Phoya, Mussa, Chilumpha: Genuine converts or opportunists?

When President Bingu wa Mutharika collapsed to his death and to the death of his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, I told my friend Idriss Ali Nassah: ‘With the DPP government swept away by an act of God, there will be no more weekly drama to write about.’  It turns out I was wrong.

What would you call a situation in which an individual changes political parties every six months? What about when a former Vice President who has been pitching for the presidency suddenly dumps the party he stuck to through thick and thin to join a newly-found party that has no MPs in Parliament? What is a situation in which a guy who founded his own party dumps it to join a green outfit which he has been ignoring the entire one year of the outfit’s existence? If this is not drama then what is?

Henry Phoya MP was United Democratic Front (UDF) before he became DPP, before he became Malawi Congress Party (MCP) before discovering that as a matter of fact, the most wonderful party one ought to belong to is the People’s Party (PP). He has no shortage of reasons for moving about like the famed Nalikoma bird, which has a reputation for taking whichever direction the wind blows.

New ministers: Uladi Mussa, Henry Phoya, Ralph Kasambara and Cassim Chilumpha. Photo by Living Kalimanjira/Nyasa Times

There he was on that memorable day, ensconced in a seat at Area 10 in Lilongwe, at the house of MCP President John Tembo. Phoya opined: ‘For some time now Malawi’s political arena has been full of political experiments. These political experiments, usually in the form of new political parties, and untried, untested and inexperienced politicians, have not been to the well-being of mother Malawi.’

Phoya went on: ‘From the problems the country has been facing all along I have always been thinking of the MCP. Time has come now for the young generation to take a closer look at the MCP. MCP is a tried and tested party.’ Tried. Tested. Now dumped. By the way, Honourable MP, is PP tried and tested?

To make assurance double sure, Phoya flashed the card of family history to justify his turncoat politics: ‘My father, the late Duncan Phoya, was a senior member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the MCP right up to the time of his passing in 1980. He worked closely with both the Father and Founder of the Malawi nation, the late Ngwazi, and also with the current President of the MCP, the Right Honourable J.Z.U. Tembo, and MP. I am, therefore, in a way, simply returning back home.’ He he he he, here is a guy running away from home!

Then there is ex-VP-turned-MP Cassim Chilumpha and Uladi Mussa, strange bedfellows. Uladi Mussa, MP, once told me how the small matter of deciding who should be Bingu wa Mutharika’s running mate in 2004 went. Since there was no democracy in the UDF (come to think of it, we’ve never had real democracy), the wisest man in the party, then President Bakili Muluzi, had settled on Uladi Mussa. However, Cassim Chilumpha galvanized support among Muslim leaders and accosted Muluzi to pressurize him. Muluzi caved in, and voila! Cassim Chilumpha was made Vice President of this country.

Now the two are, once again, in the same party, each with his own ego to be massaged.

Are these genuine PP members? I beg to differ. As Her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda said recently, isn’t this the party some used to ridicule as ‘a briefcase outfit’ not so long ago?

You’d have to be a veritable idiot to believe that this conversion is on principle. There is a stampede amongst politicians to position themselves for positions. Small wonder all the three made it into the cabinet. Since President Banda could not appoint everyone – or else she’d have ended up having a cabinet that might fill the Kamuzu Stadium to the brim – one would expect those left out to feel really bad, given that opportunists have landed ministerial posts.

No matter. The deck of cards has been reshuffled. In two years, PP might be the party to beat if JB ends up doing a heckuva job rescuing the sinking ship that is our nation. So those left out will, at any rate, return to the electorate to convince poor Malawians in the village that UDF is bad, DPP is bad, Peter Mutharika is bad, John Tembo is bad, and that the best party to vote for is PP. Turning and turning in the widening gyre once more.

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