Malawi Congress Party’s embarrassing factionalism

The internal squabbles currently taking place in the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) are at once an indication that the party has not yet shed its old spots and a reflection of gross misunderstanding of its responsibility to the people of Malawi.

Chakwera: Presiding over troubled MCP

It was widely expected when the new leadership took over that it would rebuild and transform the party into an effective national and inclusive, internally democratic, party that could provide a realistic chance of graduating from the status of an opposition party to the status of a ruling party. To achieve this, the party had to prove that it is more tolerant than it was, that it can allow internal contestation of ideas including opposing views, that its leadership was not authoritarian, and that it can marshal support beyond its traditional base, the Central Region.

The manner in which the party has dealt with dissenting views from its senior leaders in the last two years suggests that none of these things have happened.

This is disappointing particularly because the party has a responsibility to the nation, arising from its special position as the oldest political party in the country and the rich heritage it has received, to organise itself in a manner that presents a real alternative to the current political status quo. By succumbing to petty infighting, the party has singularly abdicated that responsibility.

The party’s own recent history shows that huge internal fallouts of the kind that are taking place now never help any faction, nor the country. In a sense, this is a replay of the Tembo/Chakwamba duel, which was purely personal, myopic and narrow, and neither of the two gentlemen became State president.

Chakwamba managed to form the so-called Mgwirizano Coalition, but it fell narrowly short of beating Muluzi’s United Democratic Front (UDF), precisely because what he gained in the coalition was undercut by the loss of Tembo’s supporters. On the other hand, Tembo unsuccessfully sought to rely on his traditional base, which was not enough.

Similar results accompanied the Alliance for Democracy, which started as a broad-based church of high profile politicians, but as Chihana raised himself above everybody else and claimed the party as his family property, he forced many senior members of the party out, correspondingly reducing the influence of the party in the country. He never became State president, and his party is all but a relic.

The UDF also significantly lost its political influence when Muluzi, obsessed with power, sought to run for the third term, got rid of senior and loyal members of the party, the likes of Aleke Banda and Brown Mpinganjira. The party has since shrunk to a junior partner in tribal ruling pact with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

We do not know what kind of disagreements have caused the rift that we are seeing in the MCP. However, all indications in the media suggest that they pertain to the absence of real contestation of ideas and positions within the party, a problem that is not particularly unique to this party but is endemic to all Malawian parties. Intra-party democracy is pivotal to the growth of our political parties and ultimately to the consolidation of our democracy. Without cultivating internal party democracy, we will continue to struggle to build democratic institutions at the State level.

At the very least, one expects that an old party like the MCP will have established mechanisms of dealing with discipline and disputes among its members. Some of these mechanisms could be conciliatory and mediatory, others could be punitive. Whatever mechanism is used, procedural fairness has to be the underlying principle. The suspensions and dismissals the party has made thus far seem to be outright arbitrary and unfair, risking protracted legal proceedings in the courts, distracting the party from concentrating on preparing for next year’s elections.

Litigation is expensive and stressful. It will not only divert much of the resources and time of the party from its core business; it will also continue to foment an unhealthy air of tension and suspicion within the party as the suspended and dismissed members are restored to their positions by the courts pending final judgement.

The MCP stands uniquely positioned to present a real alternative to the current political status quo. This is a position that should neither be taken for granted or abused. Democracy is a sham when it does not provide a realistic alternative.

It is not enough for the MCP just to show up on the ballot box. It must demonstrate that it is capable of leading the country to a better place. The ruling party has to feel the possibility of losing the elections. Only then can it feel the need to improve its governance. Democracy works on the logic that competition serves as an incentive to better political performance by the competing parties.

If the MCP cannot prove that it is democratic, tolerant and open, that it has mature and responsible leaders who care about the national interest, it does not deserve to be an opposition party, much less a ruling party.

