On Tuesday, December 15, 2020, the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) held three parliamentary by-elections: one in Phalombe North Constituency in Phalombe district, another one in Mangochi West Constituency in Mangochi district and another one in Mangochi North East Constituency in the same district.
In Mangochi West Constituency an independent candidate Reuben Kanyama won with 5,648 seconded by another independent candidate, Simeon Harrison who got 5,636 votes. In Phalombe it is also another independent, Mabvuto Bokosi, who has won with 8,256 votes followed by Justin Samuel Mokowa of UTM with 3,804.
Idi Kalosi of the United Democratic Front (UDF) won Mangochi North East Constituency with 9,898 followed by an independent candidate, Martin Chikati Nyengo who got 9,093 votes.
These by-elections came about as a result of court determinations after losing candidates complained of massive irregularities in the aftermath of the May 2019 tripartite elections. The courts ruled that fresh elections must be held in the constituencies under question, which is why we are here.
The DPP identified and sponsored Kanyama in Mangochi West Constituency as its candidate in the by-elections there whilst its parliamentary candidate in the 2019 elections in the same constituency, Geoffrey Meleka Mark Chiwondo defected to UTM and was subsequently nominated to represent the party in these by-elections.
Something similar also happened for the DPP in Phalombe North Constituency where the party’s candidate before High Court nullified the 2019 results, Anna Kachikho announced her retirement and said she would not be participating in the by-elections. DPP had to identify a new candidate to represent its interests in the by-elections.
Primary elections were held there and Bokosi emerged winner. Unfortunately MEC interpreted the court ruling as meaning that all candidates must revert to their original status, which meant that the candidates that DPP identified in Mangochi West and Phalombe North constituencies must revert and stand as independents in the by-elections in order to comply with the court ruling. It was akin to resetting the clock back to factory settings.
Although this was the case, the returning to ‘factory settings’ was only done on paper [due to the court ruling] but the reality was that Kanyama represented DPP interests in Mangochi West constituency whilst Bokosi represented DPP interests in Phalombe North Constituency. What this means is that DPP candidates have won in Mangochi West and Phalombe North constituencies, and when we complete this with the fact that Idi Kalosi of UDF has retained his Mangochi North East seat, it means the results have not substantially changed from the May 2019 outcomes.
It also means that DPP has successfully defended its territory in Mangochi and Phalombe despite changing its representatives. In fact, going by the number of votes the candidates have amassed this time, the party’s popularity could be surging.
In a season where so many so called political pundits were quick to write the party’s epitaph; that it has no leadership; that it is dead and buried, and that its future is murky, the current turn of events are telling a different story and could be a snapshot of the heartbeat of the nation in the current political context.
This scenario means DPP is not a forgone conclusion and a yesterday story like what some quarters made people to believe. It means DPP is still a force to be reckoned with and a party to watch in 2025.
What so many people have failed to notice is that the current Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, who is also DPP Vice President for the South, Kondwani Nankhumwa, has now epitomized the party’s leadership left right and centre, He has been the constant figurehead and perhaps the only one who has prevented the party from committing suicide following its electoral loss on June 23.
Apart from providing exceptional leadership in Parliament as Leader of the Opposition by holding the Tonse Alliance government accountable on its key promises like the Affordable Input Program (AIP); one million jobs; three meals a day; free electricity and water connections and others, Nankhumwa has displayed great amount of zeal and energy to steer the DPP ship to safer waters.
It is not a secret that he is the only Vice President among the party four vice presidents from all political regions of the party who is investing efforts to ensure that the party remains relevant to the country’s body politic by commenting and providing guidance to government on key national issues such as Covid-19; the economy, among others.
Nankhumwa has often steered away from petty internal shadowboxing and consistently instilled hope among followers of the party across the nation.
Despite facing scary moments like when the party attempted to fire him as Leader of the Opposition in favour of Francis Kasaila, and even attempted to remove him as Vice President for the South in favour of Joseph Mwanamveka, Nankhumwa has remained relentless and steadfast to keep the party afloat.
He has crisscrossed the country meeting party leaders and the grassroots to strengthen the party and to ensure that its supporters rally around its vision. Everywhere he goes, he tells supporters to respect and support Professor Peter Mutharika as President of the party and also as former President of this country. He is also the only Vice President who has campaigned vigorously for the candidates that have just won the Tuesday’s by-elections, including providing his personal resources so that they emerge victorious.
Two weeks ago, he was quoted in Phalombe saying he would do everything in his power to ensure that Bokosi wins the Phalombe North parliamentary by-elections. The DPP has won the two by-elections because of the leadership that Nankhumwa has been able to provide.
The cool and measured demeanour with which he has gone about communicating APM and DPP’s vision to the followers of the party is perhaps one of the leadership traits that have made him the darling of most DPP supporters and preferred among the crop that has so far shown interest to lead the party when APM finally departs the stage.
In as much as there are still challenges and a lot of outstanding issues to surmount in order to bring back the DPP to its former glory, Nankhumwa is consistently proving that DPP may not be orphaned when APM finally retires from the party’s presidency.
- Kelvin Masambo is a Lilongwe-based social and political commentator. His views are not the views of Nyasa Times