UDF president Friday Jumbe has trashed his partyâ€™s upcoming October 31 convention, describing it as an illegal gathering under the spell of former president Bakili Muluzi.
Jumbe, who also leads one faction of the former ruling party, said in an exclusive interview on Wednesday that his bloc will not attend the conference that will elect leaders, including the partyâ€™s 2014 presidential candidate.
But the other camp, led by secretary general Kennedy Makwangwala, says it will proceed with the convention despite their rivalsâ€™ snub, arguing that the Jumbe grouping only comprises six people who â€œare not bigger than the partyâ€.
The fresh squabbles, coming soon after recent disagreements on whether UDF should pull out of the government of national unity (GNU) with the Peopleâ€™s Party (PP), could dash any hopes of using the convention to unite the party that started disintegrating soon after its founding leader and former president Bakili Muluzi stepped down as its chairperson in 2010.
Unspecified action against convention
Jumbe warned on Wednesday that his faction would take unspecified action to paralyse the convention. He did not elaborate when asked how he would paralyse the conference.
â€œLet them proceed with the convention and tell the world that they do not know me and my colleagues and see if they will succeed. We do not want to disclose what we shall do. There are better injunctions than the normal injunctions,â€ said Jumbe without clarifying.
â€œIt is a funny convention. We will not participate and legalise an illegal gathering. We do not want to appear as people without strategies in politics,â€ he said.
â€˜Muluzi funding conventionâ€™
He alleged that it was Muluzi funding the convention because the party does not have any money.
He also challenged that if there were genuine well-wishers, he would know them.
Said Jumbe: â€œIt is not a secret that Bakili Muluzi is the invisible hand that is purportedly funding the convention. What is his interest? Time has now come for this invisible hand to be exposed. UDF does not have money, does not have a car, not even a bicycle. They do not even have a computer printer and they talk of K35 million (about $116 666) for the convention?
â€œThey talk of well-wishers. Which well-wishers? If they are well-wishers worth their salt, I should have known them. I am a very senior person in this party.â€
Asked whether the talks between the two sides were bearing fruits, Jumbe said the â€˜invisible handâ€™ was frustrating peace efforts.
â€œDiscussions are suffering quite considerably because as we make progress, there is an invisible hand on the other side that pulls us apart,â€ he said.
Jumbe added that the partyâ€™s chances to win the 2014 elections are narrow without the two sidesâ€™ unity.
Muluzi did not answer a questionnaire sent to him neither did he pick up his phone when called or respond to an SMS asking him for his side of the story.
But UDF spokesperson Ken Ndanga said on Thursday that the Jumbe camp was being unfair to snub the convention because they were invited.
He also said it was not known whether Muluzi was funding the convention because the party approached many well-wishers for help.
â€œIt is unfair that people who call themselves UDF members decide to snub invitations of legitimate meetings and instead go to the media and castigate the party. We question their loyalty to the party. As a party, we shall proceed with the convention and we pray that they do not disturb the convention,â€ said Ndanga.
Chancellor College political analyst Dr Mustapha Hussein has warned that the convention will lose its significance without the other camp.
Hussein said if one camp stays away, the convention will not be significant at all â€œbecause a convention is a forum where you expect conflicts to be resolvedâ€.
UDFâ€™s convention comes two months after Peopleâ€™s Party held its indaba in August 2012.