imposed leaders.
However, for the MCP to emerge a true winner in all this, it is important that the Msowoyas, the Chakweras and all current position holders should reconcile with the brutal political reality and truth in democracy that ambitions are just that until you win a fair competition and get endorsed by the majority of voters. As the party readies itself for a convention, let its current leaders prove to party loyalists as to why they should be maintained in their positions.
Yes some people have brought in propaganda in all this which is also the beauty about democracy and multi-party politics. It is not unusual, in multi-party democracy, for politicians to take advantage of certain situations in an opponent’s camp and score political points. But in a ‘living’ institution-that is an institution whose members are not dead-all these differences and dissenting positions are healthy and necessary steps towards a strong institution. After the convention, MCP will most likely proceed to a better stage that could surprise many, but this outcome depends on how everyone handles this stage.
Generally, if all is handled well and with maturity by the time of elections, all the constitutional issues will have been sorted out at the convention.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :