The centre can no longer hold. A month after main opposition MCP showed signs of unity, after party president Lazarus Chakwera declared a ceasefire, cracks in the party are widening with top gurus accusing Chakwera of flouting the party constitution.
The party’s top brass was the one duly elected at the party convention in 2013, the indaba which mandated Chakwera to appoint other NEC members as there was not enough time to do so.
In a letter dated January 12 2018 addressed to Chakwera, which Nation on Sunday has seen, vice-president Richard Msowoya, second deputy President Macdonald Lombola, secretary general Gustave Kaliwo, deputy secretary general James Kaunda and treasurer general Tony Kandiero accuse Chakwera of going against the constitution of the party and his own word.
This is in reference to the December 1 2017 meeting the party gurus held at the party’s headquarters, and the subsequent press conference on December 2, where Chakwera openly acknowledged that the party was divided and that unity was of paramount importance.
The press conference was attended by Kaliwo, after months of being on the sidelines.
But, according to the letter, and as confirmed by sources, the bone of contention was a management meeting of directors Chakwera purportedly called yesterday, something that the constitution of MCP does not recognise.
According to Article 33 of the MCP constitution, a management committee of the National Executive Committee (NEC) “shall be delegated the powers of NEC for the more effective and efficient execution of the aims and objectives of the party.
“The committee shall, therefore, consist of the president, the deputy president, the secretary general and the treasurer general, the legal adviser, the publicity secretary and all directors”, which was not the case with the called meeting.
Reads the letter in part: “Mr President, it is with deep regret that we note with grave concern that you are going against your word that you delivered to the Malawian nation in the communiqué dated first December 2017; by calling for, among other things, a management committee meeting comprising directors not recognised by the party constitution. In other words, you are persistently flouting the very fundamental principles of unity and [not] abiding by the party constitution.
“We find this behaviour on your part very perturbing and utterly unacceptable. Therefore, the meeting scheduled for January 13 2018 should be postponed to allow for further consultations as soon practicable.”
In a telephone interview, Msowoya, who is also Speaker of the House, authenticated the letter, adding that Chakwera was yet to respond to it.
According to Msowoya, there were reports that the meeting between the president and the so-called directors took place.
Asked what they intend to do if the meeting indeed took, Msowoya said: “We will know our next course of action after we hear a response from the president. For now, we have nothing to say”.
When contacted, Chakwera said he would not comment on anything as at now regarding the letter. He, however, asked Nation on Sunday about contents of the letter and maintained he had no comment, even after being told of its contents.
The party’s publicity secretary Jessie Kabwila said she was aware of the letter, but was not sure if the said meeting took place.
But a political scientist at Chancellor College Ernest Thindwa said the endless in-fighting in MCP is an indication of a leadership failing to do what is right.
He said the fact that the top gurus of the party can write the president is another sign of deep divisions in MCP.
“Why should they write the president and make the same available to the public when they could have simply booked an appointment or give him a call to share their grievances? This shows how intense the divisions are in
MCP. And all this is putting to test the leadership skills of the party president who appears to be failing to bring to one table competing interests and conflicting parties,” said Thindwa.
He faulted Chakwera for his style of leadership which appears to sideline other people, citing an example of the purported meeting with directors without other important members such as the vice-president and secretary general being invited.
“This presents an opportunity [to him] to show his leadership skills to bring the party together or else the divisions may get deeper to the disadvantage of the party. Further to this, the president must be the first to abide by the constitution and his word or else no one will take him seriously,” added Thindwa.
Inside sources indicated that the meeting took place where, among other things, delegates strategised on when to hold a convention, and who should compete where as well as a plan to sideline some party members who do not appear to be in good books with the president.
This could not be verified by either Msowoya or Chakwera.
MCP has been rocked in internal wrangles over when to hold a convention, with Kaliwo pushing for an early one, against Chakwera’s wish.
The party has also attracted controversy after suspending and firing some of its members, who include Kabwila and Felix Jumbe.
Two weeks, ago the MCP also graced Nation on Sunday pages after Kabwila held a press briefing as the party’s publicity secretary for the first time in many months, which was disowned by the other camp.