What is known is that former president Peter Mutharika and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) estranged vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa met on Sunday, but the two have contradicted on the outcome.
Through its appointed spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira, the former governing party yesterday issued a statement suggesting that following the meeting held at Mutharika’s beachside residence in Mangochi, Nankhumwa accepted to relinquish the position of Leader of Opposition in Parliament.
But Nankhumwa, who is Mulanje Central legislator and was recently expelled from DPP alongside three others, said in an interview that Mpinganjira’s statement did not reflect what transpired at the meeting.
In the statement, Mpinganjira said: “Hon. Kondwani Nankhumwa has agreed to relinquish the position of Leader of Opposition and to respect the choice made by the party of [Nsanje Central legislator] Hon Francis Kasaila as Leader of Opposition.
“In view of the fact that there is a court case, Hon Kondwani Nankhumwa has undertaken to direct his legal team to seek an indefinite adjournment of the case to pave the way for the resolution of the matter by the parties to the case through mediation using the existing structures for dispute resolution within the party.”
But while confirming the meeting took place on Sunday, Nankhumwa issued a statement dismissing the party’s claims which he described as “false and shameful fabrication”.
He said: “There were many issues that we discussed, but we did not reach a consensus on most of them and agreed that talks must continue until we conclusively resolve the issues.
“The two parties agreed that a date would be appointed in due course to continue discussions and that where a consensus shall be reached, the two parties shall issue a joint press statement.”
Nankhumwa, secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey, treasurer general Jappie Mhango and Mulanje West legislator Yusuf Nthenda were fired from DPP on October 2 2020 for upstaging Kasaila’s choice.
The quartet obtained an injunction against their expulsion and Nankhumwa said their focus was on the case whose hearing is scheduled to continue today in Lilongwe.
Put to him that Nankhumwa had disputed his statement as a fabrication, Mpinganjira said he communicated the outcome of the meeting as briefed by people he trusted, notably Mutharika, Goodall Gondwe and Samuel Tembenu.
He said: “I really cannot explain the apparent confusion and refutal. I would have thought that there was consensus on the way forward. However, since I was not at the meeting, I cannot insist, although I have highest respect for the people whom I have heard from. These are Professor Mutharika, Honourable Goodall Gondwe and Honourable Samuel Tembenu.
“I cannot see how they can lie to me, to the party and to the nation. I just can’t see how they can lie.”
But when contacted later, Gondwe, who is DPP vice-president (North), said he would talk to Nankhumwa and Mpinganjira before commenting to avoid further confusion.
He said: “I don’t want to add any more confusion on the matter. It is an important matter so when I say something now, I may be creating more confusion.”
Tembenu, who also attended the meeting, cut his line on several attempts.
Reacting to the turn of events, Blantyre-based political analyst Latim Matenje said the confusion pointed to failure by the two sides to go into the meeting with open minds.
He said the situation reflected badly on DPP and threatened its unity or rebuilding.
Matenje said: “If truth be told, it was supposed to be Nankhumwa and Mutharika speaking about the meeting first before the others.”
On his part, University of Livingstonia political analyst George Phiri said the confusion defeated the essence of dialogue. He also said Mutharika had lost his leadership influence.
“The expectation was that such meetings would lead to a united DPP, but what we are seeing is different. I tend to think that Mpinganjira is the one who is crafting the wrong politics within and also that Mutharika has lost control of issues in DPP,” he said.
Cracks in DPP came to light after Jeffrey told The Nation that Mutharika had done his part and that the party needed a new person to lead it into the future.
However, the sentiments did not go down well with Mutharika who asked Jeffrey to apologise. Later, the party fired the four for influencing the rejection of Kasaila.
Mutharika lost the court-ordered June 23 2020 Fresh Presidential Election to the nine-party Tonse Alliance led by MCP president Lazarus Chakwera who partnered Mutharika’s then estranged Vice-President Saulos Chilima of UTM Party.
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.