Malawi on the road to 2014: In a moment, Henry Chimunthu Banda…

This write up looks beyond the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) convention scheduled for next month, whose outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Before moving on, allow me to register my congratulations to the Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Henry Chimunthu Banda  for his admirable courage – under the circumstances in DPP – to up the ante and bid for the vacantposition of the party’s 2014 flag-bearer.

“We won in the central region with a landslide and we produced many Members of Parliament. I was given the task of managing the central region and the work of my hands speak for me if one looks at how the party performed. So delegates know very well what kind of a person they would be voting for,” said Chimunthu Banda.

“I am also the only of the remaining four trustees of the party. So delegates will not be voting for a new person in the party. If DPP was a house I would say I am one of the builders.”

Henry Chimunthu Banda
Henry Chimunthu Banda

By going public with his intention and determination to compete against the DPP Crown Prince, he has achieved at least three things.

First, he has chalked his name into the annals of history – just below that of Moses Dossi – joining the very shortlist of those who dared to challenge an obvious front-runner in Malawi.

Secondly, he has won over some doubting Thomases, who were sceptical as to whether he has guts. Although the emphasis is on “some”; it is possible that even more “moderates” who deserted the DPP when it adamantly decided on a head-on collision course with an iceberg, are now rethinking their stance.

The point is, whether DPP stalwarts like it or not, a DPP under Chimunthu, would be different, hence prompting those who left the party to rethink, and those who were happy with the Titanic-style of sailing, to become worried.

But his more serious achievement is that he has ruffled feathers of those who have already started believing that bonya buying Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika is the biblical Aaron.

To evidence this, as we speak, Chimunthu is being called all sorts of unsavoury names on Malawi social media. Why?

It is a fact that political parties in Malawi (and generally in Africa) believe that democracy is a necessary evil, whose sole convenience and necessity is working as a vehicle for getting into government constitutionally – when all else has failed or is too risky.

Democracy, as far as many of our parties are concerned, is not supposed to feature in the entities masquerading as political parties in Malawi. But let us shelve this for another day, and focus on Chimunthu’s prospects and the Chimunthu factor.

While nothing came out of “pioneering” Moses Dossi’s efforts to compete with late Bingu wa Mutharika in a stage-managed United Democratic Front (UDF) convention, the Chimunthu bid is worth pondering about.

Atupele Muluzi: Can he lure Chimunthu back home?
Atupele Muluzi: Can he lure Chimunthu back home?

We will look at both odds before eliminating the most unlikely. First, theoretically all party animals are equal before a convention. Chimunthu, it could be argued, has a chance of winning and leading the DPP in 2014.

Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the Crown Prince, this is an occurrence that happens only in Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika’s nightmares. Therefore, let us scrap it altogether and confine it to Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika’s deliriums.

This leaves us with the second scenario – Chimunthu’s loss at the DPP indaba – as the more likely outcome. Why?

Two things: regionalism and tribalism still call the shots, and Chimunthu comes from a marginal tribe. Worse, the southern delegates alone will be enough to see the younger of the Mutharika brothers carry the day at the indaba.

And knowing this, Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika is, as we speak, on whistle-stop tours, visiting every nook and cranny of the Southern Region.

However, as I said in “Wise One’s Counsel: Malawi on the road to 2014 ”, parties with serious bids on the road to 2014 should strategize nationally.

This being the case, Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika will have no choice but to entice Chimunthu with a running mate position. If Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika fails to do this, Joyce Banda or even Atupele Muluzi will snap up Chimunthu, to DPP’s chagrin – in as far as the central region voters are concerned.

While the DPP horde believes that President Joyce Banda has been meeting the Speaker to persuade him to sabotage the DPP or to join the Peoples’ Party (PP); Atupele Muluzi was the other day talking about “free secondary school education”.

Look at it this way: who better than a former secondary school head teacher to lead the initiative from the office of the vice president?

Not too farfetched an idea, I would say. Again, Atupele’s father has more than once pulled rabbits out of hats. Returning home to UDF is an option for Chimunthu should he shun PP’s doors which are supposedly wide-open for him.

And let’s face it: Chimunthu is not a bad chap at all. He is, in fact, hardworking; a very reasonable fellow – diplomatic or tough as nails when necessary; knows Malawi and civil service inside out, and mostly loyal – when there are no imminent indabas.

Again he is not “old”; something reportedly not lost on some members of the fairer sex. If he has skeletons at all, they are very well hidden and perfectly glossed over by honour and a gentle manner.

Who would not have him on their team heading towards a major and unpredictable election?

Knowing the risk of losing the man virtually keeping the DPP flag flying in the central region, it will make political sense for Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika to keep Chimunthu in DPP by picking him for a running mate.

And they will live happily ever after! Wrong.

This is when the trouble will begin. Allow me to digress to revisit our history of this breed of “endangered species” answering to title of Malawi’s vice presidents.

Delving back into our history shows that:

  • Dr. Kamuzu Banda never wanted a deputy – anyone intimating being the second-in-command suffered the consequences – the story of late Aleke Kadonaphani Banda.
  • Bakili Muluzi fell out with his deputy – Justin Malewezi PhD over succession.
  • There was no love lost between late Bingu wa Mutharika and his imposed deputy, Dr. Cassim Chilumpha.
  • Late Bingu went one further, he came to dislike his own handpicked deputy: the current president Mrs Joyce Banda.

Will things play differently in the event that Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika and Henry Chimunthu Banda run together and DPP wins the election?

I doubt it.

Peter Mutharika: Is he gutsy enough to deal with the Chimunthu Factor?
Peter Mutharika: Is he gutsy enough to deal with the Chimunthu Factor?

It will not take long before Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika nurtures an idea as to who is the best suited to succeed him.

All of a sudden Chimunthu Banda will be relegated to the shadows, and accused of this and that. Of course, he will not take that sitting and lo! Malawi will again, be sailing on familiar waters, with one problem.

They say when history repeats itself the price goes up. What will be the price? This is the question haunting Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika as he ponders how to deal with the Chimunthu factor.

It just goes to show that all parties – DPP, PP, UDF and even MCP should be thinking beyond 2014.

With respect to Hon Henry Chimunthu Banda, just as one man’s food is another man’s poison, there is no telling how UDF, PP or MCP would capitalize on his availability should the DPP fail to tame him.

Ever heard of a loose cannon? I can see one in a dejected Henry Chimunthu Banda. Ladies and gentlemen, brace yourself, it is getting hotter and hotter on the road to 2014!

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