Tembo refuses to name departure date, loses cool on Straight Talk interview

Veteran politician, Malawi Congress Party (MCP) president John Tembo, 77, confirmed that people in his party are preparing to succeed him but refused to name a date for his departure.

He acknowledged that there are “excellent young men” in MCP who would successfully lead the party in 2014 elections but kept his exit date close to his chest.

Tembo, speaking on Capital Radio’s Straight Talk programme monitored by Nyasa Times on Tuesday evening, said: “I have not myself thought about retiring from politics. Politics is a process, it starts and it goes on. And you don’t start at the end; you start at the beginning and see how far you have gone.”

In a fast-paced interview, journalist Brian Banda cited the retirement of former president Bakili Muluzi, 66, from active politics and asked Tembo if he will follow suit.

John Tembo

“I listened to Dr Muluzi’s statement and the press conference he gave. He cited ill health as one of the reasons he was retiring from politics and now everybody knows he is not very well. Yes I speak to him, we got on very well and I feel sorry that he is not very well.”

He was asked that there are divisions in MCP due to a formation of task force agitating for leadership change and whether he had any regrets leading the party.

“I have no regret whatsoever, if anything, I have kept MCP together for more years that should demand appreciation by people who have no bias.

“MCP would have died a long time ago if it was not my contribution to its management.”

He said his contribution has been in “administering and leading the party”.

“That is the contribution I am very proud of,” Tembo said.

But pressed to comment on the pressure for him to step down he said: “I am the leader of MCP and you don’t know when I am going.”

“You should watch how MCP develops. We have a very clear path of management for the party and a proper leader will emerge in the Malawi Congress Party who follows the constitution and tradition of the MCP.”

Asked that the pressure is mounting for him to resign, the veteran politician said: “Capital Radio should find out the names of those leaders and tell me on a straight question to me.”

Put to him that the leadership change has been agitated by late Ishmael Chafukira and now the Leader of Opposition, Abele Kayembe faction, Tembo said: “In a democracy anybody can aspire but it must be done properly according to the constitution and tradition of that party.”

On the election of leader of opposition, the position which he was toppled on technicality, Tembo said late Chafukira championed the move onorders from DPP government.

“The procedure they followed was entirely wrong because we have standing orders which govern the elections of the leader of opposition. This was not followed. They used and abused the majority of government side to take part in elections of leader of opposition. I have never heard it anywhere where the government itself get involved in the election of leadership of the opposition.”

Banda, asked Tembo on fevered talks that he is a “dictator” and that people “craw” to speak to him, the MCP president lost his cool.

“Okay craw now so that you can address me. If you say people craw, craw now, let’s see how you craw.

“People can judge me whether I am a dictator or not a dictator. I don’t think MCP could have been together today if I were a dictator.”

Asked if he recognized Kayembe as Leader of Opposition, he said: “As a member of parliament, I am against the process which the DPP government followed by electing one member of MCP as their choice of leader of opposition. It’s a shameful thing.”

Banda asked Tembo again to answer clearly if he recognized his former protégé Kayembe now turned critic as a Leader of Opposition.

He said: “I have answered your stupid question.”

What do you mean, the journalist asked Tembo.

“Because you know very well that the process was not correct,” answered MCP president.

“We have a leader of opposition selected and elected by government.”

“The opposition in parliament is charged with responsibility of representing those of no voice in their constituencies and one of these is to take government to task to follow proper methods of government, democratic, rule of law and to spread development in the country, evenly without favouring any part of the country and that’s the duty of the opposition. If you call that taking government to task, fine but that was my duty.”

Questioned if he was bitter that he has not achieved his ambition to become President, Tembo said: “I am not answering that question because I have never told you I want to be president.”

Put to him that he has stood in presidential elections, he said. “To stand for elections in a democracy is not to be president of the country. Representing people who want you to lead them.”

Tembo was asked why he is continuing with his challenge to the May 2009 election results.

He responded: “Mr. Banda if you are DPP continue to be DPP. You have every right, but don’t come and insult me with questions which are not proper.

“It’s not the first government we have had in Malawi. We have had many governments and I have never questioned their legitimacy when they follow proper procedures.”

He added: “Look, you are living and I am living, we are talking about this country let’s see and wait and see how we progress. Clearly you are DPP and I am not afraid of saying so on a public radio from the way you are putting your questions to me. But you will never never cow me, I am John Tembo.”

Tembo further pointed out: “I am not wasting my times or resources to challenges something for which I have evidence. All I have asked is let’s open the presidential boxes what’s wrongs with that. Let’s open the boxes and count them again.

“What I want to achieve is to let people of Malawi to know exactly what happened.”

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