The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) nearly reached a power-sharing deal just days after president Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s death, but the pact went sour at the last minute.
A draft working agreement confirmed by DPP and PP secretaries general Elias Wakuda Kamanga and Henry Chibwana, respectively, shows that the alliance would have resulted in a 50-50 power split in the Legislative and Executive branches of government.Â Â
According to people that were close to the pact, negotiations for the alliance started on April 8 2012, three days after Mutharikaâ€™s death and a day into Joyce Bandaâ€™s presidency.
â€œThe initial delegation met Banda to congratulate her on assuming office, offer condolences on the passing of the late Mutharika and also offer DPPâ€™s support. Banda said she was happy with the unexpected offer of support,â€ said a member of the DPP delegation that met the President.
According to records, the DPP delegation included leader of DPP in Parliament George Chaponda, Nkhata Bay Central MP Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Chiradzulu East MP Henry Mussa and Mzimba Hora MP the Reverend Christopher Ngwira who is said to have delivered an opening prayer.
The PP delegation comprised Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, secretary general Henry Chibwana, treasurer general Brown Mpinganjira, director of women Clara Makungwa and youth director Lawrence Mpofu.
After the exploratory talks, the parties agreed to form technical committees to look at the modalities of working together. The committees met twice before the Cabinet was announced on April 26.
In an interview on Tuesday, Wakuda Kamanga said he joined the technical discussions which were first held at the Ministry of Education headquarters at Capital Hill when Chaponda was still Education Minister and later at Capital Hotel.
Said Kamanga: â€œThey [PP] asked us to spell out our expectations and submit a proposal. When we submitted the proposal, we were waiting to hear their side after which we could have signed a Memorandum of Understanding.â€
In the draft agreement, DPP states that it made the offer in the context of the positive sentiments by the President in her acceptance speech in which Banda said she would nurture the spirit of reconciliation and stressed her commitment to promote social and economic development.
â€œNoting that the [acting] president of DPP [Peter Mutharika] was highly impressed with the manner in which his special envoy was received by Her Excellency the President, and the prompt response of Her Excellency to his overtures, which were conveyed through the DPP special envoy and followed up by sending a high-powered technical negotiating team comprising five senior officials from her party to meet a similar negotiating team from DPP…,â€ reads part of the proposalâ€™s preamble.
The proposal also notes the discussion between the two technical negotiating teams from PP and DPP on April 9 2012 â€œwhich was very constructive wherein, among other things, the spirit of working together between the two parties of PP and DPP in Parliament was welcomed.â€
The paper also mentions that DPP was requested to provide a proposal of the working relationship.
â€œPP, having taken note of the proposal herein being submitted by DPP that DPP shall provide full support to PP within Parliament with its total membership and also that it is willing, subject to PP’s agreement, to join them on the government side in Parliament and support government agenda,â€ adds the proposal.
The proposal also provided that any communication outside Parliament will be made through the two partiesâ€™ secretary generals.
â€œThe parties have agreed that PP is willing to give further consideration to the proposal of DPP hereby being submitted to consider allocating to the DPP in Parliament at least 50 percent of any proposed Cabinet established by the PP as well as the position of deputy leader and chief whip taking into account DPP’s numerical strength in Parliament.
â€œThe presentation of any proposed names for inclusion in the PP Cabinet will be provided by DPP through the president of the party,â€ reads the draft proposal.
When the deal failed, DPP started behaving like a scorned spouse, vowing to cripple the latterâ€™s governing ability.
DPP felt duped
Kamanga said the party felt duped. It was also unhappy for being sidelined in the coalition government and not being informed of the outcome of the proposal. He said the party was also not amused to learn through the media that some of its MPs were in Bandaâ€™s Cabinet.
â€œThat is why they will face more problems now. If we were in coalition, we could not have invoked Section 65. If we were in coalition, we could not have opted to critique them both in and outside Parliament,â€ said Kamanga.
Forty-five DPP MPs who defected to PP were this week thrown into the political ring to battle for their survival after their former party asked Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda to declare their seats vacant as per Section 65 of the Constitution which bars MPsâ€™ party promiscuity.
Asked if the DPPâ€™s move against the 45 is a jealous rage after PP rejected its romantic advances, Kamanga said all his party is doing is to follow the statutes in good faith. But he said DPP will not adopt the strategy of stopping passage of the national budget.
â€œWe will critique the budget and offer our advice, but we will not stop its passing. We are not spending sleepless nights with this new administration. Those that messed Bingu and DPP are all wonderfully working to mess up PP,â€ he argued.
â€˜It was part of exploring partnershipsâ€™
In a separate interview on Tuesday, Chibwana confirmed the partnership meetings with DPP, but said it was part of exploring possible working relationships with all political and social players.
Said Chibwana: â€œThere were meetings with all other parties. What they [DPP] are talking now sounds like sour grapes. The selection of the Cabinet brought out the best at the time Malawi needed them and we left out the worst.â€
Chibwana said DPPâ€™s tactics of punishing PP for turning them down are â€œa mere display of political greed,â€ arguing the current administration is trying to offer relief to Malawians from the pain caused by them and it would be â€˜immoralâ€™ for the former governing party to fight his grouping.
â€œIf they believe that by creating a tough situation for government to operate in will be in the best interest of Malawians, let them go ahead and Malawians will pass the judgement,â€ he said.
On the question of Section 65, Chibwana said: â€œLegally, they [DPP] are entitled to do so [petition the Speaker], but if they are people with morals, they cannot pursue such line of thinking. It is all about greed for power.â€