UDF convention ‘all-systems go’:Jumbe to boycott

Interim leader of the opposition United Democratic Front (UDF) Friday Anderson Jumbe has described plans by the party’s secretariat to hold elective conference as a political ploy aimed at catapulting his rival Austin Atupele Muluzi to the helm of the party.

The party’s secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala announced last Friday that his party would hold its much touted national convention on October 31st and that all positions of the party would be up for grabs.

Makwangwala further told the media that a special committee led by former foreign affairs minister Lillian Patel has been tasked to organize the convention including sourcing funds.

Patel: Convention October 31

But Jumbe told state run MBC radio’s Malawi Panorama morning program on Monday that he was shocked with Makwangwala’s announcements arguing that they are coming at a time when the two rival factions are still negotiating a possibility of repairing their differences.

Jumbe, whose camp has over the past few months been losing key allies to ruling Peoples Party (PP), therefore described the whole process as a total sham.

“Yes, I’m shocked with Makwangwala’s decision to go ahead with the convention yet efforts to unite the party are still underway. Just for argument sake, who will be the delegates to the convention since we have two parallel structures?”

Bakili Muluzi factor

“I have been saying all along that our former chairman Bakili Muluzi is the one behind all the scheme and I’m very much positive that he has sponsored it because he wants his son Atupele to be legitimized as leader of the party,” complained Jumbe.

He therefore called on the Makwangwala camp to go back to the negotiating table if the party’s chances of remaining a relevant political grouping are to be realized.

“I, for one, haven’t given up yet hence am calling on my friends from the other camp to slow down and listen to voice of reason otherwise the path they have taken is totally not good for the party, let’s try to give dialogue a chance because as an interim leader all am longing for is unity,” Jumbe said.

On her part, Patel in her capacity as chairperson of the convention’s main organizing committee, denied accusations that the former president is pulling strings from his BCA residence.

She, however, revealed that the party is at liberty to source funding from Muluzi as he is ‘life member of UDF.’

“First of all it will not be wise to drag Muluzi into the issue, let’s respect him as our founder and also as the former president. Frankly, he is not calling the shots whatsoever. But there is no law stopping us from going to him to seek for financial help if the need arise.

“Anyway, preparations for the convention are going on well as planned and this week we will put in the regular papers an advert appealing to the general public to help us with funds. We’re looking for something not less than K35 million,” said Patel who served as lawmaker in Mangochi for three terms.

However, the idea of sourcing funds through the media has left Jumbe puzzled, “that is why I’m saying Muluzi has already given them the money, if they were serious of this whole convention thing then I wonder how come went ahead to announce the date without sourcing funds first? Anyway, be it as it may, I’m not participating in such a ploy.”

But Jumbe, who is backed by Ziliro Chibambo and Sam Mpasu in his faction, insisted he will not be party to the convention.

“I would not agree to the fact to go to the convention before the structures are harmonised,” he said in another programme on Capital FM Daybreak Malawi

“What are we rushing for anyway? Who is rushing for this particular agenda?”

Paper censures Jumbe

Weekend Nation newspaper on Saturday criticised Jumbe’s remarks that his camp intends to boycott the forthcoming convention through its editorial comment.

The paper pointed  out that Jumbe’s action are an indication that some leaders do not want things to change in the party.

“In fact, Jumbe’s threats that he will fight tooth and nail to ensure the meeting does not take place show that he, and all who share his views, do not want sanity and unity to prevail in the part,” the editorial said.

“We are saying this because if Jumbe and other leaders are not happy with how certain things are being done, the best place to raise them and seek remedy is at the party’s convention,” the editorial said.

The paper urged UDF leaders to shelve their differences “for now and meet at the convention to repair things in the part.”

Pull-out for government

Menawhile, UDF says it still expects all its MPs, including two members of Malawi President Joyce Banda’s cabinet, back to opposition benches in Parliament

Makwangwala said theresolution was made by the national executive committee [NEC] meeting which also agreed to hold convention. Jumbe and his team boycotted the NEC meeting.

According to Makwangwala the MPs have assured the party that will return to the opposition benches, but said Mangochi North MP Ibrahim Matola, who is Deputy Minister of Environment and Climate Change Management had already joined the ruling PP ranks.

UDF ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004 under Muluzi and from 2004 to early 2005  with Bingu wa Mutharika, who was handpicked by Muluzi and ditched the party to form the DPP.—(Additional reporting by Thom Chiumia, Nyasa Times)

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