Hon. Folks, it never rains but pours for the former governing DPP which now seems to be enchanted under some magic spell that could ruin its efforts to rebuild and reorganise before the next election.
Barely two months after its June 23 election loss, the party is now almost seized by what smells like a budding internal power struggle involving different political camps that are rumoured to be maneuvering clandestinely to outshine one another amid reports of succession woes.
For starters, the blue camp is currently led by former president Peter Mutharika who is himself an octogenarian. This most likely gives some senior party cadres hope that their 80-year-old leader may not stand again in the forthcoming presidential vote due to old age.
But, the succession crisis took another turn when Mutharika, fondly known as APM, fired Grezelder Jeffrey from her position of DPP secretary general over remarks she made in a media interview this week suggesting that APM needed to be replaced through a possible early convention, having done his part.
Another episode of the crisis was the resignation of Ben Phiri—the party’s former director of elections and one-time trusted ally of Mutharika— who was appointed by Mutharika himself to oversee the party’s preparations for the annulled 2019 Tripartite elections.
Although the Thyolo Central legislator cites the party’s poor performance in the last election as one of the contributing factors for his resignation, his explanation of accusations he and others faced from within DPP (being considered as sellouts of the vote) speaks volumes of what manner of crisis lurks in the once ‘mighty’ party that also threatens its survival.
On Jeffrey’s sacking, normally one would think that jefu wa fefule was simply exercising her freedom of expression in a political establishment that claims its foundation lies in the tenets of democracy but alas; APM could no longer stomach her presence as DPP’s chief executive officer.
Three weeks ago, the former State president responded to Jeffrey’s media outbursts with her dismissal before purportedly barring her from attending an emergency national governing council (NGC) meeting Mutharika had called at his private residence in Mangochi probably to discuss the future of the partly amid increasing defections of its members, including parliamentarians to MCP and UTM, among others. But a few days later, Jeffrey was reinstated as SG.
Hon. Folks, how to survive the next five years as the country’s main opposition block is certainly the major dilemma that DPP faces today.
Another discouraging aspect, not just from what is happening in DPP but across the local political divide, is the virtual absence of meaningful space for political debate and contestation especially at party presidency levels.
Since the inception of multiparty democracy in 1994, it appears our politicians have failed to understand that leadership positions of politics in a democracy are not permanent.
In the early 2000s, Malawians witnessed the beginning of the end for the then ruling UDF when the party fired some of its members for simply declaring interest to challenge the party’s leadership.
After the late Bingu wa Mutharika’s re-election, the same problem resurfaced when former president Joyce Banda, who was then State vice-president was viewed as a threat to APM’s ascendance to State House, before APM also fell apart with Saulos Chilima ahead of the 2019 polls over similar grounds.
Hon. Folks, this is why there seem to be many good but silenced aspiring leaders in Malawian parties today. Someone once said true democrats are expected to encourage others to become leaders by promoting political contestation within their folds and even hand over power to them when time comes or when their popularity expires.
However, the scenario is totally different in Malawi where our political leaders always want to go unopposed in their temporary stay in power.