Former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) says all positions in the party, including president, will be up for grabs at a convention and that the race will only become official after October 31 2020.
DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira made the indication in an interview yesterday in the wake of some names emerging as potential aspirants to fill the leadership shoes of the country’s immediate-past president Peter Mutharika.
He said: “Nobody will be barred and people should not put spanners in the wishes of others. It’s just that the actual campaign has not yet started. We will have to announce that people can start their campaign.
“At the moment our plea is that aspirants should take it easy because we are now in the process of rebuilding the party and time will come for campaigning.”
Mpinganjira said on October 31, the Functional Review Committee DPP vice-president (Eastern Region) Bright Msaka is heading will present its report on the party’s direction and the leadership will meet to discuss it and matters relating to the convention.
He said: “The committee has been given up to October 31 to report to the working committee, which will in turn study findings and recommendations and call for National Governing Council (NGC) meeting.
“That NGC, having looked at the recommendations, will decide on the way forward, including the convention. The process has started and will continue unimpeded.”
Mpinganjira added that Mutharika will soon address DPP members on the developments.
One of the hopefuls is DPP vice-president (Central Region) Uladi Mussa who yesterday confirmed he was eyeing the position.
But DPP sources have also mentioned DPP vice-president (Southern Region) Kondwani Nankhumwa, Msaka and Nankhumwa’s predecessor George Chaponda, who is currently chairing the party’s disciplinary committee, as the other aspirants.
One source in the party confided that the first Central Committee Meeting held in early August at Mutharika’s beachside retirement home in Mangochi resolved that people were free to express interest to contest at a convention whose date would be announced.
Said the source: “This is the reason the secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey started talking about the convention. She did not do that on her own.
“Currently, we have people that are showing interest such as Uladi Mussa, Nankhumwa, Chaponda and even Msaka.”
In an interview yesterday, Mussa said “many people” in the party were pushing him to contest and lead the party purportedly because of the trust they have in his abilities.
He said: “Party supporters from across the regions are asking me to contest at the convention. After conducting their [supporters’] research, they have come up with a list of 12 issues that qualify me to contest and lead.
“They know I love peace, I promote youth and women, I am tolerant and I have the required experience. During the convention, I will definitely take part.
“I can confirm that during the first Central committee meeting, people were told that nobody will be barred from contesting at the convention. What sparked controversy was just how the secretary general presented the matter, not that what she said was wrong.”
Jeffrey is awaiting appearance before the party’s disciplinary committee for publicly stating that Mutharika had done his part; hence, should pave the way for new leadership after losing the court-ordered Fresh Presidential Election on June 23 this year.
On his part, Chaponda yesterday said it was “too early to comment on the matter” as 2025, when the next election would be held in the country, was five years away.
He also said he needed to be left alone after being “crucified by everybody” in the Maizegate case. The High Court of Malawi, however, cleared him of any wrongdoing in the procurement of relief maize from Zambia when he served as minister of Agriculture.
Said Chaponda: “I don’t want to get involved in these things. Try to contact other people. I am not interested in these things. This is 2020 and we are talking about five years to go, what are you talking about? Should we be declaring our interest now with five years to go?”
He said in the meantime, the focus should be on how to develop this country.
Nankhumwa, who has long been touted as one of the frontrunners to succeed Mutharika and is currently Leader of Opposition in Parliament, did not pick up his phone when called several times yesterday.
On the other hand, Msaka, who is chairing DPP’s Functional Review Committee, could not be reached for comment.
In an earlier interview, political analyst Ernest Thindwa of Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi—said Mutharika was not good for DPP and that there was need for the party to elect new leaders to guide it.
He said: “It is important for DPP to re-organise itself and leadership change is critical. I don’t think Mutharika is the right person to take the party forward because he is advanced in age and his image is tattered because it appears he didn’t have total control of the government.
“If DPP is to clear the image about corruption, it has to change leadership, and the quicker they do it, the better. It would actually have been good for Mutharika to retire and pave way for new leadership.”
On his part, Political Science Association of Malawi president Joseph Chunga said DPP should borrow a leaf from Malawi Congress Party (MCP) by opening up the contest to allow new blood to take part.
He said: “It’s not a question of someone being appropriate or not, but we need to look at whether such a person can take the party forward in the long-term.”
DPP lost in the 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 on the presidential ticket.
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.