UDF: Spent forces versus untapped energy

The existence of wrangles within political parties is as old as political parties themselves. This usually emanates from competing interests, ambitions, visions, ideals and sometimes simply out of idiocy and egos of the people involved. This is normal and natural. However, prolonged infighting has enormous potential to undermine the standing of the party in the society.

This reminds me of the problems that have plagued the UDF party. My understanding is that there are two main factions within the party wrestling for control. At the very heart of their squabbles is the idea of change: New blood versus old guard, new ideas versus the status quo, spent forces versus new energy. It is normal for a major political party to seek to reorganize and re-brand after an ignominious and dismal performance in elections.

UDF supporters backing Atupele Muluzi

Reorganization and re-branding chiefly involve having new people in leadership positions with new set of ideas and ideals. It is not an overstatement that UDF is starved of reorganization and rebranding. Its national executive has been monopolized and dominated by individuals who have been there for quite a long period of time. Most of them were appointed and lack any moral claim to their positions.

UDF urgently needs to start remarketing itself but it will not successfully do so with the same obsolete, inept salesmen. The idea that I am trying to expound is vividly encapsulated by what the labour party of Great Britain achieved in 1997. After several unsuccessful attempts to dislodge the conservatives from power, the labour party embarked on a rebranding process beginning in 1994. It called itself the new labour party. Younger and energetic individuals like Peter Mandelson, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown assumed leadership positions. The center-left party shifted to the middle. Their mantle of mainly socialist ideals was replaced with a blend of pragmatic free market and interventionist ideals. Their message found traction and easily won elections in 1997. They were able to do this because the old guard stepped aside to let new leadership take over.

The UDF party will have an uphill struggle to reconnect with the people if it continues with the current composition of its national executive. My intention is not to demonize anyone but if the UDF has to extricate itself from its current quagmire, somebody needs to tell truth. Most of the current individuals in the national executive are associated with the old UDF. Individuals like Sam Mpasu, Friday Jumbe, Humphrey Mvula, Cassim Chilumpha just to mention a few.

Frankly speaking, these people are liabilities for the party. The public perception of these individuals is largely negative. During the UDF reign, most of these individuals held important positions in government and parastatals. Their job performance was a mixed bag of results but mostly skewed towards unsatisfactory. In short, the history behind these individuals is littered with troubling indiscretions, both work- related and personal. To let these individuals continue being at the pinnacle of the party hierarchy is a mockery of the desires of the majority of ordinary party members who want nothing short of change.

Since Dr Bakili Muluzi retired, the national executive under the leadership of Friday Jumbe, Sam Mpasu, has been in hibernation. There have been no serious efforts to resuscitate the party. It appears to me that these people have no ideas on how to turn around the party. The honourable thing for them to do is to abdicate their positions and let those with ideas take over.

It is vexing that these spent forces, motivated by selfish ambitions and delusions of grandeur, have foolishly opted to stand in the way of the change movement that is gaining ground within the party. They use the media to disparage and portray those behind the change agenda as power-hungry and naïve. I am afraid history is going to judge them harshly. They will be sucked into bottomless pit of political oblivion. There is no doubt in me that the change movement will prevail as it is an embodiment of the desires of the majority within the party. It is a bottom-up insurrection. No amount of intransigence, subterfuge or arrogance by the national executive will manage to dissuade the momentum and tenacity of the change movement.

My motivation for this article is out the desire to have a vibrant democracy. Continuous infighting especially by opposition parties can be a disservice to democracy. Instead of getting preoccupied with the unnecessary wrangles, the opposition needs to direct its energies and resources toward making sure that those in power are working in the interest of the nation.

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