- Mia, Mkandawire—deputies
- Party amends constitution to punish deviants
After a protracted in-fighting and legal battles, MCP finally held its elective convention yesterday where, as expected, Lazarus Chakwera was maintained as president.
New-catch Sidik Mia was named first vice-president while Harry Mkandawire assumed the second-vice presidency.
The convention, held after the Supreme Court vacated an injunction restraining Malawi Congress Party (MCP) from conducting the indaba, unanimously endorsed the three on their respective positions, even before the hired Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) arrived to conduct the polls, a move MEC justified as procedural since there was no competition.
But other candidates, who had no opposition, such as Catherine Gotani Hara, who has assumed the position of first deputy secretary general, Salimu Bagus as second deputy SG and Alekeni Menyani as director of publicity, were declared winners by MEC.
The election of Chakwera, Mia and Mkandawire was received with jubilation and songs of praise. As each one of them graced the podium to deliver an acceptance speech, the ecstatic audience applauded them.
Ironically, Mkandawire was People’s Party (PP) vice-president North while Mia was People’s Party (PP) vice-president South during Joyce Banda’s tenure.
Mia described Chakwera as a formidable force whose strength no other presidential candidate in the 2019 election can match. He thanked the delegates for entrusting him with such responsibility, and promised to work for the betterment of the party and the country.
Mia has replaced Speaker of Parliament Richard Msowoya, who alongside former secretary general Gustave Kaliwo and Jessie Kabwila were conspicuously missing.
Msowoya, Kaliwo and Kabwila are believed to belong to a faction of the MCP which has been fighting the Chakwera camp.
Kaliwo, who on Friday warned of consequences if the convention went ahead, was not available for comment.
But in his acceptance speech, Chakwera preached against corruption, nepotism and tribalism. He warned party faithful not to expect to be rewarded for their loyalty should MCP get into government in 2019.
The MCP leader, who some of the speakers at the conference proudly addressed as ‘professor’ or ‘Dr’ surprised the gathering when he urged them to call him by his first or last name without titles.
“Just call me Lazarus or Chakwera. I do not need any title. I am your servant and I will be happy just to be called by my name and if you do so, you are not disrespecting me.
“What is important for me is to deliver to you and the people of Malawi, and not the title. We have had professors who have messed up things in this country,” said Chakwera, who at some point joined the beni dance to celebrate his election.
In all the speeches, there was no direct mention of the internal battles that have recently rocked the party. However, Chakwera stressed the need for the membership to adhere to the dictates of the party.
He said joining the MCP was voluntary; hence, it is expected of every member to abide by the founding principles of the party.
During the convention, the party also made some amendments to its constitution—giving more powers to the national executive committee (NEC).
The NEC has been empowered to suspend or dismiss a member elected by the convention, where there is proof of indiscipline, violation of the party’s four cornerstones and attempts at derailment of attainment of the objective of the party.
This amendment to Article 14 (2), which gives powers to NEC to discipline any member, extends such powers to a member elected during the convention.
MCP has justified that the amendment was necessary because members elected at a convention may consciously breach provisions of the constitution, knowing that they may not face any punishment.
Asked if this amendment was effected to punish targeted individuals, Chakwera said: “Every organisation from time to time realises that they need to make necessary changes for the organisation to run a little more smoothly and that’s what you saw happening. The convention felt there were gaps in the old constitution. It is not a new constitution, but an amendment to the constitution,” he said.
Both Msowoya and Kaliwo could not be reached for comment. But former MCP spokesperson Jessie Kabwila said she was not aware of the convention because she was not communicated to.
She insisted that as far she is concerned, it is only the secretary general, apparently in reference to Kaliwo, who can call for a convention.
In a telephone interview last night, political analyst Henry Chingaipe observed that it would have been better if MCP had resolved the wrangles before the convention, other than using the convention as a solution to the infighting.
The Lilongwe-based political analyst said ahead of the polls, MCP needs to have a united front which does not leave anyone out; hence, the need to resolve the conflict before the convention.
He argued that such segments in the party have the ability to weaken its strength since aggrieved members may choose to form their own party or join others as was the case with MCP and Aford at one point in the past. Republican Party was born from MCP and Mgode from Aford, after some members got frustrated.
Chingaipe, however, said this can only be the case if the opposing faction is well-rooted and has strong base of support, which he doubted in the case of Msowoya, Kaliwo and Kabwila.
He said the infighting in MCP was not unique as this is a common case in most political parties within and outside the country.
Chingaipe doubted whether the two camps in MCP will reunite after the convention.
“I don’t see it happening because I think now MCP—the mainstream— feels they have the NEC and they have the party and would like to move forward, looking at 2019 elections. I don’t think they will be wasting time trying to negotiate or accommodate few individuals who have gone out,” he explained.
Chingaipe also described the move to have the top three positions go unopposed as a political gimmick where MCP has been able to negotiate within the ranks to avoid competition for its own reasons. He could, however, not be drawn to comment if such a gimmick was democratic, saying it depends on several factors.
But observed social media commentary, especially reactions on our online platform—showed that many people hailed the MCP for the regionally balanced leadership.
Throughout the convention, the atmosphere was generally peaceful, with most delegates having a strong word against the faction. The anti-Msowoya and Kaliwo sentiments could be heard in several corners, with a general feeling that the faction was doing all the fighting out of malice.
And the triumph of Chakwera, and Mia in particular, is understood by the delegates as also a victory over the opposing factions.
Attending the opening ceremony of the convention was former hostess Mama Cecilia Kadzamira.
And there was also a heavy presence of notable defectors, some of whom have been lucky to grab NEC positions. Those that have joined MCP from other parties, and attended the convention included former finance minister Ken Kandodo Banda, Halima Daudi and Ken Zikhale Ng’oma.
As we went to press, delegates were casting votes for the following positions; secretary deneral, treasurer general, organising secretary and director of elections.