Since losing the 2020 court-ordered repeat presidential election, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has endured endless power struggles and court battles. In this interview with our Mzuzu Bureau Supervisor JOSEPH MWALE, a member of the party’s politburo—Zomba Chisi legislator Mark Botomani—warns against covet attempts to impose candidates on the party after its president, Peter Mutharika, announced that he would retire in 2023. Excerpts:
Q:What do you make of what DPP has gone through since Mutharika lost his grip on power in the June 2020 court-ordered election?
A: What is happening in DPP is not strange. It is synonymous with any party that has just gotten out of government. We have seen this before. This is actually healthy for the party because we must actually go through some sort of rough situations where we rub each other and come out more united. To suggest that the party is on deathbed is a sweeping statement and not true. The party is still strong; we have structures on the ground. In all fairness, DPP remains the biggest party in the country and you cannot just say the party is heading for its deathbed.
Q:How healthy is the party when leaders cannot agree on big issues?
A: Whatever is happening now needed to have happened. You know that for our president Peter Mutharika, this is his last term and you would have one or two people jostling to take over the leadership of the party. That happens, so it’s not strange. Of course, it is very unfortunate when certain things happen, but the party is still strong and will remain strong.
Q: What do you make of calls for Mutharika to leave the seat to someone who could lead the party back to power in the 2025 elections?
A: It will be unfair for me to reflect on behalf of my president. As you know, he was my boss. I do not support assertions that he is a problem. Probably, the problem is the system itself. My expectation is that the ground will be levelled and anybody who wants to get positions in the party will have to participate fairly. No person should be unfairly treated to the point that they are expelled or whatsoever. Let everyone who wants any position in the party participate freely and democratically so that people can elect a person they want to lead the party.
Q:What makes the system in the party a problem?
A: The president himself does not make individual decisions. Most of the times, decisions made are collective. They sit in the central committee and make collectively decisions. There are some individuals who have vested interests which has made people feel that the president is making own decisions, but I don’t think Mutharika is a problem. The system is to blame. Some people within the system sometimes want to drive their own personal agenda.
Q:Why is it difficult for Mutharika to step aside now, especially with the squabbles?
A: I We have not reached that level. I haven’t heard from the president or anyone that the president has intentions to appoint people to lead the party. He is the leader, but the only way the [party] constitution provides is that people who want to take leadership positions must compete at the convention. So the only way, if the leadership feels the need, is to call for an early convention and let party members elect whoever they want. I would support the idea of an early convention because it will settle scores on leadership issues going on in the party right now. Most of these squabbles are to do with the leadership of the party and a convention will settle that. Further, if we go for an early convention, we will have ample time to sell the candidate elected. If we take too long, we will have too little time to sell the candidate across the country for 2025.
Q:There are several factions within DPP, which one are you supporting?
A: I think you will know it when we are going to the convention, but just know that I am DPP and will remain DPP. You will know who I support towards the convention. I would not want to believe that Mutharika has a candidate in mind. It will be a mistake if he decides to support anyone. There should be no pushing or bulldozing of a candidate. It will be a terrible mistake. Whoever wants the presidency—be it Kondwani Nankhumwa, Dalitso Kabambe, Bright Msaka or Joseph Mwanamvekha—must compete fairly at the convention. It will be suicidal to impose someone on the party.