Former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has stepped up efforts to replace its president Peter Mutharika by drafting in former Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) governor Dalitso Kabambe into the party’s presidential race.
In an interview in Blantyre yesterday after welcoming the former central bank head into mainstream politics, DPP regional governor (South)Charles Mchacha said Kabambe had expressed interest to run for the party’s president at the yet to be announced convention.
He said Kabambe will join three other DPP heavyweights whose actions express interest to vie for the party’s presidency.
Mchacha said: “We [DPP] are at the stage where people are just showing their interest to contest for the party’s president at the convention. So far, there are four that have shown interest.
“But the others like Kondwani Nankhumwa [estranged DPP vice-president for the South], Bright Msaka [DPP vice-president for the Eastern Region] and former minister of Finance Joseph Mwanamvekha haven’t come out in the open yet, but their actions are clear that they want to contest for the position of party president at the convention.”
Kabambe, a holder of a PhD in economics and has served in various roles in the public sector for 23 years, was welcomed into the fray at DPP Southern Region headquarters in Sunnyside, Blantyre. He was accompanied by his wife Bridget and mother Annie.
Besides Mchacha, other DPP functionaries at the function included deputy secretary general Aaron Sangala, national director of women Bertha Nachuma and director of youth Yona Mlotha.
Mchacha said his regional committee will from next week be unveiling other presidential hopefuls, starting with Nankhumwa.
He dismissed suggestions that Mutharika had endorsed Kabambe as his successor, saying the former head of State will ensure a level playing field and let the best candidate win at the convention.
In his 28-minute speech, Kabambe said he has joined DPP because it had proved to be a visionary party that implemented a number of visible development projects while in power.
He said: “From the late Bingu wa Mutharika to Peter Mutharika administration, the country had a bright future. There were several visible development projects such as roads, schools just to mention but a few.
“After being removed as a Reserve Bank governor [by the Tonse Alliance administration], I decided to find people to work with because I am not garbage; hence, my joining DPP.”
While Kabambe refused to commit that he would contest for the leadership of the party, some DPP youths were seen wearing T-shirts with Kabambe’s portrait emblazoned on the chest and a caption ‘DK2025’ apparently standing for Dalitso Kabambe 2025.
Reacting to Kabambe’s joining of DPP and his presidential aspirations, three out of four political analysts we interviewed yesterday gave the former RBM governor slim chances of excelling at the convention.
In his reaction, political scientist Ernest Thindwa, who teaches at Chancellor College—a constituent college of the University of Malawi, argued that Kabambe will not succeed if the convention will be free and fair.
Integrity Platform governance and communications officer Godfrey Pumbwa, speaking in his personal capacity as apolitical scientist, gave Kabambe 15 percent chance of winning at the convention on the basis that a majority of DPP members were rallying behind Nankhumwa.
Peter Chisi, who works as director of civil and political rights at Malawi Human Rights Commission but speaking in his personal capacity, said he would give Kabambe 20 percent chance to win.
He said: “Being a Reserve Bank governor and being in active politics are different and he could also be haunted by issues emerging from the Reserve Bank.”
But political scientist Mustafa Hussein, who also teaches at Chancellor College, gave Kabambe 50-50 chances to win at the convention, saying in his role at the central bank he was close to DPP party leadership.
He also said coming from the Southern Region like the other three potential contestants could work to his advantage.
In July this year, suspended DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey stepped on raw nerves when she suggested that the party was planning an elective convention to elect Mutharika’s successor. She said Mutharika had done his part; hence, needed to be replaced.
In an earlier interview, DPP spokesperson Brown Mpinganjira said the party’s members were at liberty to express themselves in relation to the presidency.
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.