Politics yesterday eclipsed the Mulhakowa Alhomwe cultural grouping annual festival with key speakers, including former presidents Peter
Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi, using the platform to empty their chests.
From the clergy who offered an opening prayer to traditional leaders and politicians who spoke all abandoned the cultural grouping’s public claim that it was non-partisan and that speakers should avoid making political statements during the event.
Besides Muluzi and Mutharika, Muhlako wa Alhomwe chairperson Leston Mulli and Lhomwe Paramount Chief Kaduya all talked politics during the event held at Mulhako wa Alhomwe headquarters at Chonde in Mulanje.
Muluzi, the country’s first multiparty era president from 1994 to 2004, was apparently a darling of the gathering when he passionately talked about leadership wrangles rocking the former governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
He dared Mutharika—who is DPP president and Mulhako wa Alhomwe patron—to quickly resolve the leadership wrangle to strengthen the party.
“As a democrat who loves peace and unity and also president of DPP, you need to demonstrate your leadership skills and end the leadership wrangles and avoid further divisions if you are to triumph in the next elections,” Muluzi said, drawing applause from thousands who graced the event.
Fondly addressed as Atcheya— derived from chairperson when he served as Southern African Development Community (Sadc) chair during his tenure— Muluzi said Mutharika should
bring unity in the party using his powers, considering that all other structures were intact except the top hierarchy.
He said: “I’m an honest person and one of the people who fought for democracy in this country. But I’m saying this not as a member
of DPP, but as somebody who brought democracy in Malawi.
“Ensure there is unity in the party. The good thing is that all the party structures at area, constituency and district levels, are in one piece but the problem is with the top leadership. Let those who don’t want to be part of the party leave than bringing confusion.”
The DPP leadership came to the fore soon after Mutharika—who paired with Muluzi’s son and United Democratic Front (UDF) president Atupele Muluzi as his running mate—lost the court-ordered fresh presidential election held on June 23 2020 to the pair of President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi Congress Party and Vice-President Saulos Chilima of
A faction of the party that includes estranged secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey and vice-president responsible for the South Kondwani Nankhumwa called for an urgent convention. However, the party fired the dissenting voices before they were later reinstated. The expelled members also sought court relief.
Yesterday, Mutharika admitted there were challenges facing his party, but maintained that he was still DPP president until 2023 when an elective convention will be held.
He urged the party members to exercise patience until the convention is conducted, but
emphasised that if “someone wants to leave the party, they should do so quietly”.
Making his first public appearance away from his beachside retirement home in Mangochi, the former president said he was “now back to revive the party”.
He said: “I will not leave you. I will not leave the DPP alone. I am now in Blantyre and actually this week, I will be visiting [business mogul and philanthropist Thom] Mpinganjira in prison.”
Mutharika also said if the court nillifies the fresh election, he will be DPP candidate.
On his part, Mulli alleged that Malawians, especially Lhomwe people, were not happy with the turn of events in the country as they were being dismissed from the public service without pay and valid reasons.
“Some have been fainting while some have even died. Let us stop this victimisation because these are Lhomwe people. They are also Malawians,” he said.
The 13th edition of the Muhlako wa Alhomwe annual event was being celebrated under the theme Strengthening Lhomwe Cultural Values. Last year, it was not celebrated because of Covid-19.
During a press conference in the build-up to the cultural festival in September, Mulli described as detractors people who associate the culturasl grouping with DPP, saying the two were independent of each other.
Mulhako wa Ahlomwe is widely associated with DPP apparently because most of its key leaders also hold senior positions in the political party. The other reason Mulhako wa Alhlomwe is synonymous with DPP is that it was the brainchild of the party’s founding president Bingu wa Mutharika who later became its patron. He founded the grouping in 2007.
Current DPP president Peter Mutharika was also addressed as the grouping’s patron in salutations at yesterday’s event.
There were also several DPP heavyweights at the event, including Nankhumwa and DPP spokesperson on finance in Parliament Joseph Mwanamvekha