Latest moves by the governing People’s Party (PP) key figures, Frank Mwenifumbo and Hophmally Makande, to stand as independent MPs has forced the party to admit the unending disputes and resignations would cost it votes in the May polls.
Mwenifumbo is PP’s deputy secretary general while Makande is the party’s publicity secretary, although for some reason and for a long time, he has left that role to his deputy, Ken Msonda.
The party’s acting secretary general Paul Maulidi in an interview this week described as nonsense the decision by two to go it alone.
Maulidi said: “We are worried with their decisions to stand as independent MPs because it is going to divide the votes at the parliamentary level. And these are very senior members of the party and some of them conceded defeat.
“But at the presidential level, we are not worried. Their moves, at the presidential level, may have very little impact. PP is solid and we will win the presidential race. Most of these people, despite their decisions, still support the President.”
In recent times and with only about three months before tripartite elections, the governing PP has been going through turbulent times, having lost its two vice- presidents elected at the party’s convention on August 27 2012 in the name of Dr Cassim Chilumpha and Sidik Mia.
State Vice-President, Khumbo Kachali, another PP vice president elected at the convention, is also out of favour after President Joyce Banda sidelined him for the position of running mate and opted for youthful Trade Minister Sosten Gwengwe, thereby causing more confusion in the party.
But Maulidi, an incorporated acting secretary general himself who was handpicked to the position after Henry Chibwana controversially resigned, dismissed suggestions that the developments may dent President Banda’s image as a leader who has failed to hold the party together.
Maulidi said: “This has nothing to do with the President. People cannot lose trust in the President because of this. These are greedy and unprincipled members fighting for a parliamentary seat. Some of them lost by a margin of 5 000 votes, do you expect them to win when they contest?
“Some of them are still going to political rallies in PP colours and symbols, and I urge them to stop using PP colours. If they chose to stand as independents let them find their own colours and symbols.”
But a political scientist from the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, Joseph Chunga, said in an interview this week it can only take an irresponsible leader to undermine the impact of people leaving the party, especially when you talk of vice-presidents.
Chunga said as a leader of the party, President Banda, cannot be exonerated from the problems where you have people such as Dr Chilumpha accusing her of favouring another candidate in the primary elections.
The political scientist said the party may have little to do with those that decided to contest as independent candidates, but the worry would be with independent candidates that had contested closely with those that won.
Chunga cited the case of Mwenifumbo and Cornelius Mwalwanda, who carried the day on PP’s ticket in Karonga Central, as having closely contested and likely to split votes heavily after both have decided to run for the seat.
Chunga said: “The party and its followers have a reason to be concerned with these developments, especially with only few months to elections.”
Mia, an indisputably influential political figure in the Southern Region, dumped the PP and resigned as a Cabinet minister on January 24 this year on “personal reasons”, a decision that shocked the party which admitted there was something wrong.
The party, through Msonda, regretted Mia’s decision and called it a big blow and crisis that needed to be addressed.
President Banda handpicked Minister of Information and Civic Education Brown Mpinganjira to replace Mia as vice-president, a man who was rejected by the party’s convention after he got a miserable 272 votes against Mia’s 1 711.
Chilumpha resigned earlier in December from PP as vice-president for the Central Region after he accused the President of favouring Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Fahad Assani as a PP parliamentary candidate for Nkhotakota South.
A list of those that resigned from PP to contest as independent MPs include First Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jones Chingola and former deputy Transport Minister Sam Ganda, both incumbent MPs.
Chingola, Ntcheu Central MP and Ganda, Nsanje Lalanje MP, dumped the governing party after they were not satisfied with the manner primaries were conducted.
A NEC member, Omar Paison Kaisi, who was director of international relations, and an incumbent Mzimba Sosola MP Ackim Mwanza, also resigned early February over primary elections disputes.