There are many twists and turns in the ongoing Malawi Congress Party (MCP) primary elections as some old guards continue to dispute their fall with Lilongwe Mpenu’s Watson Makala-Ngozo being the latest.
Makala-Ngozo, having lost yesterday to party president Lazarus Chakwera’s right-hand man Eisenhower Mkaka, who is the party’s secretary general, joins a list of old guards, including legislator for Lilongwe Mapuyu South Joseph Njobvuyalema, who lost to youthful Edward Chileka Banda and Public Accounts Committee of Parliament chairperson Alekeni Menyani. Menyani relocated from Dedza North to try his luck in Lilongwe City Centre, but lost to Alfred Jiya.
Primaries in Lilongwe City South West Constituency were also mired in controversy after the party endorsed Rhino Chiphiko despite both Chiphiko and Nancy Tembo claiming to have won.
According to a result sheet, we have seen for primaries in Lilongwe Mpenu, Mkaka got 318 votes against Makala-Ngozo’s 256.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Mkaka confirmed being declared winner, without stating the number of votes, saying “due to excitement, I could not get the figure”.
His win was also confirmed by director of elections in the party Elias Chakwera.
Like Njobvuyalema, who claimed to have won, Makala-Ngozo has also declared himself winner, saying he beat Mkaka by a margin of over 100 votes.
When put to him, that the director of elections confirmed of Mkaka’s win, Makala-Ngozo sounded down, but insistent on his triumph.
“I have got 356 and Mkaka has got less than 100 [votes]. But, anyway, people in my constituency will tell me what to do,” he said.
Ironically, Makala-Ngozo was the presiding officer who controversially declared Njobvuyalema as the winner in Lilongwe Mapuyu South. Both have been MPs for 19 years.
Another anticipated primary election was in Dedza East, where Juliana Lunguzi is a member of Parliament, but the elections were called off due to some disagreements regarding voters, according to Chakwera.
He also stressed that it is the hope of the party that losers will support winners and not compete as independents in line with the code of conduct they signed as part of enforcing discipline in the party.
“It is our advice that this is a family contest. If a brother or sister has got it, there is no reason you should compete against them. It is in our Code of Conduct which they sign not to stand as independents and everyone signs before primaries. But when people choose to misbehave, I cannot tell why they do so,” said Chakwera.
Going by experience and the protest of results seen so far, it is unlikely that losers will abide by the party’s call not to compete for a parliamentary seat either as independents or on another party’s ticket.
Njobvuyalema told Nation on Sunday yesterday that in as far as he is concerned he did not lose the primaries.
“Everyone knows that I did not lose the primaries. I have taken the matter to court. The party knows they have been served with notice of civil suits,” he said.
Asked what he will do if the party maintains that he lost, the Lilongwe Mapuyu South legislator added: “My constituents will tell me what to do”.
Another MP contesting results of primaries is Alex Major, who lost to Jailosi Bonongwe in Kasungu West. According to Major, he will contest on MCP ticket.
“I did not lose primaries. Ask what happened on the day of voting. Only that I am a person who doesn’t like talking too much. The party will decide later on. This person will be disqualified because there are enough grounds,” he argued.
But Chakwera said the party’s candidate in Kasungu West, for the forthcoming polls, is Bonongwe.
On Friday, the MCP issued a statement which declared Budget and Finance Committee chairperson Chiphiko as the winner for the disputed primaries in Lilongwe City South West, beating Tembo.
Responding to our question, Tembo said she is currently consulting and will decide by Monday (tomorrow). But Menyani has accepted defeat, adding that he will remain loyal to the party.
MCP’s new-catch Catherine Gotani Hara, a former Cabinet minister carried the day in Mzimba North East, where she will likely to face the incumbent Olipa Muyaba, who joined UTM. Hara was once a member of Parliament for the area, before Muyaba took over.
In Karonga Northwest, Chitonya Mwanyongo is the winner, according to MCP spokesperson Reverend Maurice Munthali while Deus Gumba Banda, one of the presiding officers said Olipa Chimangeni is the winner in Ntchisi North East.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Chancellor College-based political analyst Ernest Thindwa said even if candidates signed the Code of Conduct, it is practically impossible to stop them from contesting since the law allows them.
Thindwa said if losing candidates decide to compete, this will likely split the votes for the party.
But Thindwa downplayed the impact the fall of the old guard may have on the outcome of the elections next year.
“This is already the stronghold of the MCP, so it is not about who competes, but the party. So I do not think the fall of these old guard will change anything on the ground.,” he said.
Meanwhile, scuffles characterised primaries held at Chibothera Primary School ground in Nkhotakota South East as members traded accusations of imposition of candidates and vote buying.
Incumbent legislator Evason Makowa Mwale won the poll with 746 votes after beating five other candidates who have since protested the results.
According to Chakwera the controversies experienced so far are lessons and an indication that the party is competitive and attractive to many.
Thindwa observed that the fall of ‘big names’ could also be a signal of change of times where voters are simply fed up with the old guard. —Additional reporting Davie Mchinga, Correspondent