Malawi’s former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) holds its first-ever national convention today, Thursday since its formation in 2005 with its interim leader Peter Mutharika facing Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda in the fight for the presidency.
The epic battle between Mutharika and Chimunthu Banda stands to either make or break DPP, founded by the former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, after he ditched the United Democratic Front (UDF) in February 2005.
During a visit by The Nation to the convention venue, the Comesa Hall at the Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds in Malawi’s commercial city of Blantyre, decorations were seen completed by 2pm.
In the last few months, two political parties, the ruling People’s Party (PP) and UDF, have held their conventions where they elected their leadership, including candidates for 2014 presidential elections.
However, it is the DPP presidential race which has apparently generated the most interest as it appears to be a hotly contested one following Chimunthu Banda’s emergence on the scene.
What further makes the DPP race interesting, is the fact that all along Peter was being groomed as successor to his late brother Bingu wa Mutharika. The former president’s manoeuvres to put his brother unopposed saw his vice-president Joyce Banda being ostracised due to her refusal to endorse the move. Bingu then kicked her out of the party.
Last evening, Chimunthu Banda, who is also Nkhotakota North Member of Parliament, had a triumphant entry into Blantyre from Lilongwe. His escort drove through some major roads in the commercial city, including Victoria Avenue, Haile Selassie and the Masauko Chipembere Highway.
On the contrary, police in Blantyre denied Peter’s camp permission to hold a procession in the townships of Blantyre and Limbe.
Chimunthu Banda, in an interview last evening, said his camp is looking forward to a successful contest.
He said: “All is set for tomorrow [Thursday]. We are in Blantyre now, but that does not mean the concerns have been addressed. They have not.
“We are aware that the Malawi Electoral Commission will play a role [in managing the elections]. But the information we have does not indicate to us that the Electoral Commission will be the sole body to manage the elections.
“We have unconfirmed reports that the returning officer is not from the Malawi Electoral Commission, which still does not answer our concerns adequately.”
Level playing field
Chimunthu Banda said he is in Blantyre on the assumption that there will be a semblance of a level playing field as his team engages the convention main organising committee and the commission.
Activities at the convention will include speeches from the chairperson of the convention main organising committee, Nicholas Dausi and Peter as well as the main menu of electing members into the national governing council (NGC).
Dausi said he is looking forward to a successful convention.
“It is a convention that has attracted a lot of interest. But my prayer is that we go in as one family and come out as one family,” he said.
The winner of the presidential election automatically becomes the party’s presidential candidate in 2014 to challenge PP’s Joyce Banda whose camp has already lined up a string of campaign trail.
PP has also launched a stinging attack on the opposition, especially Peter and UDF candidate Atupele Muluzi.