The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) just held by-elections for three ward councilors and three parliamentary seats on October 17, 2017 in Lilongwe, Dedza, Blantyre and Nsanje. The elections were the most highly contested in recent times and also the most highly publicized where political parties, particularly the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) threw in everything.
Most commentators touted these elections as a critical litmus test and also a precursor to what they think would happen in 2019 when this country will once again go to the polls to elect its president, parliamentarians and ward councilors.
The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) of Lazarus Chakwera emerged victorious by winning all but one seat – the mayani ward in Dedza – which went to the ruling party. As expected, MCP retained the Lilongwe Msozi South constituency and also won the Lilongwe City South West constituency and Mtsiliza ward. The party also won the Ndirande’s Makata ward and Nsanje Lalanje constituency, an enclave long considered DPP’s ‘bedroom’.
The quickest and simplest verdict is that MCP won these elections hands down, and there is no doubt about that. There are many reasons that can explain this state of affairs, but it is not the intention of this piece to boil the ocean by talking about them all. This is only a critical look at what may have happened or what is happening to the mighty DPP to begin to take such a nasty turn.
Just slightly over three years ago, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was a mighty political outfit which blasted on the political fray like an aircraft carrier sailing in turbulent waters with ease towards enemy lines and ready for battle. People are now beginning to wonder what happened to the political machine which leaped effortlessly from the ruins of political opposition to snatch power from the hapless Joyce Banda of the People’s Party (PP) in 2014.
The DPP is an organization which operates based on structure. It has Vice Presidents in all the regions of this country: the Northern Region; Central Region; Southern Region; and the Eastern Region. It also has a Chief Executive, the Secretary General (SG) who is supposed to be a key member of the apex of decision making, and one who must offer strategic direction for the party during times like the recently held by-elections.
In that vein, the DPP’s Secretary General ought to have coordinated with the Director of Elections to craft and oversee the implementation of a winning formula for the just ended by-elections. However, as much as these elections were deemed pivotal and a litmus test for the ruling DPP ahead of 2019, there was absolutely no coordination between Director of Elections, Kondwani Nankhumwa and Secretary General, Grezella wa Jeffrey.
Since her appointment to the position of Secretary General, Wa Jeffrey has always been a staccato operator who acts more like a Regional Governor with a furiously dirty mouth. So far she has been an embarrassment to the DPP, and how the party still keeps her in that position is a mystery.
In her quest to appear like she is ‘working’, the DPP’s SG has made (and still makes) so many mistakes that she often fails to atone for. Despite the fact that her position is more conceptual and strategic, the SG appears more like a clueless and isolated field officer who thinks insulting the ‘enemy’ is the only way to go. It is in fact difficult to differentiate who is Nchacha and who is Secretary General.
Nankhumwa on the other hand has not displayed the levels of energy that he showed during the 2014 elections. This time, the Mulanje Central parliamentarian appeared more focused on cultivating his own strong man position, which made him completely insipid when it came to performing the role of Director of Elections. He has totally lost focus and is simply a figurehead Director of Elections.
Since he was appointed as Leader of House in Parliament, Nankhumwa has been at the centre of political in-fighting and shadow boxing within the ruling DPP ( he is said to have orchestrated the sacking of Patricia Kaliati and George Chaponda as well as the sidelining of Vice President, Saulos Chilima from taking part in the by elections).
Because of his proximity to President Peter Mutharika, Nankhumwa is also beginning to see himself like the ‘big man’ who is above board and not worth of ‘small’ positions such as Director of Elections. This is what is fuelling rumors that he is positioning himself for the DPP’s presidency come 2024.
If DPP is serious about winning the 2019 general elections, now is the time to stop the hemorrhage. As Director of Elections, Nakhumwa must be the first one to take the blame for this loss because it squarely falls on his feet. He and Wa Jeffrey must take the lead to honorably resign from their positions for dragging the DPP through such shameful failure at the by-elections. There should be no sacred cows.
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