Barely four weeks after MCP president Lazarus Chakwera mended fences with his embattled secretary general Gustave Kaliwo, the infighting is back in the main opposition party over the legitimacy of Jessie Kabwila’s position.
Kabwila, who is Salima South West legislator, held a press conference in Lilongwe on Friday, to respond to what she termed ‘some of the emerging issues of national concern’.
She further said as a publicity secretary, she has a right to address the press any time there were issues worth commenting on.
But in an interview yesterday, Eisenhower Mkaka, who for some time has been speaking for MCP, as deputy secretary general, said the Kabwila press briefing was neither known nor sanctioned by the party, adding that she has no mandate to do so since she was fired from her position on grounds of misconduct.
Surprisingly, Kabwila was alone in addressing the press at Sunbird Lilongwe, a departure from tradition where MCP press conferences are usually held at the party headquarters and in presence of other members.
Asked why this was the case, Kabwila indicated that she had the blessing of the party to do so and that as publicity secretary, she was free to address members of the press anytime with or without other executive members of the party.
“I don’t think every time the MCP responds to issues—you will find the executive here. For example, my president and other officials are in the North to attend to the Phwezi disaster and there he will be with other executive members. So, the issue is [that] the party must continue to function,” she said.
Mkaka, however, said she has no right to speak for the party: “She is not director of publicity. You know she was fired by the national executive committee (NEC). You recall that her case was connected to the boys that were apprehended at the national headquarters, they wanted to take over and torch the headquarters”.
According to Mkaka, Kabwila remains fired until NEC decides otherwise.
But Kaliwo has come to the defence of Kabwila, saying she remains the publicity secretary and that she is fully mandated to speak on behalf of MCP without seeking approval from anyone. He also hit at Mkaka, saying he has no powers to speak for MCP from his position, which he said is unknown.
“To be honest, I really resent Hon. Mkaka speaking on behalf of the party because he is not in publicity. Publicity is not Jessie Kabwila, it is a directorate on its own. Dr Kabwila has a deputy and if she is not available you expect the deputy, you do not expect the whole directorate not to function because of one person. We are overstepping when we start as secretariat dealing with issues that are not in the armpit of our directorate. For example, Mr. Mkaka, you would naturally expect that if he is my deputy and I am the secretary general and I am not fired, he wouldn’t speak anything to you or media house without talking to me as a substantive head of the directorate,” explained Kaliwo.
He also disowned Mkaka as deputy secretary general for MCP, stressing that as per the structure of the party, his deputy is Chatonda Kaunda.
At a joint press briefing released a statement signed by both Chakwera and Kaliwo which, apart from calling for unity and respect of the constitution, identified Kaliwo as secretary general and Chatonda Kaunda as his deputy.on December 1 2017, MCP
Asked if this latest misunderstanding does not confirm that divisions are still rocking the party contrary to the earlier call for unity, Kaliwo said “I would really wish every member of the party to adhere to that unity call. But unity will not be convenient when there are certain decisions we have to make as a party. If we cooperate on the basis that the party is bigger than all of us; that the party is bigger than Kaliwo, bigger than Hon. Mkaka we will make progress. But there are people who want to distract us to the situation we were in pre- December 1 2017”.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Mkaka who claimed to have just spoken to president Chakwera on the matter alleged that Chakwera is ignorant of what is happening and is following developments: “Well as the president has told me and indicated to me he is following the developments, so at the moment I cannot say whether there is unity or not because like I said, he has not been briefed by the secretary general who reports to the president so let’s wait until he gets that report and he follows up on the issue”.
Reverend Chakwera could not be reached for comment, but a political analyst at Chancellor College Ernest Thindwa says divisions in the MCP emanate from lack of what he calls institutionalism—where every member seems free to conduct the way they please.
He said the contradiction in statements demonstrate lack of discipline in the MCP which usually come about when parties fail to contain infighting.
He said it is ‘irritating’ to see endless squabbles in a party which has a lot of potential to form government, adding that the situation maybe indicative of leadership problems.
According to him, the sooner the party puts its house in order the better their chances for 2019.
“One would want to see MCP as an alternative government which presents party unity and discipline. But, as it is, the party inspires less confidence. Much as the president may claim that the party is now united you can see that there is still unresolved issues which MCP need to address particularly as we turn towards elections if it’s to be taken seriously,” advised Thindwa.
Since last year, MCP has been home to internal squabbles between the Chakwera camp and a team led by Kaliwo which has been pushing for an early party convention to have ample time to sell the candidates.