Khumbo Kachali must make up his mind. And fast!
Is his long-term ambition to take over the national leadership of the Peoples Party (PP)? Or does he want to be the leader of PP in the Northern Region—Mzimba, to be precise, because beyond the district one doesn’t get the impression he has anyone else in his corner?
PP is embroiled in a leadership conflict and it doesn’t seem it will let up anytime soon. While its bona fide national leader (Joyce Banda) has flown the coop, its putative leader (Uladi Mussa) is struggling for recognition and acceptance in a party that has lost all of its elected vice presidents, not to mention their replacements.
The Northern Region, particularly, has not been too kind on—and receptive to—Mussa’s leadership; what with his rally in Mzuzu being aborted after “thugs” disrupted it in protest at the sacking of the party’s erstwhile provincial chairperson, Rev Mzomera Ngwira.
The protesting Northern Region faction also demanded Kachali to lead PP and also made their disdain for Mussa plain, contending they were weary of people who failed to gain the party’s mandate at the convention foisted on them as leaders—a thinly veiled reference to Mussa. But a disenchanted mob hardly carries the legitimacy of a convention.
Ironical, it seems, that a faction that has recoiled at the thought of having unelected leaders imposed on the party is itself advocating for the very thing it has expressed moral umbrage against. Of course, Kachali may have been elected PP vice president, but he forfeited his claim to that or any position in the party when he walked away in a fit of anger.
The chaos in PP’s Northern Region apparatus needs someone with a cool head to tame the tempers. So far, Kachali has not offered that leadership. His tactic has been to position himself away from—but near—the spotlight.
He could easily have staged a palace coup of sorts, but he is holding his cards close to his chest. Move swiftly, he could be accused of capriciousness and hunger for power. Move slower and away from the limelight, he could be usurped. People like Mzomera Ngwira have offered themselves as sacrificial lambs in Kachali’s quest for leadership. But the former Vice President is playing a dangerous game.
Like William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar in the eponymously named play, Kachali has refused to stage a coup or to accept the crown when the putative coup leader, Mzomera Ngwira offered it him last year.
But if he wants to become PP’s national leader he must be bold, assertive and begin to build coalitions of like-minded people—and foes alike—within the party and beyond Mzuzu.
However, if Kachali’s idea of building the party—his stated aim—is by razing it to the ground and start from them, he is doing a marvellous job at it. But time—and people’s perception of his leadership style—may not be on his side. n