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kaitano
Guest
Mr D Chirwa, i thought you are some body, but you have proved that you are nobody, what is happening in M.C.P is a sign of changes, in fact not the party only but to the whole history democracy. If M.C.P can be the same as the time when Dr John Tembo was a leader, it means their is no new leadership. If you come again to write some thing about M.C.P sit down and think before wasting our time reading this trash of yours, Those who are fighting in this party it is because they dont want changes, look… Read more »
Keen Observer
Guest
Octopus do not try to fool people, Is the joining of MCP by Mr Sidik Mia the doings of DPP? Kabwila an intellectual like that one who stood firm against the deeds of DPP an agent? Nsowoya do you want to tell me that these guys can fall to DPP’s tricks? Don’t find a scapegoat here. All parties in Malawi are the same, dictatorial tendencies. The problem here is Mr Chakwera here cos he stubborn. Gustav Kaliwo is a lawyer do you want to tell me that he doesn’t know what he is doing? All the same just like DPP,… Read more »
Thitherward
Guest
Democracy in Malawi fails to work because it is based on the wishful but impractical belief that competition serves as an incentive to better political performance by the competing parties. It is the same kind of wishful but impractical thinking that fools some of us into believing that polygamy will work for us because competition between our co-wives will serve as an incentive to better wifely and motherly performance by our competing wives. The destructive competition between co-wives is bad enough, but is as nothing compared to the destructive behavior of the children of such marriages. Suppose, for example, the… Read more »
Ade
Guest

UMODZI, KUMWERA, KUKHULUPIRIKA, NDI KUSUNGA MWAMBO? What is wrong with these four corner stones? if you feel you can not abide by these then why not leave the party. The goodness with MCP no one can claim that ndichipani cha ababa, amayi kapena achimwene, ayi.ichi ndichiapani cha a Malawi. So no one should claim to be bigger than the party. MCP is on the move….

Octopus
Guest

Danwood Chirwa, let’s be honest. It’s a well known fact that the factionalism in MCP is created by a few fortune seekers who are being bankrolled by the DPP, and there’s no way this can be tolerated by MCP in the name of being an inclusive democratic institution just please a few critics. .For sure it’s nothing to do about the leadership style of one Dr. Lazarus Chakwera.

Nalingula
Guest

Its all what politics is about.Just look at what was happening in the Republican party during the primaries.Most of the old guards were against Trump.In the ANC Cyril Ramaphosa left politics when Jacob Zuma was elected to take over the ANC.He could not stand it.So what is happening in MCP is normal.Msowoya should just concentrate on campaigning other than seeking sympathy from the public.He knows that he has already lost the vice presidency to Mia.I will not comment on the other family party .Family parties ,Aford,DPP ,UDF have their own ways of managing succession.

Kwacha
Guest
What is happening in MCP happens in all parties in the world, even as we speak in DPP there are factions, the only difference is that those in government are afraid to lose much. In labour party in UK it happens, in Conservative it happens, Republicans, Democrats etc. Factionalism happens. The only difference here is that there are some people in MCP who have their own agenda. What do you do with a person who says ine ndiyamba chipani change? You keep them. a political party is an organisation, pakakhala pa company ngati munthu akusemphana ndi vision ya company amachoka… Read more »
Chirwa
Guest

The party should just go to the convention to elect new office bearers not wasting time with the so called suspensions and dismissals .Get organized time is not on our side Mr President if you don’t know you will remain an opposition party and Msowoya will not be a Speaker again .Wake up from the primitive ways of running party affairs.NEXT MONTH GO TO THE CONVENTION money is available we are ready to fund it.

mchisala
Guest

You can not call ‘involvement in activities meant to destabilize the party’ ‘petty infighting’ or attempts to root it out ‘mal-governance’ when they touch on the very existence of the party if you were an objective observer when not too long ago you rationalized the firing of various VPs and very senior party officials (JB, KK, JM, JM and late GC) for destabilizing their parties by forming parallel structures!

Saulos
Guest

I don’t know that when you bring these articles, you sit down and think before writing. Let me enlighten you with your less thinking capacity that the problem is not Chakwera but the selfish people who are funded by DPP to cause those troubles if you don’t know you dunderhead. The other reason is that those fools like yourself don’t want new and famous people in the party so why do you critisize Chakwera?

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