Internal squabbles have degenerated further in the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) with the secretary general Gustav Kaliwo and his deputy Chatonda Kaunda joining the pro-convention faction.
Kaliwo and Kaunda yesterday announced the party would be holding a national convention from July 7 to 9 this year following growing concerns from some of the party ’s regional and district leaders with the leadership.
However, the party has trashed the call, describing it as invalid and that only the party ’s national executive committee (NEC) can call for a convention.
Kaliwo, speaking at a press conference he held in Blantyre, said due to mounting pressure from MCP members across the country, he had decided to use his powers to call for the convention to resolve the disputes that have rocked the party over the past months.
He said he had been holding meetings with 23 committees in various districts across the country where the leaders have been requesting him to call for a convention.
Several district chairpersons and other senior party officials from across the countr y attended the Blantyre media briefing.
“This is a decision I am making from my office as secretary general of Malawi Congress Party.. Time is running out and we need to put our house in order if we must have any chance of having a go at the 2019 general elections,” said Kaliwo.
He said according to Article 40 of the MCP constitution, an emergency convention can be called by the party’s twothirds majority of NEC or at the request of more than half of the district committees.
“Therefore, for this decision I have taken the mandate given to me by the party’s district committees who are calling for the convention.
“I am sure there are some people who will not agree with me, but we stand on a strong legal ground because the constitution permits my doing this,” said Kaliwo, an experienced lawyer.
He also insisted his call for the convention was not to deal with leadership change, but “because I have been requested by the owners of the party.”
“The convention is the highest authority of the party. Some people might find this fashion unacceptable… but let us not destroy the party. We can disagree, but let us not be disagreeable,” he said.
Kaliwo also challenged the party that should the other section decide to take the legal battle he was ready as he is “somebody that will take whatever is thrown my way squarely.”
But second deputy secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka, who has now turned into the party ’s spokesperson, said the party’s highest decision making body was the NEC which has to be involved in any decision connected to convention.
“What he has done is wrong because it is not the process stipulated by the party ’s constitution. By going round to meet the district committees he was trying to influence their decisions,” he said.
Mkaka explained that according to section 28 of the MCP constitution, when district structures meet and make decisions they are supposed to submit minutes to NEC because they work on behalf of NEC.
“So their decisions are endorsed by NEC, the district committees cannot just make decisions without the attention of NEC,” he said.
Mkaka also said the party was not surprised with Kaliwo’s conduct having written a letter to the party president Lazarus Chakwera in which he “made strong allegations” when he had an opportunity to meet him in person on his concerns.
But the secretary general said Chakwera had been snubbing his efforts to meet him and resolve the problems that have engulfed the party for months.
Kaliwo further claimed that on several occasions he had tried to have an appointment with Chakwera, but failed to secure an opportunity to meet him with his last face-to-face meeting on party issues being in August last year.
Commenting on the matter, University of Malawi political analyst Happy Kayuni observed that a convention was fundamental to the party and having two different versions from people with key positions was a clear indication that something was wrong.
“It implies that there is a lot of politicking within the party which is not in good faith. This is a clear indication that the party is not in order and indeed intraparty democracy leaves a lot to be desired,” said Kayuni.
The political lecturer said this was a problem in all major political parties in the country because the parties are not based on ideologies, but are just like clubs with one intention of making sure that they push the agenda of somebody and not necessarily to push the national call.
“That’s why we see serious problems of intraparty democracy because there is no overarching ideology that guards the party,” he said.