Malawi’s ruling PP using chiefs in front-line politics: Appoints Chief Chimutu secretary

Despite the fact that chiefs are supposed to be non-partisan, it has been revealed that Malawi’s governing Peoples Party (PP) is using them in frontline politics.

But political analysts have warned the ruling party against the idea describing it as counterproductive and a threat to the country’s democracy.

One such traditional leader the ruling party is reportedly using is Village Headman Chimutu from T/A Kaphuka in Dedza District.

The party appointed Dedza chief as a constituency secretary, a development which has been confirmed by both VH Chimutu and PP.

VH Chimutu said he accepted the position because he wanted more development in his area.

He said his political position does not compromise with his responsibility as a chief.

Chiefs who went to meet  President Banda at Sanjika Palace
Chiefs who went to meet President Banda at Sanjika Palace

“It does not compromise with my job as chief. Actually, other parties are free to hold their meetings in my area without any obstruction,” he said.

PP Deputy Governor for Dedza, Dickens Bright Phiri, defended his party’s decision saying they see no problem with the arrangement.

The PP official said the move would promote development in the area.

“We decided to give him the political position and involve other chiefs because we want to develop this district.

“We realized that traditional leaders are people we can work with as a party to develop the district and we believe their political positions will not compromise with their other job,” he said.

However, political analysts have said the development would greatly affect next year’s tripartite elections.

They said as the country counts down to the elections, chiefs need to be sensitized on the importance of being non-partisan to avoid creating conflicts.

Henry Chingaipe, one of the analysts, condemned the chiefs for practicing party politics describing it as counterproductive.

“It is wrong for a traditional leader to be ostensibly holding a position in any political party structure because they are expected to be people of high integrity and non-partisan in their approach to governing their subjects and spearheading development initiatives,” he explained.

He said chiefs were not supposed to align themselves to any political party because their duty requires them to work for and through people who have different political affiliations.

Chingaipe further observed the development was a wake up call to have the country’s laws governing chiefs be revised so that they are not appointed by the president.

“The law should take its course on chiefs who are holding party positions…the principal is that all traditional leaders should be non-partisan.

“I would want to assume that this kind of situation will only be tolerated and people will let it go if the chief is holding a position in a party that is in government but if it happened that the chief is holding a position in an opposition party, we all know what would happen to that chief,” he concluded.

An official from Dedza National Initiative for Civic Education (NICE) Patrick Siwinda argued the involvement of chiefs in party politics would spare some of the chiefs’ subjects from participating in political activities of opposition parties.

“If the chief is already showing party line it means it will be difficult for other candidates to approach such kind of chiefs. In so doing, villagers are being denied opportunity to have a variety of opinions regarding the manifestos of different parties and candidates,” observed Siwinda, whose office made public the issue.
United Democratic Front (UDF) spokesperson Ken Ndanga said the party has “ always been suspicious of the way the President has been handling matters of chiefs”

He said UDF is aware of strategies the PP has put in place to make sure that chiefs will be by President Banda’s side in 2014 elections.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), Nicholas Dausi, accused the President of doing the same things she was blaming the former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika for, alleging that Banda “wants to make chiefs PP campaign directors to drum up support for her party.”

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