Speaker of the Malawi National Assembly Henry Chimunthu Banda on Tuesday declared that he will challenge DPP acting president Peter Mutharika on the position of president at the April 17 convention.
Chimunthu Banda’s declaration has come amid tension in the party as those supporting the Nkhotakota North member of Parliament (MP) are claiming that Mutharika will go to the polls holding an advantage since he was allegedly handpicked by the convention organising committee.
In an interview monitored on Zodiak Broadcasting Station, Chimunthu Banda confirmed that he would be contesting against Mutharika, ending weeks of speculation on his intentions.
Said Chimunthu Banda: “It is true that there have been such stories. The people who have been making such stories are members of Parliament, party officials and sympathisers of the party.
“I have been consulting since then and basing on those consultations, there has been overwhelming support that I contest. I have, therefore, decided to submit myself to the wishes of the people.”
He said he is confident of winning against Mutharika because as someone who has held positions at all levels from district to the national level, he believes he has been tried and tested in the political arena.
Added Chimunthu Banda: “We won in the Central Region with a landslide and we produced many members of Parliament. I was given the task of managing the Central Region and the works of my hands speak for me if one looks at how the party performed. So, delegates know very well what kind of a person they would be voting for.”
He said all he is asking for is transparency on the day of the convention and in all the processes towards the convention.
Chimunthu Banda also said that being a one-time DPP secretary general in 2009, he is “tried and tested in as far as management of party affairs are concerned.”
DPP publicity secretary Nicholas Dausi, who is also convention organising committee chairperson, said Chimunthu’s move is an indication that “there is healthy democracy in the party.”
He said: “In a democracy, people are free to contest for any position in a political party.”
Dausi, however, said the party has not yet started receiving nominations from aspirants for various positions at the convention whose venue is yet to be decided.
Before Chimunthu Banda’s announcement, it was only Mutharika who had declared his interest to contest for the party’s leadership and to lead the party in the 2014 presidential elections.
On Chimunthu Banda’s fears that the convention organising committee handpicked Mutharika, hence he would have an unfair advantage, Dausi said those were unfair allegations because every person who wants to contest knows all the committee members.
Apparently, Peter Mutharika is widely seen as imposed on the DPP faithful due to the influence of his deceased brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, who was one of the founders of DPP in 2005.
In December 2010, then DPP first vice-president Joyce Banda and second vice-president Khumbo Kachali were expelled for refusing to endorse Peter Mutharika as DPP torchbearer in the 2014 elections. The party’s official line then was that the two formed parallel structures against president Bingu wa Mutharika.
Banda remained State Vice-President and ascended to the presidency in line with constitutional order after Bingu’s death last April. Not surprising to many observers, she picked Kachali as her Vice-President.