Power wrangles in the Alliance for Democracy (Aford) persist, with ‘returnee’ Frank Mwenifumbo announcing dates for the convention while the party’s politburo insists no date has been set for the elective conference. Our Staff Reporter JOHN CHIRWA engaged Mwenifumbo on his fresh push for a convention:
Recently, the High Court ruled that Aford should, at an appointed time, announce the date to hold a convention. Why are you in a rush to announce a date when the politburo is mum?
Aford is a law-abiding party and all of us abide by those laws. It will be very unfortunate if we don’t follow the dictates of our constitution. Our constitution is clear that after every four years, we must hold an elective convention. This is due now. It is actually overdue. We are in injury time. We should have held the elective conference in September. There are different schools of thought. Some of us are saying we should go to the convention as quickly as possible so that we can go ahead with campaigns, particularly now that next year’s tripartite elections are around the corner. We hope that very soon we will go to the convention.
There was an executive meeting in Lilongwe recently where some national executive committee members were manhandled. How are you addressing the issue of security during the convention as the infighting continues?
We want to assure all delegates of security because all measures have been put in place, including the hiring of police. Among ourselves, there will be people to look into security concerns. Let me also hasten to express our regret for the unfortunate incident that happened. Indeed, last year our secretary general was manhandled or beaten up alongside the regional chairperson for the Central Region. The party president, Enoch Chihana, regretted the incident. We all regretted the incident and we have taken all precautionary measures to avoid a repeat of such an incident.
What is your comment on allegations that you have been hired by other parties to destabilise and weaken the opposition block?
I don’t know whether we should start working on allegations or hypotheses. But it’s true there are such allegations that I have pocketed K80 million from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] to destabilise Aford. But this is a baseless rumour meant to distort the picture of what Frank Mwenifumbo is all about.
My immediate history with a political party was with
People’s Party. Before that I did work with DPP, but more importantly, I won the Karonga Central parliamentary seat as an independent member of Parliament [MP]. I was never assisted by any party. I don’t owe any party anything that I should be working for them. I am working for the constituency of Aford—the support base of Aford. Had I wished to work for DPP, I would have joined them without any problem. Had I wished to work for Malawi Congress Party [MCP], I would have joined them. But I chose Aford, exercising both my birthright and constitutional freedom to return to the party that ushered me into active politics. We have collectively agreed to resuscitate Aford and to give it the impetus that it deserves. I am not creating any ground for the DPP. Such talk is sheer character assassination and it is not DPP who are saying that or the MCP, but some elements within Aford who are shaken by my return to the party. However, no one is going to discourage me. I am a very resolute person when it comes to carrying out projects.
Why have you chosen to return to Aford in particular?
As MPs from the North, we can’t continue speaking as individuals. We need a political representation as a block which we lost years back. When I joined politics in 1999, Aford was a national party with its base in the North. It had 36 MPs in Parliament. That gave the region a voice in Parliament. They lobbied for various developments, including Mzuzu Central Hospital, Mzuzu University and Mzuzu Auction Floors. By 2014, the party lost everything. It had a single MP and no councillor. Aford has lost its voice in Parliament too. We can’t respond to the budget statement or the President’s speech. It has lost party funding. That gave us some soul searching. We have found a number of reasons that led us to suffer this serious attrition. One of them is the incoherent political alliances that we made with different parties in the belief that we were trying to integrate nationally. But we were used and abused. The modern thinking now is that Aford must recognise its minority strength—that even from minority, something strong can come out. We are not going to entertain any alliance with or infiltration from any party no matter how big or rich. Aford would like to go it alone. We want to recoup our strength both inside and outside Parliament.
But Aford remains a divided party and wrangles are raging. Where is the unity of purpose?
As we are all aware, Aford was the first party to advocate for multiparty democracy in our country. In 1994, a multiparty democratic government was ushered in. We know the tenets of democracy and that is what Aford aspires to. One of it is unity. It is very important that we foster unity among ourselves so that we achieve the intended goals which are expressed through our manifesto, most importantly what our constitution dictates. You cannot achieve that if the party is not unified. That is why we emphasise the importance of unity in our party.