Cracks have emerged in the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) over the provision that aspirants for the national executive committee (NEC) should have a working experience within the party of at least five years.
MCP NEC sources said divisions over the provision, which is being supported by those closer to party president John Tembo, are threatening to further delay the convention which was scheduled to take place last month before it was cancelled at the eleventh hour.
Two of the party’s regional chairpersons, Dennis Nanthumba (South) and Bauleni Mkweza (Lakeshore), on Monday confirmed that they are opposing the provision as they fear it would block other candidates with potential to assist the party.
Said Nanthumba in an interview: “Almost every Malawian was initially a member of the MCP and some left due to various reasons. We can, therefore, not refuse these people to come back; it is like the tale of the prodigal son in the Bible. What we are suspecting is that some people are afraid of certain individuals.”
He said apart from the five-year provision, people at grass roots level are concerned about further delays in coming up with new dates for the convention and several issues that are being brought forward as excuses to delay the meeting.
Mkweza, on the other hand, said at the onset, some NEC members, including himself, raised issues of the requirement for nomination papers because they feared that it was just a ploy to bar certain people.
He said he personally wrote the party’s NEC on the issue together with the rejection of the proposal to have an open-term for the president, but his letter was just brought to the NEC and discussed without conclusion.
This is the first time that the MCP has called on aspiring leaders to fill out nominations papers. In the previous conventions, candidates were nominated right in the convention hall.
So far, MCP has 10 presidential aspirants. They are incumbent party president Tembo, former president of Malawi Assemblies of God the Reverend Lazarus Chakwera, newly retired chief justice Lovemore Munlo, former MCP official Jodder Kanjere, party secretary general Chris Daza, Nkhotakota Central MP Edwin Banda, Eston Kakhome, Betson Majoni, Felix Jumbe and Lyton Dzombe.
One of the aspirants, Jumbe, in an interview on Monday, said the five-year experience was not necessary arguing that when the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC), the fore-runner of MCP, was formed in 1944, founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda was not in forefront politics but a practising medical doctor.
“That time, the late Kanyama Chiume, Henry Masauko Chipembere and Dunduzu Chisiza realised that they needed someone of Kamuzu’s exposure, education and experience to win independence for Malawi,” he said.
MCP administrative secretary Potiphar Chidaya, who is leading the scrutiny of candidates, while confirming the differing views on the requirement, said on Monday the party is not ready to take out the requirement clause as doing so will be inviting every Jim and Jack to contest.
The MCP initially scheduled its convention for the weekend of April 27, 28 and 29 before it was postponed.
Director of the convention, Joseph Njobvuyalema, said it was cancelled because the party could not find appropriate accommodation for all its delegates and also that the party could not raise the required K35 million (about $87 500) for the meeting as it had only managed to raise K20 million (about $50 000).