With twin losses in the recent Mzimba by-elections and defections of two stalwartsâ€”Wakuda Kamanga and Gooddall Gondweâ€”coupled with the silence on holding a convention, is Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) taking a slow but steady journey to extinction? EPHRAIM NYONDO spoke to DPPâ€™s interim spokesperson Nicholas Dausi about these and related issues.
Q. You lost both seats in Mzimba by-elections. You have lost two senior members. Do you think your party is going into 2014 polls as strong as it did before 2009 elections?
The loss in Mzimba gave robust and substantive lessons which our party will use as we drift into 2014. One, we learnt how Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) can behave in an election, something that gave us a glimpse of 2014. Two, we learnt the conduct of the Electoral Commission (EC). Three, contrary to views that our party is dead in the North, we learnt, through the votes that we got, that we are still a force to reckon with; we just have to work hard to maintain them and attract new ones. In a nutshell, our party, despite everything, is going to 2014 polls just as strong as it did before 2014.
Q. How is the party recovering from the death of late president Bingu wa Mutharika?
Well, the death of the president was like the death of our father. And I am sure it is not just DPP which was affected. The entire nation, too, was affected. You can see that today we have a President that was not elected! But DPP as a party is moving on, and we appreciate the fact that Malawi is a nation blessed with Christian valuesâ€”values that keep people going in time of trouble.
Q. Since it started in 2005, DPP has never held a convention. The acting president, Peter Mutharika, was not elected either. Where, then, are such leaders drawing their legitimacy?
You can get a lesson from the United States of America (USA). It took time for the parties to start holding conventions. By the way, the trouble with most of conventions we see in the country is that they are stage-managed; defeating the entire purpose of a transparent democratic system. With regards to Honourable Peter Mutharika, he was elected into the office by the National Governance Council (NGC) which has representatives in every district of the country. Isnâ€™t that democracy?
Q. But the question still remains: Will DPP hold the convention?
Yes, yes, it will. No doubt about that. We are holding discussions on the same and when time comes, you will hear the specifics of it all. But be assured that it will happen.
Q. Back to defections of Kamanga and Gondwe. Could there be something wrong in the party that pushed them out or there was something sweet outside that pulled them?
Well, I donâ€™t know. Honourable Gondwe says he has retired from active politics. Mr Kamanga, as well, has given his reasons. But if you want more of their inner intention, if either they were pulled or pushed, then you can talk to them. I am sure they are grown-ups who calculate their every move. As DPP, we are a party that values the freedom of choice and association. It is an unalienable right that we cannot take away from any politician. The two expressed it and we cannot deny it.
Q. You are now in opposition. What do you think is the biggest challenge the country is facing today in terms of leadership?
I think Malawians can best answer this one. They are the ones at the receiving end of the governance equation. But what I should tell you is that government is big business. It is the fine of all fine arts, the tricky of all the trickiest business. It demands academic prowess, mental acumen and stamina.
Q. Regarding the tough economic situation in the country today, what is in the kitchen of DPP as we drift to 2014?
Kenyaâ€™s first leader after independence, Jomo Kenyatta, once said: “You do not have to show the cow the bow and arrow you will use to kill it”. I cannot disclose that right now. But we are planning big. However, we are happy because the current development template still remains the one we left; we are a defacto ruling party. You look, among others, at the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), food security, the Green Belt Initiative and Infrastructural Development. All these are our brainchild.
Q. You were recently quoted in the media saying the arrest of those accused to have had a hand in the death of Robert Chasowa are â€˜politically motivatedâ€™. What actually did you mean?
In the first place, I did not say that. Or I was misquoted. But the underlying word there was that the onus of the truth on the matter rests on prosecution. Anyone arrested should be innocent until proven guilty by the courts.
Q. Any last words?
I just want to assure Malawians that DPP is still going strong and soon it will be going to the convention to elect its office bearers.