Former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters have lost trust and confidence in the party’s leadership, a development a special committee tasked with a functional review warns could lead to DPP’s death if not well managed.
In its findings circulated to some members of the party ’s main decision-making organ, the Central Committee, the functional review team has also cast doubt on whether the Central Committee chaired by party president Peter Mutharika is working in the interest of the DPP.
The review team, chaired by DPP vice-president (East) Bright Msaka further concluded in its report that the prospects of the party in its current position are not positive although the situation can be turned around.
Reads the report: “Members do not feel obliged to be guided by the directives of the party. It is even doubted if the Central Committee itself is behaving in the very interest of the party.
“Those of us who project themselves as ‘holier than thou’ contribute to the chaos because of a conception that a leadership they despise does not need to be respected.”
The report further states that DPP supporters interviewed expressed dismay with tribalism,
corruption and selfishness of leaders, adding that those in top leadership were prioritising their tribal allegiance more than their nationalistic posture.
Reads the report: “Divisions and factions are a reality in our party. This makes it attractive to attack individuals we perceive to be our enemies. Although we deny it because we know that it is wrong, we are beginning to put personal interest ahead of the very party we seek to keep.
“As long as we put our factions and personal ambitions ahead of the DPP, we are actively destroying it and condemning it to its slow death. We have a party whose members do not trust their own leadership in structures when it comes to finances, material and many resources.”
In the report, the Msaka-led team, which comprised Chikwawa North lawmaker Owen Chomanika as secretary, Chiradzulu Central member of Parliament (MP) Joseph Mwanamvekha, Zomba Chingale MP Lonnie Chijere Phiri, lawyers Samuel Tembenu and Charles Mhango as well as administrative secretary Francis Mphepo, also reviewed the party’s constitution and proposed that it should only have first and second vice-presidents to move away from the concept of regional vice-presidents.
When contacted yesterday, Msaka, who is also Machinga Likwenu MP, expressed surprise that The Nation was privy to the contents of the report and declined to comment, saying it was an internal document.
He said: “We submitted the report to the party and it is an internal document. I don’t think I am mandated to discuss the contents of the report in the public until the owner decides to do so.”
Former president Mutharika’s executive assistant Linda Salanjira did not pick up her phone on several occasions when contacted yesterday.
And in a separate interview, embattled DPP vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa, who forms part of the Central Committee, expressed surprise that the party had not given him a copy of the report.
He said: “We form part of the Central Committee, but we haven’t been given any copies to look at the report. You wonder then who is attending meetings of the committee and who will review the report.
“As per the court injunction, we remain part of the committee and have asked the party why we have been left out. I am told the report is with the president [Mutharika].”
Nankhumwa alongside secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey, treasurer general and Rumphi North MP Jappie Mhango and Mulanje West MP Yusuf Nthenda were expelled from the party last year. However, the quartet obtained an injunction and the matter is currently in court.
DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira did not pick our calls, but on Saturday he issued a brief statement indicating that the report was submitted to Mutharika.
Reacting to the report, political and governance analysts yesterday decried the situation, saying failure to address the issues in time will lead to DPP’s death, a development they argue would be detrimental for democracy.
Mzuzu University-based governance and political expert Chrispin Mphande said the report must act as a starting point to redeem the DPP, saying it has exposed what people feel on the ground.
He said: “Now that the report has come out, the party should look at its factions, their interests, what led to creation of the factions. The factions are a reaction to some of the developments in the party and the report has exposed that.
“Presently, the DPP is not performing its role as an opposition party. They are wasting time on infighting. If this is not contained, that will be the end of the party.”
Mphande said the report is telling the DPP what is obtaining on the ground and the party must act to survive.
On his part, University of Malawi professor of political and administrative studies Happy Kayuni agreed with Mphande, saying DPP should bring together all factions and move forward as a single bloc.
He commended the DPP for undertaking the exercise, saying most parties have not done that.
However, Kayuni said the extent to which DPP will be successful or not will depend on how it tackles all issues without protecting certain individuals.
He said: “If they do not ignore recommendations emerging from real issues, then we will say that it will be on the road to recovery, but if they decide to ignore some, then there will be no movement.”
Kayuni said DPP was not learning from its past mistakes, especially in the way it treated the country’s Vice-President Saulos Chilima when he was in the party.
Catholic University of Malawi head of Political Studies Chimwemwe Kandodo said the DPP can fall if it fails to deal with current issues.
She said: “It has to use this period to rebuild the party. If they don’t do this they will have no chance in 2025. This is an opportunity for them to rebuild.
“It is dangerous that even supporters have lost trust in the leadership. Once you lose trust, it is difficult to get that back, but they can regain that if they reunite.”
But Ernest Thindwa, another political analyst at the University of Malawi, said the party did not really need the functional review, but rather proper leadership and intra-party democracy.
He said: “DPP needs to embrace intra-party democracy. There is no competition for leadership. The mere fact that the report has not been given to others speaks volumes. If they had a proper leadership, all membership should have received the report.”
Thindwa said Mutharika needed to resign and create room for new leadership in the party.
Cracks in DPP came to light after Jeffrey in August last year told The Nation that Mutharika, who lost the June 23 2020 court-sanctioned fresh presidential election to President Lazarus Chakwera, had done his part and that the party needed a new person to lead it into the future, calling for an early convention.
Later, the party fired Nankhumwa, Jeffrey, Jappie Mhango and Nthenda for allegedly influencing the rejection of Mutharika’s appointee, Francis Kasaila, as leader of opposition in Parliament.
Peter Mutharika took over the leadership of DPP after the death of his brother, Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012, propelling the party to victory in the 2014 Tripartite Elections.