The High Court in Lilongwe has terminated mediation talks between Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) vice-president (South) Kondwani Nankhumwa and three others, on the one hand, and their former ruling party on the other.
Nankhumwa, secretary general (SG) Greselder Jeffrey, treasurer general Jappie Mhango and Mulanje West legislator Yusuf Nthenda obtained an injunction on October 3 2020, stopping DPP from sacking them from their positions and the party.
The two sides later agreed to settle their differences through a mediation process.
But High Court Judge Kenyatta Nyirenda has since certified that the case, Civil Cause Number 898 of 2020, should go into full trial from a date to be communicated later.
In an interview this week, Nankhumwa said it was his team that first asked for termination of the mediation, saying the party was not sincere with their demands.
DPP still wants its convention to be held in July 2023; that Nankhumwa and Jeffrey should relinquish their positions as Leader of Opposition (LoP) and SG respectively.
Said Nankhumwa: “We did not agree to anything because when we went for mediation the team asked us to agree that the party’s convention should be held in 2023, and that if we agree everything will fall off. We didn’t accept that, and have not agreed on anything.
“It is not just that issue. In court they also said they were ready to reinstate us into the party, but with two exceptions: that if they reinstate me, I should not be LoP again, and Jeffrey should no longer be SG.
“We didn’t agree on this either, and that is why we asked for termination.”
He said DPP pleaded with the court not to terminate the mediation so that they can re-table the matter at party level, and two weeks was granted for the same.
Added Nankhumwa: “Before the termination day, we met again, and they insisted that we should have a convention in 2023, so we wondered what kind of mediation that would be if they come with such demands.
“They are deliberately doing these things, especially on the SG, because they know such an office is a custodian of the electoral college, and they want to have in place someone who could come up with their own electoral college. So we are saying, let the court just determine the matter.”
Lawyer for Nankhumwa and others in the case, Gilbert Khonyongwa, confirmed the court’s position, but said the parties were still discussing.
He, however, did not come out clearly on the contentious issues remaining, apart from indicating that some issues had been agreed upon.
Said Khonyongwa: “Discussions aimed at amicably resolving the matter were not fully concluded, and time for mediation had expired before parties had reached final conclusions. They were agreeing on some issues and not agreeing on others. We reported to court and the mediation was terminated.
“As per procedure, it will be referred to another judge because Justice Kenyatta Nyirenda was the one who presided over the mediation.”
DPP director of legal affairs Charles Mhango, who had been tasked to help engage the Nankhumwa camp, confirmed the impasse, but he too said the two sides are still working on certain issues.
He said: “Yes, the judge terminated the mediation talks, but also the judge said we should tell him before he passes the matter to another judge what issues should go to trial. Not all issues will go to full trial because the judge noticed a lot of progress and agreements were made during negotiations.
“So, by way of procedure, the judge cannot send all the issues to the next judge. We were asked to certify which issues have been resolved and those that remain for trial, that’s where we are. After the court, we gave instructions to our lawyer that most issues had been agreed, if there will be any, maybe it will be just be one issue.”
Mhango said parties can file agreed issues to the judge, which their lawyer was doing in consultation with Nankhumwa’s counsel or each party can present their issues differently.
Political analysts have since said the problem dogging DPP is the people within the party who want to cling to their positions for as long as it takes.
Another problem, said professor of political and administrative studies at Chancellor College, Happy Kayuni, is that DPP was failing to demonstrate democratic tendencies, insisting a convention would solve current squabbles.
He said: “There are certain stakeholders within the DPP that are afraid of the convention because they fear that they may lose their positions, so they want to consolidate; hence, delaying the process.
“Some feel that the party will break apart, but that’s not true. Yes some people will leave the party after the convention, but that is normal. It is better to disagree now than when they are close to elections. So, let them have the convention now and rebuild, rather than having these battles until the last minutes to the national polls.”
Earlier, political and administrative studies lecturer at Chancellor College, Mustafa Hussein, said resorting to firing people is a sign of factionalism, division, and that there is a group of people that does not believe in democratic means of resolving conflicts.
Mzuzu University-based political analyst Chrispin Mphande said procrastination on a convention is dangerous for DPP; hence, the need to hold it early enough so that the party leads with one person as its pilot.
He urged DPP gurus to put aside their egos and work to rebuild the party which has seen supporters divided because of divisions among those in leadership.
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 SaulosChilima of UTM Party on the presidential ticket.
Peter Mutharika took over the leadership of DPP after the death of his brother, Binguwa Mutharika in April 2012, propelling the party to victory in the 2014 Tripartite Elections.