Of Malawi Speaker Chimunthu Banda and unrepentant DPP

In a recent article “Why Chimunthu is a misfit,” Gracian Tukula exposes the prevailing perception of the once mighty Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) across sober minded patriotic citizens of the land. According to Tukula, his perception of DPP, which I believe is the perception of many including me, is that of a “party full of arrogance, impudence, nepotism, defiance, intimidation and lawlessness.”

It doesn’t require one to be a student of political science or history to note how the above descriptions ably fits in the party’s political philosophy as partly substantiated in the events that have recently characterized the party- events which have not only succeeded in further tarnishing its already battered image but also arousing skepticism in many on whether to entrust its leadership with the important public office of the Presidency come 2014.

Driven by their perennial arrogance, lawlessness, nepotism, impudence and defiance, the DPP top brass have recently made headlines for preaching divisions along regional lines in the face of the impending party’s convention.

Chimunthu Banda: Mutharika's challenger
Chimunthu Banda: Mutharika’s challenger

DPP’s regional governors for the South and Eastern regions Noel Masangwi and Charles Jika are reported to have openly declared their regions’ undivided allegiance to Peter Mutharika in the forthcoming party’s national convention, a stand that has been widely viewed as having the potential to divide the party along regional lines.

It must however be clearly stated from the onset that the above development is not surprising to some of us. Following Chimunthu’s declaration to challenge the DPP’s interim leader, DPP was for no doubt going to mount a formidable resistance against his candidature.

This was always going to be the case because it is a “taboo” in DPP’s political philosophy to challenge the “anointed one” of the party especially when you are viewed to have the guts to outsmart him. We have a plethora of living examples today who in a bid to counter the candidature of the “anointed one” endured the odium of the party, and the former DPP’s Secretary General was never going to be exceptional. Ask abiti and some of her cohorts.

The point I am driving at here is that the governors’ recent remarks are not new but instead act as an eye opener to the already existing well-calculated strategy that the party adopted few years ago to counter any formidable resistance to the “anointed one”.

In other words, there is more to the governor’s remarks than what can meet the eye. The fact that one Noel Masangwi is involved in the whole set-up adds more substance to this claim. Memories are afresh of how the DPP embarked on a campaign trail for Peter Mutharika few months after its 2009 landslide victory.

Interestingly, the real target throughout this “premature” 2014 Presidential campaign was the party’s then-vice President Joyce Banda who was reported to having rejected the endorsement of the “anointed one” in favour of her own Presidential ambitions.

DPP was determined to use its entire armory at its disposal to vent its anger on the vice president. Of particular interest to many during that period is how the party abused the public-run Malawi Broadcasting Corporation in order to achieve its selfish agenda. MBC boss openly rendered his blessings on Peter’s candidature at the expense of other prospective aspirants like Joyce Banda whom he described as less popular as compared to the former.

Even in instances where such a bid was perceived unpopular, the DPP using MBC unrelentingly soldiered on- employing its perennial tactic of mobilizing chiefs who were said to ‘speak on behalf of their subjects’, to support Peter Mutharika.

Earlier on [between June and July 2010], it had been reported that DPP’s meeting of governors and MPs in the Southern Region had endorsed Peter Mutharika as the party’s torchbearer come 2014. It was also reported that Noel Masangwi [who ironically is in the limelight today over similar comments] bluntly said that Malawi was not ready for a female President hence his preference of the then-President’s brother.

Masangwi’s comments, as expected, were greeted with an aura of widespread criticisms particularly from Women rights activists. However, the DPP through its then-mouthpiece Hetherwick Ntaba condemned Masangwi’s utterances and also dismissed all the prevailing allegations leveled against the party that it had endorsed Peter’s candidature. Masangwi, would however, be soon vindicated for his remarks. A few weeks and then months post Masangwi’ comments and Ntaba’s refutations the DPP endorsed Peter’s candidature using different forums including rallies and MBC.

It was therefore clearly concluded then that Masangwi’s remarks, though earlier condemned by the party, were a true reflection of the already existing political strategy the party had adopted to help Peter Mutharika “inherit” his brother’s throne. The Southern Region DPP’s governor was for no doubt being used here by the Party to communicate its mind in order to gauge and influence public or party opinion. Masangwi was merely acting as a voice shouting in the desert preparing the way of the “anointed one”.

However, there was a “big hand” behind Masangwi’ stance, and it does not require one to be a genius to see the works of that same “big hand” on the recent ‘Chimunthu saga’. Just as it was in 2010 the party would definitely disassociate itself from this “plot”, but it would be naïve for some of us to believe that the “big hand” is not involved in this whole well-calculated tactic to frustrate Chimunthu’s interest to vy for the Party’s presidency in the forthcoming convention.

When all is said and done, my small piece of advice to the DPP current leadership [a similar advice to the one I earlier I gave the party at the onset of Peter Mutharika’s “premature” 2014 campaign in my article “Tread Carefully on Peter” which was published in The Nation of August 9 2010] is that if this issue is not handled properly, it has the potential to shake the foundations of the party and the result would be a division in terms of allegiance, after the convention, among top officials and ordinary members of the party with some registering their support to Peter Mutharika while others to Chimunthu Banda.

With the elections around the corner, this may negatively affect the party’s prospects to reclaim its lost glory through a ballot. It’s high time, DPP embraced democracy in its political philosophy, and the forthcoming national convention offers that opportunity.

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